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.

New Song: Goodness of God

It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when your life is easy.  But when you are facing serious disease, loss or death, it becomes a lot harder.  So many people end up in the desert of pain and suffering and cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When we lose a job or face a life crisis, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious disease, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When a loved one dies, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

The answer is “yes”.  God is good.  Let me give you three reasons…

  1.  God is good…in his being.  He is not evil.  He IS the definition of goodness.
  2.  He shows us his goodness in the way he gives and sustains life.  He shows us his goodness in the good gifts he gives.  He shows us his goodness in the way he showers us with mercy that we don’t deserve.  He would still be good if he didn’t do these things, but he chooses to show us his goodness.
  3.  Not only that, in the midst of pain, God comes close.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote that God is good because in the storm of pain and suffering, he comes closer to us than the storm could ever be.

Because of that, we can sing these words.  We might have tears running down our face, but we can still sing these words.  The first verse comes straight from the psalms and looks back at our lives so far…

Verse 1
I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me 
(I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. -Psalm 116:1)
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
(Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. -Psalm 31:5)
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
(I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. -Psalm 3:5)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
The chorus, also from the psalms, expands the theme musically and names God as the FAITHFUL one…
Chorus
And all my life You have been faithful
(Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. -Psalm 36:5)
And all my life You have been so, so good
(For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. -Psalm 100:5)
With every breath that I am able
(Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.-Psalm 150:6)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
God is not silent.  He has spoken through his Word and now uses the Holy Spirit to illuminate his Word to apply it to our lives in dark times…
Verse 2
I love Your voice
(The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.-Psalm 29:4)
You have led me through the fire
(When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2)
And in darkest night You are close like no other
(Your hand will guide meeven the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. -Psalm 139:10, 12)
I’ve known You as a Father
(Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…-Matthew 6:9)
I’ve known You as a Friend
(You are my friends if you do what I command…I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. -John 15:14, 15)
And I have lived in the goodness of God.
So is God’s goodness pursuing us, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son?  Or, is God’s goodness following us like it says in the 23rd Psalm?  I think the answer is yes.  It’s both.  God’s mercy is pursuing us and His goodness continues to follow us when we know Him.  What this bridge shows me is that this goodness, this mercy demands a response.  Am I willing to lay down my life for my christian brothers and sisters?  Am I willing to give up everything for Jesus?  Am I willing to do that because of his great goodness to me?
Bridge
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(…While [the Prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20)
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. -Psalm 23:6)
With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now
(This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. -1 John 3:16
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.-James 4:7)
I give You everything
(Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.-Luke 17:27, 33)
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.

Like I said before, it’s easy to sing about God’s goodness in general terms, but after living through some hard stuff, I can say, “yes” I want to lay down my life and sing about the goodness of God that is running after, running after me…

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.

How Do We “Seek God’s Face”?

I hear people talk about “seeking God’s face” and I’m not always sure what it means.  Do they mean a time of singing and/or prayer where we have a spiritual experience?  Do they mean a deeper understanding of God’s character?  I’m not always sure… As I’ve thought about it, Psalm 105 has been helpful.  Let’s seek God’s face together…

New Song: Great Things

Throughout scripture, there is a pattern.  God works to save his people and then the people praise him for the great things He has done.  It happens over and over again…Moses and the Red Sea…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace…the psalms…and then even Mary sings after the angel tells her that she is going to be the mother of God.

For us today, it’s good to remember that God is still doing amazing work in our lives.  He is still destroying death, sin and shame.  God has done great things in my life…in your life!  This song by Phil Wickham starts in the psalms with us kneeling in wonder and inviting others to see what God has done…

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker –Psalm  95:6

Verse 1
Come let us worship our King
Come let us bow at His feet
He has done great things
See what our Savior has done
See how His love overcomes
He has done great things
He has done great things

And that is the theme of the song that we keep coming back to again and again.  He has done great things!  As Psalm 126 says,

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 

Chorus
O Hero of Heaven You conquered the grave
You free every captive and break every chain
O God You have done great things

We use a lot of different words for God.  He is our redeemer.  He is our savior.  He is also our HERO!  If you read the VOICE version, it helps us see this in context…

Our Savior, our hero—the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, by name—is the Holy One of Israel!…I am your hero, the strong One of Jacob from whom you come. I will rescue you, whatever the price. –Isaiah 47:4; 49:26 Voice

And what has he rescued us from?

…he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. -Colossians 1:13-14

How should we respond?  I don’t know about you, but I think singing and dancing is a good way!

We dance in Your freedom awake and alive
O Jesus our Savior Your name lifted high
O God You have done great things

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.-Galatians 5:1

Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory. –Psalm 149:3-4

For us today, God is faithful in big ways and small ways.  He comforts in suffering and protects us from evil.

Verse 2
You’ve been faithful through every storm
You’ll be faithful forevermore
You have done great things

the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. -2 Thessalonians 3:3

And I know You will do it again
For Your promise is yes and amen
You will do great things
God You do great things

Not only is he faithful in the past, he will continue to do great things for the promises of God are “yes” and amen!  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

The bridge culminates in praise by declaring who God is.  Through out history and throughout our lives, he is God.  There are so many ways to say that.  For example, He is higher, above, unshakable.  But it all comes down to this:  he is the God who does great things.

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:9

Bridge
Hallelujah God above it all
Hallelujah God unshakable
Hallelujah You have done great things
You’ve done great things

New Song: Who You Say I Am

We’ve already been singing it for a few weeks, but I still want to walk us through the biblical basis for our new song, “Who You Say I Am”.  The writers have said that the theme is taken from John 8 which talks about how we will know, the truth and the truth will set us free.  Or in their words,

“It’s a real declaration of identity.”

The first line asks the rhetorical question, “who am I”?  David prays this in 2 Sam 7:18 when he says, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  But this is also a theme that found in Psalm 8 and the book of Job.  Think about it!  In light of the vast creation, why are we so special that God would want us?  This is an invitation to wonder…

Verse 1:
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
We are lost…you know that, right?…and that is a major theme in Jesus’ stories:  the story of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son.  But this is not just a random story.  It is our story.  It is your story.  His love is for YOU.  As Jesus said himself, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
Chorus:
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
One of the things I love about the song is the reference to adoption.  Don’t miss this!  You are NOT a  natural son or daughter.  God adopted you as his child.  And if you wondering where he says that, check out John 1:12-13, John 14:18, Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:1-8, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5-7, Ephesians 1:3-14, Ephesians 2:11-22, Hebrews 9:15, and 1 John 3:1-3!
Verse 2:
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep

I know we’re not done w/ the verse yet, but I wanted to point something out.  We are adopted into the family of God, but it wasn’t free.  Someone had to buy us back from slavery.  God paid the price with the blood of his Son.

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ… -1 Peter 1:18-19a

Moving on…

While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

We were slaves to sin.  That comes directly from the Word of God.  Sometimes it’s good to remember that this is God’s truth we are singing!

…you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. -Galatians 4:7

Bridge:
I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am

It’s such a simple line, but don’t take for granted that you have been chosen.  Matthew records these words that might be hard to hear, but are true.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:14

Few are chosen.  And not only are you chosen, you are not forsaken.  But that makes me ask, who is forsaken?  The answer might surprise you.  It’s Jesus.  He chose to be forsaken by the Father so you never have to experience what that is like.  In fact, on the cross he cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Mark 15:34

And as Paul says,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

The only thing to do is accept the identity that God has given you and live for him.  You are a child of God.

You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

If you want to hear the story behind the song.  Check this out…

The Unofficial Israel Tour – The Pool of Siloam

In John 9:1–11, we read the story of the blind man who comes to Jesus to be healed. Two interesting things about the story jump out to me. First, Jesus uses mud to heal and secondly, he sends him to the pool. Why are those two things interesting? Let’s find out…on location in Jerusalem.

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.

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.