New Song: Reckless Love

There has been some controversy about the song, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury.  It’s gotten a lot of radio play and churches all over the country are singing it, but as one blogger wrote, “God’s Love is not Reckless, Contrary to What you Might Sing.”  Like I said, there is some controversy.  The blogger in question claims that God is not reckless in his plan of salvation, but was intentional from the beginning.  And, he has a literal, theological point.  God does have a plan to bring salvation to his people and he has been working out that plan since the Fall.  What the blogger misses, is that scripture talks about the gospel being “foolishness”.  So I think we can all agree that God’s love is not reckless in the sense of being “irresponsible”, but I think we can also agree that God’s love is perceived to be foolish by the outside world!  As 1 Cor 1:18 & 25 says,

“…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”…and…”the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Paul is taking the negative word “foolishness” and using it as a positive for God.  I find it interesting that the song writer, Cory Asbury, is famous for using the same kind of dramatic language that turns the meanings of negative words on their heads.  And he isn’t the only one!  Back in the ’90s, Rich Mullins sang about the “the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”  So when we sing about the “reckless love of God” we are singing that to an outsider, God’s love seems foolish and brash, but in fact “the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.”  Let’s jump into verse one…

Verse 1:
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me

You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. -Psalm 32

You have been so, so good to me

Psalm 13:6 (NLT) I will sing to the LORD because He is good to me.

Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me

I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord. -Ezekiel 37:6

As I look at the song, I’m not sure if the songwriter is talking about speaking and breathing in terms of being born as a baby or in terms of our rebirth in Christ.  In light of the gospel message in the song, I like to think of it in terms of our salvation.  Psalm 32 is written to believers and Ezekiel also seems to indicate that the breath, or Spirit of God, comes into us at salvation and then we have true life.  That is God’s kindness…

You have been so, so kind to me

Psalms 117:2 For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!

Chorus:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:7-8

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

This is the heart of the song.  The gospel message.  Jesus left heaven to find us even though we didn’t deserve and couldn’t earn salvation on our own.  Jesus said in Luke 15:3-5

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders…”

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
I hope we experience that as we sing and in our whole life!  Moving onto verse two where the writer elaborates on where we were when God saved us…we were God’s foe and full of sin…
Verse 2:
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! -Romans 5:10

When I was in sin, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45

Bridge:
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
Here we have references to John 1:4-5, Psalm 139:7-12, Ephesians 2:13-15, and John 8:32, but the main message is simple.  God came to seek the lost and that is anyone who believes.  Not only that, he is pursuing us today and every day of our lives.

“…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” –Luke 19:10

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…-Psalm 23:6a

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Worship is More than a Service

Lots of people think that worship is limited to a religious event, but the Bible teaches something very different.  We’ll walk and talk about how all of life is worship and that doesn’t end with a service!

Who Invented Worship?

It’s easy to think that going to worship God is our idea…or at least our choice.  But, who invented worship?  Who calls the meeting between us and God?  We walk and talk as we think about who invented worship.

Worship is War

All of life is worship, but how is worship a declaration of war?  What other things are going to war for our heart, souls, minds and strengths?  What is the connection with allegiance?  We walk and talk this week about how worship is war.

Who Gets the Glory?

**Thanks to Aaron Ivey, Paul Tripp and Solomon for their thoughts on God’s glory!

Coming Home with A Song

Sometimes, coming back to a song you love feels like going home.  And…sometimes, it is.

I grew up singing the hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.  And this Sunday, we come back to that beautiful prayer as we study the prophet Samuel setting up a stone he calls “ebenezer”.  It sounds like a weird word, and it is, because it comes from the Hebrew and was originally two words.  But in English, it sounds like some old man’s name.

[Sidenote:  Actually, it was.  One of my ancestors was named “Ebenezer”.  Ebenezer Ward fought in the Civil War with a Black regiment after living and sharing the gospel in their communities.]

So for me, singing this song not only feels like coming home to my childhood, but it also our eternal home.  The word “come” is what we see in scripture as the word “maranatha” or “come quickly, Lord Jesus”.  Early Christians who were persecuted for the faith would whisper this word to each other when they met because they were looking forward to the coming of Christ.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace

I also love the second line.  “Tune my heart to sing thy grace”.  When my guitar is just slightly out of tune, everything is sour.  Multiple times, we’ve finished a music practice and someone will say, “We really need to tune!”.  And our lives are like that too.  The difference is, we need God himself to tune us back to his perfect pitch.  God, tune our hearts…

Then in in verse two, we hit that funny, old-man-name word, “ebenezer”.  The cool part of the song is that it interprets the meaning of the word in the second line…

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come

God has brought us this far in life…and it’s only by his grace.  That is what “ebenezer” means.  Do you have an “ebenezer” in your life?  Something…anything, that reminds you of God’s faithfulness…do you have an “ebenezer”?  Because that is one of the answers to the tendency of our heart to wander.  As the song says…

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love

That is the tendency of every sinful heart.  We are prone to wander.  And Lord, I feel it.  Don’t you?  But the “maranatha” end of the song points us to heaven

here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

God, the author and finisher of our faith, is preparing us for his heavenly courts above.  All we can offer, in faith, is our heart, trusting that he will bring us home.

Maranatha.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Who Is Worship For? – Prt3

I have a confession.

I grew up thinking that worship was only for believers.  Now, I think you can make a case that only a believer can worship God in spirit and in truth, but how should we arrange our services with the third audience, the outside world, in mind?

A number of years ago, I took a class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”.  It’s not a very exciting title, I know, but the class changed my whole perspective on worship.  Every week we had a different speaker who helped us understand what God has been doing in the world to build his Kingdom starting in the OLD TESTAMENT!  Did you know that God’s heart has ALWAYS been to have the nations hear the good news?  I hadn’t realized that this was God’s message to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David and on and on…to Jesus and then the early church.  God has always wanted his people to be a light and welcome anyone who comes.  As God says in the Psalms (46:10, 47:1, 18:49, 22:27)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…

And as author and pastor, Tim Keller, writes,

It is a false dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel or think about our worship…God wants the world to overhear us worshipping him.  God directs his people not to simply worship, but to sing his praises “before the nations.”  We are not to simply communicate the gospel to them, but celebrate the gospel before them.*

Did you know that this happens at ECC?  We have people to walk up to our pastors after service and say, “I’m not a believer, but I’m thinking about what you said…”  We have people who are sitting in the seats who come to church, but aren’t following Jesus Monday through Saturday.

This is why I think Keller’s emphasis on the gospel is so important.  Not just because unbelievers need to hear it (and they do!), but that the gospel is what all three groups need to hear!  God wants us to tell him about what he has done for us in Jesus.  Believers need to be reminded and shaped by the gospel.  Un-believers need to be saved by the gospel.

We can focus only on seekers instead of encouraging believers and get lost in making Jesus “relevant”.

We can focus only on building up believers and make things incomprehensible and outdated for seekers.

We need to make sure that our services are fresh, conversational and understandable while always focusing on the gospel.

By focusing on the gospel, we bring all three audiences together in worship.

______________________________________

*Tim Keller quote from “Evangelistic Worship” as used in Rhythms of Grace.  Thanks to Mike Cosper for the concept of the three audiences in worship.  His book is an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!

Who Is Worship For? – Prt 2

Last time, I wrote about God as our primary audience.  And that is true, God is our primary audience.  That being said, there is another audience in any worship gathering!  You.  Me.  We are second audience when we come to worship.

Now I have to confess something.  I have been the person who has said things like, “We should sing more about who God is!”  or “This song is so man-centered!”  Now, those things are true and sound very spiritual, but the other truth is that part of the reason we get together is to encourage each other by singing!  Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And in Ephesians 5:19

speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

So the Bible tells us that the church is an audience for worship and that one of the reasons we get together to worship is to encourage each other.  The Spirit of God in you speaks to me and brings encouragement in the middle of the trials of life.

When I was going through cancer, I needed people to sing for me.  I would try to stand and sing, but too many times I was too weak.  I would stand in the back with tears streaming down my face and listen to God’s people sing.  I’m ashamed to admit that it took that long for me to realize this.  There are many people who come to church who are struggling to sing.  They might look on the outside as if they are angry or un-engaged, but the reality is that they are struggling.  They need other believers to sing to them.

This is one of the ways we share our testimony of faith.  No matter the words on the screen, we are communicating that God is always worthy of praise and we have found him to be faithful.

Who knows…that might be you or me down the road.  We might be the people who need to hear someone else sing God’s praises.

New Song: Jesus

This is a classic Chris Tomlin song…he pulls metaphors from all over the Bible and arranges them in one song.  This song is no different, but the singular focus of the song is Jesus.  Only Jesus.  It starts by framing the cosmic struggle we are caught up in.  It is “older than the ages”, but we look forward to the promises that are “yet to come” while living in the reality of Jesus who was born of a virgin, as a descendent of mother Eve.

There are multiple scriptures I will reference throughout the song, but I think it’s best to start at the Fall when the whole story starts.  Satan tempts the woman and the man who disobey God and fall from the perfect design for their lives.  And God makes a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus who came, died on a cross and who is still yet to come…God says,

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

V1: There is a truth older than the ages 
There is a promise of things yet to come 
There is one born for our salvation 

Jesus

We move onto the promises that we see in the book of Isaiah that look forward to the coming of Jesus…but, it uses present tense to remind us that these things are still true for us today.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. -Isaiah 60:20

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. –Isaiah 9:7

The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…-Isaiah 61:1

V2: There is a light that overwhelms the darkness 
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us

Jesus, Jesus

Speaking of Jesus, the chorus moves onto specific stories of Jesus from scripture…

…He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake…They cried out…Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Mark 6:48b-50

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. -Mark 4:39

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” -Daniel 3:25

Ch: Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me

That last line is fascinating because it happened back in the OT before Jesus was born!  We understand this to be a “theophany” or a time that Jesus appeared as Jesus before he was born and before we knew him as Jesus.  He appeared in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, protecting them from the flames, and looking like “a son of the gods”.

But hold on!  We aren’t done with the chorus yet!  The second half shifts to speak about Jesus in metaphors…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. -Rev 5:5

…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18b-19

For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. -Job 5:18

He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands

Jesus 

The third verse takes all of that scripture and applies it to our lives.  This is the beauty of the song and one of the goals of the believer.  We are to understand that this book, the Bible, isn’t just a history book.  It isn’t just a manual for living.  It is a story that we are invited to claim as our own.  These characters from the Bible are part of your family…my family…and Jesus calls you to help write the story of His expanding Kingdom NOW, even in trouble, storms and the night.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. -Psalm 42:8

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. -Luke 8:24

V3: There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages

He is Jesus, Jesus

…These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! -Jude 25

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:14

Br: Messiah
My Savior
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and my Redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name

This bridge takes the song and condenses it down to a simple declaration of faith.  He is the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer…who, you ask?  Jesus.