The Unofficial Israel Tour :: Caesarea Philippi

Why did Jesus take his disciples so far north to ask them a couple simple questions? Caesarea Philippi was in pagan territory after all! Let’s take an unofficial tour and see this famous bible story with new eyes…

I sensed this was the week that above all weeks was to be set aside for the journey into death. I knew the worship of the church would take me by the hand and lead me step-by-step into the experience of death and rebirth, if I would allow it to do so. I resolved then and there to walk in the way of the cross. I purposed to make this the week God intended it to be for me, a week of intense spiritual struggle—and reward!

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

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 6

The Lord is merciful.

He is full of unfailing love.

The Lord hears our cries and hears our prayers.

He takes away our sins.

This is a prayer experience for Lent based on Psalm 6.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 142

I wrote an arrangement of Psalm 142 for my one man musical, DAVID.  The line, “When my spirit grows faint within me / It is you who knows my way” grabbed me. As we continue this season of Lent, I thought this was a good psalm to share.  I recorded it in the desert room of the Botanical Gardens because David wrote it while hiding in a desert cave on the run from Saul.

A Prayer Experience from Psalm 130

I recorded this prayer experience in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.  I know it’s a Catholic church and we have some theological differences, but it is a beautiful space and one that has engaging pictures and sculptures.  For example, the sheaf of wheat carved into the alter table that points to Jesus being our “first fruits”.

So as the season of Lent is a time to confess our sins and become more aware of our own mortality, here is a prayer experience based on Psalm 130. For more on this prayer model, click here.

New Song: Resurrecting

As Lent begins and we head towards Easter, we are going to learn a new song called, “Resurrecting”.  I was drawn to this song because of the interesting use of tense in the song’s Bridge.  It presents the idea that not only did Christ rise from the dead, but he is continuing to give us life or, as the song says, continuing to resurrect us.  But, it all starts with Jesus…

Vs1:
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now
The Savior knelt to wash our feet
Now at His feet we bow
You can see that this verse comes directly from Hebrews 2:9 and Philippians 2:10

…see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…

Vs2:

The One who wore our sin and shame
Now robed in majesty
The radiance of perfect love
Now shines for all to see
What I love about digging into songs is that you get so much more than a lyric writer can fit in the actual song.  Check this out…

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. -Hebrews 1:3

So Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory…like light that radiates from a source and yet isn’t the same as the source…and yet is one with the Father!  AND he is holding everything together while taking away our sin and ascending to the right hand of the Father…crazy deep!  But it doesn’t stop there.  We have victory through the work of Jesus.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Ch:
Your name, Your name
Is victory
All praise, will rise
To Christ, our king 2x
The 2rd verse elaborates on the same theme, but makes it personal.
Vs3:
The fear that held us now gives way
To Him who is our peace
His final breath upon the cross
Is now alive in me
So what is “the fear”?  We find that in the book of Hebrews.  Jesus came to…

free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. -Hebrews 2:15

Br:
By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me

 The theme of “ashes” in scripture is one of defeat and grief.  We see it in the book of Job when he says,

I am reduced to dust and ashes. -Job 30:19

BUT, in Jesus we have resurrection and life.  Jesus said this himself…

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.-John 11:25

As I said before, notice the change in tense in the word, “resurrection”!  Jesus gave us life and continues to give us life!  He was resurrected from the dead and now he has and will continue to resurrect us…and our response is one of praise…

…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –1 Corinthians 15:57

The last verse takes us to the point of resurrection which made everything possible.  What makes this verse so interesting is the use of the word, “robbed”.  You could say that our God has defeated or swallowed death, but he also took back what Adam had given to Satan, the power of sin and death, so in a sense God has robbed the grave.  God also robbed the power of death in calling us to follow Jesus into his death so that we can find life.  As Paul writes it,

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.-2 Corinthians 4:10

Vs4:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave and he is resurrecting me.

NEW SONG: Joy of the Lord

As Gareth Gilkeson from the worship band Rend Collective, points out, worship music tends to focus on God’s holiness, but doesn’t always take that next step into celebrating it.  This weekend, we are starting a year long focus on JOY, one of the fruits of the Spirit.  To help us do that, we are learning a new song, “Joy of the Lord”.  Gareth, one of the songwriters also writes,

 “It’s a call to the cynical to once again choose celebration over condemnation and a reminder to the broken that ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength’….Joy isn’t the same as happiness, it’s deeper than that. When you have joy in the Lord, your circumstances don’t have the same power and the same control over you.”

It’s also a fun song.  Rend Collective tried to make it sound like fun. It’s what the Psalmist calls, ‘a joyful noise’.”  So let’s jump in…it starts with the Psalms…

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:26

VS1: Though tears may fall
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
Though my heart may fail
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
While there’s breath in my lungs
I will praise You, Lord

You can see already that joy is not connected to our circumstances because this song doesn’t shy away from the tears and failures of life.  Instead, it calls us to praise God in the tears and failures…

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. -Psalm 150:6

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. -Psalm 121:1-2

VS2: In the dead of night, I’ll lift my eyes
I’ll lift my eyes to You
When the waters rise, I’ll lift my eyes
I’ll lift my eyes to You
While there’s hope in my heart
I will praise You, Lord

And then we come to the rock’in, stomp’in, sing it out loud chorus…

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” -Nehemiah 8:10b

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him. -Psalm 28:7

CH: The joy of the Lord is my strength!
The joy of the Lord is my strength!
In the darkness I’ll dance
In the shadows I’ll sing
The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Next, the song echos Hebrews in reminding us that even faith itself is believing in things we can’t see…that’s not an easy thing, but faith is another avenue to praise and then to JOY!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. -Hebrews 11:1

VS3: When I cannot see You with my eyes
Let faith arise to You
When I cannot feel Your hand in mine
Let faith arise to You
God of mercy and love
I will praise You, Lord

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. -2 Corinthians 4:6

Now the verses have gone through pain, sorrow, faith and praise to life in God’s glory.  Remember, “there is strength when I say, ‘I will praise you, Lord”.

VS4: Oh You shine with glory, Lord of light
I feel alive with You
In Your presence now I come alive
I am alive with You
There is strength when I say
I will praise You, Lord

BR: When sorrow comes my way
You are the shield around me
Always, You remain my courage in the fight
I hear You call my name
Jesus, I am coming
Walking on the waves
Reaching for Your light

And with that, we go back to the chorus because “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”  It’s going to be a good anthem for us to sing this year.  Because as Gareth reminds us, “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is.”

CONTENT AND QUOTES FROM:

https://billygraham.org/story/irish-worship-band-rend-collective-celebrates-god-pursues-joy/

https://www.mcleanbible.org/events/rend-collective-good-news-tour

Worship Stories: Moses

This time of year, we look to the same God as Moses.  The one who said I WILL BE WHO I AM is with you.  The one who said He would be EMMANUEL, is GOD WITH US!  This season, remember that the same God who promised to be faithful to Moses, to Israel, is faithful to you.  He is the the one who lit the bush, the mountain and the Bethlehem night skies on fire and who came as a baby to live with you.

We should use the Advent season as a period to identify the matters from which we need to be redeemed. Identify whatever it is that seems to be holding you in its power.

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