Sunday, July 29, 2018

It's Sunday morning, and I have the privilege of preaching today at Valley Springs Presbyterian Church. I was assigned the task of presenting an overview of the letters of the New Testament--in 30 minutes. In the middle of the sermon I am inserting the following, a reminder of how the letters exalt Jesus Christ as Lord of all, explaining his true nature and work. I'm posting it here for future reference!

In Acts, Luke’s letter about the history of the beginnings of the church, Jesus is the ascended Lord sovereignly overseeing the spread of the gospel and the establishment of his church among the nations.

In Romans, he is the resurrected giver of righteousness to those who believe, the intercessor and advocate before the throne who, with the Father, freely gives us all things in a divine love from which we can never be separated.

In I Corinthians, he is the power and wisdom of God, the foundation stone for the church, the resurrected one who is the model of our promised resurrection, and the sole pathway to our victory over death.

In II Corinthians, he is the Lord over the sufferings of his people, the giver of all-sufficient grace, the focal point of the glory of God, in whose image we are being molded step by step.

In Galatians, he is the redeemer who alone sets us free from sin, condemnation, and a futile life of rote obedience to the Law; he dwells within each of us by the Spirit he has given to us so that we might legitimately live for him, the one who loved and gave himself up for us.

In Ephesians, he is sitting in the place of ultimate authority at the right hand of the Father, who is bringing about the submission and fulfillment of all things at his feet.

In Philippians, he is the exalted name above all names, who had emptied himself to purchase our salvation, but is now resurrected and glorified, and in that place of ultimate authority, every knee will eventually bow and every tongue will eventually confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

In Colossians, he is the fullness of Deity in bodily form, in whom are all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge; he is the preeminent one who created all things and reconciled all things to himself by bringing peace though the blood of the cross.

In I Thessalonians, he is the Lord who delivers us from wrath, who will himself – personally – descend from heaven with the shout and voice of the archangel and with the trump of God and raise from the dead all who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

In II Thessalonians, he is the Lord Jesus who is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon his enemies, yet even now he comforts our hearts and leads us in every good work and word.

In I Timothy, he is the one and only mediator between God and man who came to save even the greatest of sinners.

In II Timothy, he is the one who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. He remains faithful even when we are faithless, and knows perfectly who does, and does not belong to him. With this knowledge he will judge the living and the dead, while rescuing his own from every evil attack.

In Titus, he is out great God and Savior, our blessed hope, who gave himself to redeem us in his abundant mercy and poured out his Spirit on us to regenerate us and secure our position as joint heirs with him.

In Philemon, he is the ultimate master deserving of every good thing, who turns human traditions upside down, making brothers of all who trust in him and flooding grace and mercy into the world through his redeemed and repentant people.

In Hebrews, he is the radiance of the glory of God, the creator and sustainer of all things; he is both the merciful and sufficient eternal high priest AND the perfect sacrifice on the alter, the author and perfecter of salvation, and the immutable, impeccable, eternal God worthy of all glory forever and ever.

In James, he is the Lord of Glory, whose every teaching is worth repeating, and every word is worth hearing and obeying.

In I Peter, he is the resurrected Lord through whom we have a living hope in times of multicolored sufferings and trials. He is not only the one who redeemed us by suffering, but set the pattern for us to follow as we endure suffering, and do so for his glory and our ultimate joy in him.

In II Peter, he is the patient Lord who wishes none to perish, but will in time come in fiery judgment on the world.

In I John, he is both the advocate who pleads our case before the throne, and the propitiating sacrifice that paid the penalty on our behalf. He is the sole object of our faith, and the guarantor of our final victory.

In II John, he is fully man, the historical Jesus, without whom no one can be saved.

In III John, he is the truth in which we walk, and the name under which we serve.

In Jude, he is the one who delivered Israel from Egypt centuries before, and will deliver us as we wait for his coming and the mercy we will yet again experience at his holy hand.

In Revelation 1-3, he is the glorified Lord, burning in holiness and perfect knowledge and righteous judgment who is walking sovereignly among his churches, ministering through his pastors, purifying his people, and sustaining their faith with endurance. He is no longer emptied and suffering. He is not still hanging on a cross. He is the fullness of God in visible form, and when we see him, we will fall at his feet.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Songs (for us!)

An open note to Valley Springs Presbyterian Church where I lead worship on Sunday mornings:

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings with loud shouts!” Psalm 33:3

As I prepared for this year’s Easter services, I was reviewing my music files and rejoicing over the number of new songs we have learned over the past year. A few of them have been around for a while, but they were still new to many of us and provided fresh opportunities to reflect on the truth. I commend you all as a congregation: you are willing to learn and you give yourselves to wholehearted worship; indeed, listening to your voices echo back genuine praise Sunday after Sunday is a highlight of my week.

Here’s a partial list of the new tunes we’ve added to our repertoire this year:

 These last two were written in house by our own Luke Grant. In addition, we’ve incorporated some new settings to favorite hymns, including “Be Thou My Vision” and “All Hail the Power.”

Perhaps you have noticed an intentional direction to our worship ministry. We have chosen to incorporate more songs that are saturated in the truth—music that hopefully blends memorable, singable melodies with clear affirmations of sound doctrine. If we’re successful, we will provide through the lyrics of each song enough fuel for our own hearts’ praise and enough affirmation of the truth to make the song a fitting tool of edification to those around us. We will then be fulfilling God’s instructions to us in Ephesians 5:19 – “...singing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

It’s my belief that doctrine is not detached orthodoxy, but life-giving and heart-changing truth. That truth is worth every note, every voice, every crescendo, and every moment in time we commit to proclaiming it in song.

All that to say, thanks for singing along. It seems to me that I can hear your voices a little louder each week. May God bless our unity in worship and our continued commitment to proclaim the truth in song!