Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Am Resolved!

This is a great song for the New Year! Be resolved to follow Jesus!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Carrying the Candle Against the Wind

I know that I have life only insofar as I have love.
I have no love except it come from Thee.
Help me, please, to carry this candle against the wind.

--  Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer poet

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hayward Wesleyan's March to the Manger 2012

March to the Manger 2011 from Jeremy Mavis on Vimeo.

Thanks Jeremy for posting this up for us!

Count Your Blessings

Instead of recounting your woes. . .
count your blessings!

Rather than hashing your frustrations. . .
count your blessings!

Why fuss with your family, when you can. . .
count your blessings?!

Don't fret about things you can't fix . . ..
count your blessings!

Quit grumbling about what you don't have. Focus on what you DO have and.. . .
count your blessings!

Instead of stewing in your circumstances, take a chance and . . .
count your blessings!

Sure, there's plenty wrong with this old world -- but there's plenty right too! Just stop for a moment and . .
Count your blessings!

Yesterday carries a load of baggage, but remember the glad days and . . .
count your blessings!

Tomorrow brings uncertainties, but nothing you and God can't handle together. Throw your shoulders back with faith and . . .
count your blessings!

Life on earth is much too short to spend in swamps of discouragement. Look up! Help is on the way! You can smile and . .
count your blessings!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Don't Think This is What Jesus Had in Mind

  Bethlehem Clergymen Clash With Brooms

John Wesley Covenant Renewal Service

This Sunday, Hayward Wesleyan Church is going to do the longer version of the Wesley Covenant Renewal Service, which was first published by John Wesley in 1780.  I've taken the liberty to adapt and combine a few versions of the Covenant for the pattern we're going to use.

The shorter version we've used for the past few years can be found here.   I drew heavily from the versions from George Lyons and Jeren Rowel.

Wesley Covenant Renewal Service
An Adaptation by Mark O. Wilson from versions of the Covenant by George Lyon and Jeren Rowel

Introduction:  Historical background of John Wesley, and the purpose for the covenant renewal.
Hymn:  “Come Let Us Use the Grace Divine” written by Charles Wesley especially for the covenant renewal.
LEADER: "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten" (Jer. 50:5, RSV).
LEADER: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us now pray together the Lord’s Prayer.
LEADER and PEOPLE: The Lord’s Prayer
THE SCRIPTURE LESSON: John 15:1-8
LEADER: My dear friends, fix these three principles in your hearts: (1) that things eternal are more enduring and real than things temporal; (2) that things not seen are as certain as the things that are seen; (3) that upon your present choice depends your eternal destiny. Choose Christ and His ways, and you are blessed forever; refuse Him, and you are undone forever.
And then, my friends, make your choice. Turn either to the right hand or to the left; Christ with His yoke, His cross, and His crown; or the devil with his wealth, his pleasure, and his curse. Then ask yourselves, "Self, you see what is before you; what will you do? Which will you have, either the crown or the curse? If you choose the crown, remember that the day you take this, you must be content to submit to the cross and yoke, the service and sufferings of Christ, which are linked to it. What do you say? Would you rather take the gains and pleasures of sin and risk the curse? Or will you yield yourself a servant to Christ and so make sure the crown?"
Do not delay the matter. If you are unresolved, you are resolved. If you remain undetermined for Christ, you are determined for the devil. Therefore, follow your hearts from day to day. Do not rest until this matter is settled once and for all. And see to it that you make a good choice.
Next, begin your journey with Christ. Adventure with Him. Cast yourselves upon His righteousness. You are exiles from the presence of God and fallen into a land of robbers and murderers. Your sins are robbers, your pleasures are robbers, your companions in sin are robbers and thieves. If you stay where you are, you perish. Christ offers, if you will venture with Him, to bring you to God.
Will you say now to Him, "Lord Jesus, will You take me?
Will You bring me to God and bring me into the land of promise?   With You I will risk myself. I cast myself upon You, upon Your blood, upon Your righteousness."
This is coming to Christ as your Priest. And by this you now renounce your own righteousness. Do you deeply sense your need of God’s grace in Christ? Whether we are already forgiven sinners, or still far from God, let us confess together our total dependence on Him.
CONFESSION
PEOPLE: We acknowledge a deep sense of our need. We see ourselves as sinners in need of a Savior. The Spirit of God has awakened us, for we have cried out, “Lord, where am I?”
Is there no hope of escaping from this wretched state? I am but dead, if I continue as I am. What can I do to be saved?"
LEADER: Being made aware of his sin and his danger, a sinner will look for help and deliverance, but he will look everywhere else before he looks unto Christ. Nothing will bring a sinner to Christ but absolute necessity. He will try to forsake his sins. He will go to prayers, and sermons, and sacraments and search out if there is salvation in them. But all these, though they be useful in their places, are of no help. His duties cannot help him; these may be numbered among his sins. Ordinances cannot help; these are but empty cisterns. They all tell him, "You knock at a wrong door; salvation is not in us."
Do you now utterly despair of your own goodness, or do you trust in anything but Christ?
PRAYER
PEOPLE: Lord, be merciful to me. What shall I do? I dare not remain as I am, and I cannot help myself. My praying will not help me. My hearing will not help me. If I give all my goods to the poor, if I should give my body to be burned, all this would not save my soul. Woe is me. What shall I do?
LEADER: You must let your sins go. You must let your righteousness go. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He came to seek and to save those that are lost.
Friends, will you now risk yourselves for Christ? You have this threefold assurance:
First, God’s initiative. He has taken the first move. God the Father has appointed and sent Christ into the world to save sinners. Jesus Christ is the One whom God the Father has made our Savior. He is redeeming and reconciling the world to himself.
Second, God’s command. This is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Third, God’s promise. "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and whoever believes on him shall not be disappointed.
Now, because we have this threefold assurance of God’s initiative, command, and promise, we may now be bold to risk everything for Christ and to make ourselves totally available to Him.
The leader and people shall pray together:
LEADER and PEOPLE: Lord Jesus, here I am, a lost creature, an enemy to God, under His wrath and curse.
Will You, Lord, take me as I am, reconcile me to God, and save my soul?
Do not refuse me, Lord, for if You refuse me, to whom then shall I go?
If I had come in my own name, You might well have ignored me; but since I come at the command of the Father, do not reject me.
Lord, help me. Lord, save me.
I come, Lord.
I believe, Lord.
I throw myself upon Your grace and mercy.
I trust Your saving death alone to save me. Do not refuse me.
I have nowhere else to go. Here I will stay. I will trust You, and rest in You, and risk myself for You.
On You I lay my hope for pardon, for life, for salvation.
If I perish, I perish on Your shoulders. If I sink, I sink in Your ship. If I die, I die at Your door.
Do not bid me to go away, for I will not go.

Leader:
Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants. Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.

Christ has many services to be done. Some are more easy and honorable, others are more difficult and disgraceful. Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests, others are contrary to both.

In some we may please Christ and please ourselves. But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

It is necessary, therefore, that we consider what it means to be a servant of Christ. Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

People:
Let me be your servant, under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things.
Leader:
Be satisfied that Christ shall give you your place and work.

People:
Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands:

put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Leader:
Confirm this by a holy covenant.  To make this covenant a reality in your life, listen to these admonitions:

First, set apart some time, more than once, to be spent alone before the Lord; in seeking earnestly God’s special assistance and gracious acceptance of you; even if you have already given your life to Christ.

Consider what your sins are.

Consider the laws of Christ, how holy, strict and spiritual they are, and whether you, after having carefully considered them, are willing to choose them all.
Be sure you are clear in these matters; see that you do not lie to God.

Second, be serious and in a spirit of holy awe and reverence.

Third, claim God’s covenant, rely on God’s promise of giving grace and strength, so you can keep your promise.  Trust not your own strength and power.

Fourth, resolve to be faithful.  You have given to the Lord your heart.  You have opened your mouth to the Lord and you have dedicated yourself to God. 

With God’s power, never go back!

And last, be prepared to renew your covenant with the Lord.   Open your hearts, then, to the Lord as we pray:

Covenant Prayer:

O righteous God, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will, for you have promised mercy to me if I turn to you with my whole heart. 

I do here covenant with you, O Christ,
to take my lot with you as it may fall.

Through your grace I promise
that neither life nor death shall part me from you.


I make this covenant with you, O God,
without guile or reservation
.

If any falsehood should be in it, guide me
and help me to set it aright.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours.  So be it!

And Let this covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.

Amen.
The Lord’s Supper shall be served.

Congregation:  “O For a Thousand Tongues”

Benediction: 
Jude 1:24-25, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wide God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forevermore.  Amen.”

Spiritual Apathy a Major Concern

Millions Shrug a Religion

(Thanks to Mark Gorveatte for making me aware of this article.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So, What Are Your Plans?

The launching of a New Year is a good time for new resolutions.  Real resolutions are not wish lists, "I should's" or "Wouldn't it be nice?"

Resolution literally means "wholehearted commitment."  Every river has bedrocks, and the water flows around the rocks.

The only way to make signficant change is to implement your commitments like rocks -- and then let the rest of life flows around them. 

Many well meaning people depend on inspiration to keep their spiritual resolutions.  Now, inspiration is a good booster to get the rocket off the ground -- but won't keep it flying.

Resolutions won't stick unless accompanied by solid plans!  These plans, when embraced, are the rocks -- the priorities -- and everything else flows around them.

With this in mind. . .

1.  What is your Bible Reading Plan?
If you don't have one, you won't do it.  You may intend to read the Bible regularly, but your efforts will be feeble at best.  Scripture is our spiritual food.  You need it for soul nourishment! 

What is your plan to regularly feed your soul with the Word?

Don't know how to develop one?  Youversion has a wonderful selection of over 50 Reading Plans.  Why not try one of those?

2.  What is your Prayer Plan?
If you wait until you feel like it, you will only pray during emergencies.  God should be more than our spare tire.  He's the steering wheel!  Prayer is our spiritual breath.  We cannot survive without it!

What new prayer commitments do you need to make?  How will you build these into your life?  When will you pray?  How can you strengthen your prayer practices?  How can you develop a better prayer pattern with your family?

3.  What is your Church Attendance Plan?
The Bible challenges us to "forsake not the gathering of believers."  A recent study of church attendance patterns revealed that most of our "regulars" come less than 75% of the time.
 
We're all busy -- but if we're busy to order our lives around God's priorities, then we should change something.

You need to worship with your brothers and sisters.  You need to join your heart together in corporate prayer.  You need to be strengthened by messages from the Bible and your family needs to understand this priority.

Also, your brothers and sisters need you for support, strength and encouragement.  When you are present -- you are a present (a gift) to the others who come.  Your absence leaves a vacancy that no one can fill.

4.  What is Your Small Group Plan?
Are you in a small group of believers for mutual support and spiritual encouragement?  If not, find one and join!

Don't have time?  Sorry.  The busiest people in our church are in small groups.  It's not a time issue.  It's a priority issue.  You find the time to do what's most imporant to you.

Consider the "One Another's" of the New Testament.  Most of these can only be accomplished in a small, loving group of brothers and sisters.

5.  What is Your Giving Plan?
What percentage of your income did you give last year to God's work?  Does this reflect your desire to love and serve Him?  The tithe (10%) has been the historic benchmark of stewardship.  Have you reached that?  If not, what is your plan to get there?   In the grand scheme, everything we own belongs to God, and thus, He should direct all our financial decisions. 

I have discovered, in all my years of ministry, that the loudest protesters against biblical generosity  are those who do not practice it.  IGenerosity is joyful, and tithers never regret it.

6.  What is Your Blessing Plan?
What are you going to do to bring God's blessing to others this year?  What, specifically, is your calling?  Start at home and work out from there.  How can you bless your spouse?  your children?  your friends?  How can you bless your boss?  your co-workers?  Your neighbors?  How can you bless those who are lost, broken and hurting in your community?  How can you make a difference for someone in another part of the world?

7.  What is Your Servanthood Plan?
Tied closely with #6, what specifically are you going to do to be a part of something bigger than yourself?  How will you invest your life to promote God's work -- beyond your own agenda?  How can you help by joining in and lifting the burden?

Every one of us needs to have at least two places of service -- within the local church (ministry) and beyond the local church (mission).  What are yours?

May God move us from being mere spectators to FULL participants in His glorious work in this world.  May we adjust our lives to reflect this priority. 

If we fail to plan -- we plan to fail!

How Great Thou Art One Man Quartet

Monday, December 26, 2011

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out

Top Ten Reads of 2011

Although, like John Wesley, I'm a man of one book, I consider it a pastoral duty to read deeply and widely, Good reading is essential to good preaching. That said, here's my Top Ten list for 2011:

1)  Parade of Faith by Ruth Tucker.  I consider this the best general church history book on the market.

2)  Soul Shift by Steve DeNeff and David Drury.  An outstanding book on spiritual transformation -- getting us to move outside of ourselves.

3)  Circle Maker  by Mark Batterson, my favorite pastoral author.  An inspiring book on prayer and faith, that has led me to start praying circles around people and projects.

4)  The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight.  A challenging call to a more robust Gospel understanding.  Beyond Jesus as Savior (which is vitally important) to Jesus as Lord.

5)  Nearing Home by Billy Graham.  A beautiful gift from a wise pilgrim nearing the mountain top.

6)  Spiritual Waypoints by Bob Whitesel.  An excellent overview of the faith journey, and how we can best engage people where they are.  An outstanding resource for evangelism and discipleship.

7)  Revise Us Again by Frank Viola.  A refreshing, Christ-centered perspective on spiritual life and ministry.

8)  The Confession by John Grisham.  An action packed novel with a pastor cast as the central character.

9)  Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris.  Teaching grand doctrines of faith through spiritual autobiography.

10)  Population 485 by Michael Perry.  A a humorous account of life as a Wisconsin volunteer emergency worker, packed with meaning.  Perry know how to turn a phrase.

Honorable Mention:

*  I hope it's not crass self-promotion to mention the book I've written, Filled Up, Poured Out:  How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  (To be released April 2012.)  As it's author, I've become it's primary reader.  On a few occasions recently, I was recently convicted and challenged by statements from the book.  I suppose you could say the sermon should fit the preacher first.

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo.  A heartwarming reminder that there's a glorious home on the other side.

The Enduement of Power by Oswald Smith.  A powerful little book written decades ago, which addresses the greatest need of the church.  I used it as a resource for my book.

Sermons by John Wesley.  During my devotioanl time, since November, I've read several of Wesley's sermons out loud to myself.  Reading them silently doesn't work very well for me -- but when I read them aloud, the dry bones take on flesh.

Going Deep by Gordon McDonald.  A wise pastor's invitation to mentor young believers, told as a compelling fictional story.

Bush Aglow:  The Life Story of Dwight Lyman Moody by Richard E. Day.  An old book, giving the inspiring account of the 19th Century's greatest evangelist.  Especially helpful when read in conjunction with R. A. Torrey's, Why God Used D. L. Moody.

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.  Explores the various ways people grow spiritually, based on their unique personality.  A fascinating and liberating read.

* Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid.  A good overview of the histroy, purpose and practive of sharing the Gospel with others.

Apprehended

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Story

As told by the children of St. Paul's Church, Aukland, New Zealand.

Jesus Was a Small Town Preacher

The majority of protestant churches are in small towns and rural communities. Many pastors, upon graduation from seminary, find themselves in one of these "ends of the earth" assignments.

The attitude is "I'm stuck here in this one horse town for a while but after I learn the ropes, I'll move on and do something more important."

Today, as Christmas approaches, I'd like to challenge the assumption that small places are insignificant.

Jesus, God in human flesh, came to the earth on a mission from heaven to transform humanity. He looked the whole world over and picked the perfect place to launch his global and eternal enterprise.

Where did he go? What was his strategic missional selection? A small town!!

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)

You won't get any Christmas cards with pictures of Rome, Athens, or Jerusalem on them -- It's the little village of Bethlehem that takes center stage each December.

Of course, if you want to go further -- Jesus also grew up in a small town (Nazazreth), spent most of his ministry in Galilean hamlets, and headquartered in rural Capernaum.

He literally changed the world from end of it!

If you have been chosen to serve in a small place, take heart! Be encouraged! You're in excellent company. Jesus was a small town preacher too!

I pray that in days to come, small town and rural churches will rise up, reclaim their heritage, and play a significant role in the coming worldwide revival.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fascinating Population Density Map

Check out this link from my good friend and fellow pastor, Jeremy Mavis of a very interesting map which displays the world via population density:  What Does Seven Billion Look LIke?

And our mission is to bring holy love to ALL of them!

Parade of Faith

I'm a church history buff. That's the stuff I read for fun. The stories of faith heroes from the past stand as present inspiration. I was thrilled, therefore, when my dear friend, Ruth Tucker's Parade of Faith (Zondervan) was released this year.

Parade of Faith is, hands down, the best general church history book on the market today. I have several volumes of noteworthy histories on my shelves -- but Tucker's surpasses them all.

Here's why:

1) Ruth Tucker is a story-teller. She is a master of biographical history, and that's what makes it powerful and interesting. History is wonderful when it's told as a story, and horriblly boring without skin on.  Tucker makes it come alive!

2) The book is packed with outstanding pictures. I like that! A picture paints a thousand words. Tucker's excellent use of illustrations makes this book stand apart from the others.

3) The Parade of Faith includes branches from many different faith streams, and treats them all respectfully.. For instance, Tucker includes a little bit about the founding of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Most general church history volumes omit that.

4) I appreciate the way Tucker handles the various characters of history. She doesn't whitewash the facts, but in a disarming manner, introduces these colorful individuals as long-lost friends.  She made them so fascinating I decided to do a little more digging on the lives of significant faith giants.

5)  The  Parade of Faith is up to date.  It brings the histroy all the way to our back door. 

6)  The book is clear and fast-paced.  Tucker writes in the present tense most of the time and jams a ton of content into a small space.  In other words, she doesn't spin her wheels.  Occasionally, I had to stop readhing just to catch my breath!

I highly recommend Parade of Faith to anyone who teaches church histoy, or who would like to learn more about it. Purchase Here

The Meaning of Handel's Messiah

This past Tuesday, our family participated in St. Scholastica's Handel's Messiah Sing-a-Long.   The entire audience was the choir, and it was a rapturous experience!

Although we were lost in the notes half the time, the message of this grand oratorio was not lost on us.

Here's a basic recap:

*PART I*

OVERTURE

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Tenor) Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:-Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight in the desert a
highway for our God.

AIR (Tenor)
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

CHORUS And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:-Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and
I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.

AIR (Bass) But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He
appeareth? For He is like a refinerÕs fire.

CHORUS
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

RECITATIVE. (Alto)
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.

AIR (Alto)
and CHORUS O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold you God! Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
For Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and His glory
shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to
the brightness of thy rising.

AIR (Bass) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they
that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

CHORUS
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

PASTORAL SYMPHONY

RECITATIVE. (Soprano) There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano) And lo! the angel of the Lord cam upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

RECITATIVE. (Soprano)
And the angel said unto the, Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is
born this day in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano) And suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:-

CHORUS
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.

AIR. (Soprano)
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, thy King cometh unto thee! He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.

RECITATIVE. (Alto)
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.

AIR (Alto)
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

AIR (Alto)
Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

CHORUS
His yoke is easy and His burthen is light.


*PART II*

CHORUS
Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

AIR (Alto)
He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.

CHORUS
Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded
for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. And with His stripes we are healed.

CHORUS
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Tenor)
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full
of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man, neither found He any to comfort Him.

AIR. (Tenor)
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow.

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Soprano)
He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.

AIR (Soprano)
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.

CHORUS
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

RECITATIVE. (Tenor)
Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?

CHORUS
Let all the angels of God worship Him.

AIR. (Bass)
Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.

CHORUS
The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.

AIR. (Soprano)
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.

CHORUS
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.

AIR (Bass)
Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and who do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed.

CHORUS
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.

RECITATIVE (Tenor)
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in
derision.

AIR (Tenor)
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

CHORUS
Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah!

*Part III*

AIR (Soprano)
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though worms destroy this body yet, in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firs
t-fruits of them that sleep.

CHORUS
Since by man came death,

CHORUS
By man came also the resurrection of the dead.

CHORUS
For as in Adam all die,

CHORUS
Even so in Christ shall all be made alive

RECITATIVE. (Accompanied - Bass)
Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
the last trumpet.

AIR. (Bass)
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

RECITATIVE (Alto)
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written; Beats is swallowed up in victory!

DUET (Alto and Tenor)
O death, where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

CHORUS
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

AIR (Soprano)
If God be for us, who can be against us? who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.

CHORUS
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
__ Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crowder Christmas with Cell Phones

13 and 1

Last Sunday, when the Packers lost their first game of the season to the Chiefs, I was really bummed, and grumbled all over the house,

My son, Ryan, brought some perspective to the situation when he informed me the Colts had just won their first game of the season on the same day.

“The Packers are 13 and 1 and the Colts are 1 and 13,” Ryan noted, “And I wonder what’s going on in their locker rooms right now?”

I imagined the Packers slumping to the lockers under a gloomy cloud of disappointment and discouragement.  Meanwhile, I pictured the Colts cheering in wild jubilation and slapping each other on the back.

Then Ryan said, “But despite how they’re feeling today, the fact is the Packers are still 13 and 1 – and on top of the league, while the Colts, at 1 and 13, are still in the basement.”

And I needed to hear that.

Sometimes, like the Packers, We end up getting beat by perplexing problems.   When life takes a negative turn, we tend to sag in discouragement.  If we’re not prayed up and filled with positive juice, the negative stuff can sink into the human spirit like a brick,  It is easy to let yesterday’s defeat describe today’s reality.

The truth is, you are not a failure if you experience a loss.  When you lose, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser – only that you’re a human being.  In reality, the only true failure is failing to try again.

Come to think of it, only one team in NFL history had a perfect season – and that was four decades ago.  Those guys are all carrying AARP cards now.  The 1972 Miami Dolphins impressed the world with a 17-0 record, but even these gridiron titans fell to the Raiders the following September.  

Nobody wins all the time.  Everyone has to face defeat sooner or later.  The question is, how will you respond to it?  What will you learn from the experience?  Is this failure a stop sign or merely a detour?

If you’ve suffered a recent set-back, step back and look again.  You might just realize you’re still 13 and 1.

This Was the Moment



BC: AD
by U. A. Fanthorpe
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Into This Silent Night

Yesterday, at the memorial service for Jerry McAllister, I shared the following poem by Ann Weems, from her book, Kneeling in Bethlehem:

Into This Silent Night

Into this silent night
As we make our weary way
We know not where;
Just when the night becomes its darkest
And we cannot see our path;
Just then is when the angels rush in,
Their hands full of stars.





The Lamb of God

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Christmas Means to Me

The following poem was written by my 89 year old mother, Elsie Wilson.  Way to go Momma!!

What does Christmas mean to me?
Is it lots of gifts beneath the tree?
Is it lovely lights, which brightly glow?
Is it sending cards to all we know?
Is it rushing from store to store?
Shop till you drop and then some more?

Is it Santa Claus, with a load of toys?
Dolls for the girls and trucks for the boys?
Is it cooking and baking those good Christmas treats?
Is it just a time when the whole family meets?
No, none of these things mean Christmas to me.
There’s a far greater meaning than any of these.

God sent His Son, His Gift to the earth,
To be born in a manger, a lowly birth,
To die on a cross, God’s salvation plan,
This gift of salvation is offered to man.
This gift is given to all who believe,
Our sins are forgiven when we confess and receive.
This gift of salvation, so wonderful and free,
This is what Christmas means to me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Have a Successful Marriage

I think Jeremy nailed it.

Global Christianity

A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population by the Pew Forum.

Dave Wilkerson's Last Blog Post

Pastor David Wilkerson's last blog post before he was killed in a tragic automobile accident, on April 27, 2011:

"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights," he wrote, "and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, `I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident."'

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If Joseph and Mary Had Facebook

The Aim of God at Christmas

The aim of God at Christmas is to make the goodies of the world lose all their attraction in comparison to the surpassing glory of hte divine Name.  The essence of Christmas purity is not what you stand against, but what you stand in awe of, the glorious name of God.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Cupboards are About to Burst!

A good friend recently shared this encouraging vision on her blog, Random Inspirations:

The cupboard doors are bulging (with abundance and blessings). They are about to spring open because they cannot be contained much longer. It is HE who holds the doors. His time is perfect.

He will release them when it is time and they will pour out like when a dam bursts and all the water gushes. They will come all at once. He has great plans - plans which cause us to rejoice. Plans for a "great" future. AND because of that we will say, "There is joy in the house of the Lord".

It just seems so obvious that we will be joyful because of what He does. We won't be able to do anything except rejoice. It will overflow from us, just like a dam bursting. It will gush forth.

I'll receive that!  It's just the good word I needed to hear today! 

Read the rest of the wonderful post here.

He Giveth More Grace

Among the great promises, precious true,
Is this, all sufficient for me and for you.
Whatever you need, anytime, anyplace,
Just trust and remember, "He giveth more grace."

When grief thrusts you through with its cold piercing dart;
When friends pass you by, almost breaking your heart;
Just look through your tears for a glimpse of God's face.
And cling to the promise, "He giveth more grace."

When petty annoyances, problems and cares
Take up their abode in your mind unawares;
Go into your closet and earnestly pray --
"I need just a little more grace, Lord, today."

If burdens rest lightly and troubles seem few,
Or strike like a thunderbolt out of the blue,
Serene may you go, clinging close to His hand --
"He giveth more grace" as your need may demand.

--  Kathryn Blackburn Peck (Herald of Holiness)

The Greatest Barrier to Revival

"Vast tracts of fallow ground in the hearts of professing Christians surely constitute the greatest barrier to the rain of revival." -- Arthur Wallis

Small Church Sustainability

My blogger buddy, Chuck Warnock, recently shared a very insightful post -- Sustainability:  A Small Church Concern.

Small churches are concerned about a lot of things including growth, finances, and ministry programs.  But one issue seems to cut across all of these small church concerns — sustainability. Small churches often do not ask the question, “How are we going to sustain this?” before launching a new program or ministry.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Anyway Poem

Last week, during the funeral service of my friend, Nan Burns, one of the finest eulogies I’ve ever heard was delivered.

As it concluded, I leaned over to Heath, who sat beside me, and whispered, Wow!”

Three immediately came to my mind:

1)      Nan was an extraordinary person – thus giving her friend plenty of good material to use for the eulogy.
2)      The right words, spoken in the right way, can capture the beauty of a life.
3)      The best way to have beautiful things spoken about you at your funeral is to live a beautiful life.

This moving tribute included a reading, which Nan had penned in calligraphy and given to the reader as a gift.  As he read it, I immediately sensed that I should share it in this week’s Positively Speaking column.  Someone – perhaps you -- needs to hear this message.

The author is unknown, though some attribute it to Mother Teresa.  It is reported to have hung on the wall in her orphanage in Calcutta.  There are different versions of it, but I’m just sharing Nan’s rendition:

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds.  Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for some underdogs anyway.

What you spend building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Helpful Philanthropy Guide

I've always considered philanthropy an activity reserved only for the rich and famous.  Laura Arrillaga-Anderson, in Giving 2.0, sees it differently.  "A philanthropist", she says, "is anyone who gives anything -- time, money, experience, skills, and networks -- in any amount to create a better world."

In other words, if you use what you have to make a positive difference, then you're a philanthropist, just like Bill and Melinda Gates!

The inclusion of volunteerism in the philanthropy category was a new concept for me -- but I see point.  Investing ourselves is the highest level of giving.  It is truly rewarding,a nd makes the greatest impact.

Investing our money to transform the world is also a worthwhile endeavor.

Giving 2.0 is a a comprehensive guide to assist donors in making wise decisions with their charitable funds.

Arrilaga-Anderson gives brilliant advice for making strategic charitable investments.  She provides practical advice on how to research and select the best transformational bang for your non-profit buck.

I especially appreciate her emphasis on including the whole family in the charitable endeavor.  She suggests establishing a special fund for this kind of giving, including the whole family in the donation decision.

As a pastor, I appreciated the author's recognition of tithing as a benchmark for generosity.

This book is packed with helpful hints for the novice donor as well as the seasoned philanthropist.  Each chapter concludes with a list of excellent tips  -- from enlisting in volunteer service to establishing foundations and donor advised funds.

The book includes a list of several thought provoking questions in the appendix to guide the donor to a more purposeful generosity plan.  This list, alone, is worth the price of the book.

I've never come across a better resource to assist people in transformational giving.  The accompanying website:  Giving2.com also provides tons of philanthropy resources.

(I was honored to be selected by the Giving 2.0 Team to receive a free copy of this book for review on this blog.)

Purchase Here

"Here Am I, Lord Send Me"

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Nearing Home

Billy Graham's final book, Nearing Home, is a road map for growing old.  After all, as the great Christian statesman declares, "Old age is not for sissies."

This mighty man of God has given us a wonderful gift by sharing this part of his life with us.  Standing at the peak of the mountain, he looks back, sees how far he has climbed, shares wisdom from the journey, and marvels at the glorious summit.

 As I turned the pages, I felt as if I was holding a precious treasure in my hands.

This book especially encourages those who are in life's final chapters, infusing hope and blessing into the difficulties common to aging.

The last chapter, on heaven, thrilled my soul, and made me want to be there! 

Senior saints will find tremendous blessing and spiritual help from these pages.  Young pastors will benefit from them as well.  It will help them understand and treat the older members of the congregation better.


(A complimentary copy was provided for review on this blog by the publisher.)

The Christmas Story on Facebook

If they had facebook back when Jesus was born, it might have gone like this.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Oops!

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from my friend Bill, sharing a snappy Country Gospel song, which really inspired me.

I also received a "spiritual journey" assignment from one of the ministerial students I teach. In her 17 page paper she shared many deep and personal experiences from her life. It was truly a dramatic story of redemption.

Somehow, by mistake, I replied to the ministerial student, when I thought I was responding to Bill.

My e-mail read: "I love it!! I’m going to link it to my blog – and see how we can fit this into a country gospel jam. Thanks Bill!"

The baffled ministerial student replied, "I'm glad you loved it, but I'm not sure I want my spiritual journey in a country gospel jam.  Who is Bill?  I don't remember any Bill in all those 17 pages."

Use Your Wings!

The other day, while digging through old files, I found some interesting clippings from The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.  These articles, written over five decades ago, by Dr. Oliver G. Wilson, struck a deep chord with me.  Although culture has changed considerably since that time, the essence and need of humanity remains the same.  We all need to belong, to be loved, and to be encouraged.  This is true for all people at all times, in any cultures.

One delightful article told of Dr. Wilson’s friend who, driving down the street, saw a mallard sitting on the sidewalk.

The gentleman was intrigued by the unusual sight.  He stopped his vehicle, got out and approached the sitting duck.

Alarmed, the duck sprang to his feet and started running as fast as his little ducky legs could carry him.  The man decided to follow the worried bird.

Anxiously looking back over his shoulder, the terrified mallard ran faster, and the man speeded up behind him.

Finally, after a running a couple of city blocks, the duck remembered he had wings.  Flap!  Flap!  Flap!  Flap!  He soared into the sky and out of harm’s reach.

Dr. Wilson then made the astute observation that many of us, facing fear, are like sitting ducks on the side of the road.  We waddle around in discouragement, paralyzed by anxiety.  In the middle of harried situations, we forget that we were created to fly. 

Use your wings!

Use your wings, if you want to move beyond the earth-bound things.

Use your wings if you hope to soar above life’s adversities.

Use your wings!  Instead of running away from your troubles, fly above them!

What are the wings of the human spirit?  Faith and Love!  These are God’s greatest gifts to us and they will help us rise above any difficult situation.  If you have enough faith and love, you can overcome just about anything.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40: 31

Use your wings!