The principle purpose of worship is not to teach but to worship God…

God is praised as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. The worshiper praises, magnifies, and glorifies him not only for who he is, but also for what he has done in providing life, redemption, sustenance, hope, and many other blessings. In this way, worship becomes an experience of God. The worship is carried through an experience in which the opportunity is given to make a fresh commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

-Robert Webber, Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 129.

My Life in Haiku

Part of my “rule of life” for 2020 is writing at least one Haiku poem each day. These short Japanese poems (3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 again in the 3rd) come out of my life. So hopefully, they give you a small taste of my life and encourage us all to see God’s wonder in our lives as we follow Jesus…

The full church is not seen in any one denomination or body. Rather, every branch of the church should be seen as part of the whole. The church catholic therefore needs every branch of the church to be complete.

-Robert Webber, Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith

New Song: New Name Written Down in Glory

When your name is changed in the Bible, it indicates that there has been a change of status.  The person has not only been given a new name by God, their core-identity has changed too.  We see it throughout the Scriptures…

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.

His wife Sarai was changed to Sarah.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was given the name Israel.

Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus.

And then famously, Saul saw Jesus on the road and became Paul.

We also are given a new “core-identity”, but it is an identity that was designed for us by God before we were born and is written down in heaven.  Jesus told his disciples that this was more important than casting our demons!  He said,

…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. -Luke 10:20

Charles Austin Miles originally wrote a song with the title A New Name Written Down in Glory back in 1910.  He had already aban­don­ed his ca­reer as a phar­ma­cist and had become a gospel song writer.  Our new song by People&Songs is loosely based on Miles’ song.  In fact, there is only one line that carries over…

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!

BUT there is an important difference.  Miles’ song suggested that your name was written down in glory at the time of your salvation.  But Revelation tells us something different.  It says,

The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… -Revelation 17:8

So before “the creation of the world”, your name was already written in the book of life.  But let’s jump in and see how our name (core-identity) is changed and what that means…
Verse 1: I was lost in shame
Could not get past my blame
Until He called my name
I’m so glad He changed me

Sin, shame and blame entered our world after the Fall, but he calls us by a “new name”.  As God says to Israel,

…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. -Isaiah 62:2b

Darkness held me down
But Jesus pulled me out
I’m no longer bound
I’m so glad He changed me

Just so you know, most of the metaphors in this song (darkness, blindness, light, freedom from prison) are from Isaiah 42:7.  Jesus later read this passage and said that he fulfilled it.  Jesus is…

…A light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. -Isaiah 42:7

But the core of this song is about identity.  Let’s get back to it.  The pre-chorus is almost verbatim from 2 Corinthians!
Pre-Chorus: See I’m, now a new creation in Christ
The old has gone, there’s new life
I live by faith, not by sight
Or as the Bible says…

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For we live by faith, not by sight. –2 Corinthians 5:7

And then we hit the chorus.  We’ve already talked about the first two lines that come from Charles Miles…
Chorus: There is a new name written down in glory
And it’s mine, yes, it’s mine
I’ve met the author of my story
And He’s mine, yes, He’s mine

Did you catch the last two lines?  They come directly from Hebrews and affirm that Jesus has already written our life’s story with both a beginning and end.  Hebrews 12 says we are,

…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verse 2: Sin had left me blind
But Jesus opened my eyes
Now I can see the light
I’m so glad He changed me

BIBLE GEEK SIDENOTE!  I find it so interesting tracking themes through the scriptures.  The first time that we find the phrase “eyes were opened” is after Adam and Eve fall into sin and shame…

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…-Genesis 3:7

But when Jesus quotes Isaiah, he tells us that he came to “open eyes”.  Not only that, when he appears to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus we read,

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him[Jesus]…-Luke 24:31

So it seems that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to sin and that is really blindness.  We THINK we can see clearly, but we only see who we are AFTER Jesus opens our eyes.  That was just a side-note…back to the song…
Now I’m walking free
I’ve got the victory
See it’s all over me
I’m so glad He changed me
Lastly, the bridge tells us that the I AM defines who we are.  But who is the I AM?  Back in Exodus, God gives tells Moses that this is his name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14

Later, Jesus claims to be the same I AM…

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” -John 8:58

So God is the great I AM, but what are we?  In his book, “Who Am I?:Identity in Christ”, author Jerry Bridges answers this question by pointing us to scripture.  He says there are 8 ways to biblically define ourselves.  These 8 “I am…” statements are:

I Am Created.  I Am in Christ.  I Am Justified.  I Am an Adopted Son/Daughter of God.  I Am a New Creation.  I Am a Saint.  I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ.  I Am Not Yet Perfect.

In other words,

Bridge:  I am who I am because the I AM tells me who I am.

Good art “speaks to me. It makes me listen. It forms me.” . . . Somehow the art in worship surrounds me and gathers me up into itself. Like music, it enters into my soul and abides there. During the week it becomes a dominant image in my experience and pulls me to dwell on the theme and allows the theme to dwell in me. In this way, it forms me and energizes my spiritual pilgrimage.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Pentecost Sunday ends the extraordinary season that began on the first Sunday of Advent. In approximately six months the church has been carried through all the saving events of God—his incarnation, manifestation to the world, life, death, resurrection, and ascension as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit. All these crucial events form faith and the spiritual life. . .

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year

New Song: Build My Life

Worship is both vertical and horizontal.  What I mean is that it should start with praise for who God is, but also call us to be the church in the world, on the mission of God.

Worship is both transcendent and imminent.  What I mean is that it should remind us that God is the awesome creator of the universe and our Dad.

Worship is all of that and more.

The song, “Build My Life”, has aspects of all these things.  It praises God, who is worthy of every song, all our praise and even our very breath.  He is holy and beyond us and yet we can build our lives upon him and take his love to a lost world.  But it starts with a God who is worthy of praise…

Psalm 96:3

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

Verse 1
Worthy of every song we could ever sing.
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.
And then it moves from the triune God to Jesus himself.  God as a man now stands before us.  He is worthy, as we see at the end of the book…

Revelation 5:12

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Jude 25

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

Verse 2
Jesus the name above every other name.
Jesus the only one who could save.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.
Oh we live for you.
What I love about the chorus that comes next is the statement that God is holy.  It defines what holy means, but then acknowledges that we live with our eyes closed to it.  (God, please open our eyes to the wonder of your love that we see in Jesus.  Send us out to share that message of love.)  Check out the progression through the scriptures…

Isaiah 40:25

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Psalm 17:7

Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

2 Thessalonians 3:5

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Chorus
Holy there is no one like you
There is none beside you
Open up my eyes in wonder
Show me who you are and fill me
With your heart and lead me
In your love to those around me.
Lastly, we come to the bridge that gives the song its title.  I think it’s important to clarify that, according to the scriptures, we build our lives on Jesus and the testimony of who he is.  We also see that the church, when it lives out God’s commands, is also a foundation.  The song is a little more general in that it says, “I will build my life upon your love…”.  However, as you can see from the scripture below, that there is a direct connection between Jesus and the love of God.

1 Corinthians 3:11

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:15-17

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

Bridge
And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation.
And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken.
Passion Music has a devotional based on this song and it ends with a prayer.  May this song become a prayer for us to the God who is worthy of all praise, came to save us and now asks us to share His love…

Father, show me who you are today. Fill me with your heart—all the things you love and want me to love—and empty me of the things which don’t build up your kingdom. Then lead me in your love to, in turn, love those around me with the love of Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In the ancient church pastoral prayer was nonexistent. Prayer belonged to the people and arose out of the congregation.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Thinking through this as we include more time of open prayer at our church.  We read scripture and then pray through it, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide our hearts and minds.  What do you think…thoughts?

The Unofficial Israel Tour: Bet She’an

The ancient Greco-Roman city of Bet She’an was a huge city in Jesus’ day. It was one of the pagan cities of the Decapolis that was later destroyed in an earthquake. Since the 70’s it’s been discovered and excavated. It’s interesting to us because it MIGHT have been the site of the first missionary (the man possessed by a legion of demons and then freed by Jesus) to the gentiles.