Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Great Is Our God Video

We had many people ask about the video from last night's service and where they can get it. The video can be purchased here:

It can be purchased as a whole set (4 DVD's in the set) or individually. The DVD we used last night was called How Great Is Our God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Private Worship Day 7 - Enough

Author: Chris Tomlin

Scripture References: Psalm 103
Verse Text: Psalm 103:1-5 “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

I still remember Louie handing me a torn piece of paper from his journal just before the 2001 Passion tour was to hit the road. On it was written this thought among others; “all of you is more than enough for all of me… for every thirst…for every need.” I thought this was such an important and refreshing truth. A truth not just for an audience, but a truth for me personally. Let’s face it, we live in a broken world and we live broken lives. There is so much advertisement today for the “other side of the fence, greener grass” life. TV, magazines, Internet, everywhere you turn, it’s one big plug for that “something else” to make life just grand. And since man and woman first came on the scene, it’s the same trick, the same lie. And the lie just leaves us empty and more unsatisfied every time.
That’s why I love Psalm 103.
v. 1-5 “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
God is enough! Way more than enough! In your loneliest and most broken times, he is the one who satisfies. I am not writing from some place I’ve never been. I know what it is like to feel lonely. I know how it feels to lose someone very close. And I know the game of chasing a temporary fix that just leaves you more desperate.

That piece of torn paper had so much to say. Attributes of God were scribbled randomly all over it. And this statement kept appearing in the midst of them… “And still more awesome than I know.” I would encourage you to do this as well. Write down on a journal page the most amazing and beautiful attributes of God you can conceive. Let it be a worship time to God. And end it with, “and still more awesome than I know.” One day the “coming King” will appear and we will see just how awesome.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Private Worship Day 6 - The Discipline Of Lonely Places

The Discipline Of Lonely Places
Author: JD Walt
Scripture References: Luke 5:16:
'But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
The multiple tasking pace of the Palm Pilot age (or DayTimer for the luddites) poses a perilous threat to the ministry Jesus would do among us. Clearly our lives are over-scheduled and under contemplated. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 9 simple words, yet they contain a major strand of the DNA code of Jesus Christ. Let’s break the code.
BUT--But is a context word; a word that says look around; a word signifying a contrast. To be like Jesus means we will contrast with the world around us. Note what comes before the but: crowds, demands, stress, responsibility. (see vv.1-15) But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places where he prayed. Being like Jesus means we need a strategic but (oops!) in our lives too. He moved in a rhythmic pattern between crowds, small groups and solitude. It is no different for us. (see Mark 6:30-32)

OFTEN--the Greek verb tense here is the imperfect which means “he continually withdrew.” Over and over and over, it was his pattern of life. But how can we find time for this? Do we think we are more in demand than Jesus? He carved out the time because his life and ministry depended on it. Until we cultivate this kind of dependency our ministry will not properly be in his name.

WITHDREW-- the sense of the Greek word here conveys a planned, intentional deliberate course of action done repeatedly.

TO LONELY PLACES—The late Henry Nouwen put it this way: “In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding.” Take some time and examine the Scriptures. In Luke 4, prior to beginning his public ministry Jesus goes to the desert. Luke 4:42 “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.” Luke 6:12 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 11:1 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.” Luke 22:39 “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. . . . He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed...”
AND PRAYED—Thoreau went to the woods to think. We go to pray. Why? Because prayer is God’s most powerful way of engaging the participation of his people in the particularity of his plans and purposes in the world. Until we learn to pray “Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we cannot hope to be a significant player in God’s economy. And until we learn the discipline of lonely places we will never learn to pray.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. It is a practice He longs to weave into our genetic code. And remember, a stone’s throw is enough.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Private Worship Day 5 - Everlasting God

Everlasting God
Author: Brenton Brown

When the words of Isaiah 40 were first written, Israel was in exile, punished for abandoning her first love, and scattered across the lands of the middle east. Her temple destroyed, Her people conquered in warfare and then enslaved or forced to live as aliens in other countries. In every way they were far from the blessing and peace of David and Solomon's reign. And then God, through Isaiah, speaks these words to her.

6 "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.

One of the things i love about God is how aware He is of our weaknesses - even more aware than we are i think. Aren't these words a healthy corrective to the 'you can do anything you put your mind to' approach we tend to adopt in the West when we want to get things done. The truth is we can't do anything we put our minds to. Sooner or later, no matter who we are, we are eventually confronted with our own mortality. Our own limits. We are weak and fragile and the time we have here on earth is very small. Unfortunately we tend to be mindful of this humbling truth only when we encounter tragedy. But God in this chapter not only reminds Israel of her fragility. He offers His people something they had not known for a long, long time - hope. God promises Israel His comfort and His strength if they simply call on Him. 'Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins....' What God says next to Israel offers all of us hope today because it depends not at all on where we are in history, but entirely on who our unchanging God is. 'See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young'. As God reminds Israel, He reminds us, the spiritual Israel today, that He is aware of us. He is aware of our needs. He knows exactly who we are and what each one of us is struggling with. And He gives us this hope. That those who wait on Him, those who entwine themselves in Him, like a cord is entwined with other cords and is strengthened, will be strengthened by the God who does not grow weary or weak. The everlasting God.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Doesn't this stir your heart to praise? I know it stirs mine. I've said it before, and I know it sounds strange, but I am so proud of our God. I am so proud of His consistency, His compassion, His awesome and unlimited power. But even beyond His power I am moved by the mercy and compassion He has for His people. This is a God worth following, this is a God who stirs my heart in adoration and worship.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Private Worship Day 4 - How Can I Keep From Singing Your Praise

How Can I Keep From Singing Your Praise
Author: Chris Tomlin
Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27, 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, Philippians 1:19-21

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago, to go to one of the biggest college football games ever, the University of Texas vs. Ohio State. While I was there I realized that it did not matter whether you are a fan, alumni, or just a person mooching off a season ticket holder (like myself), that when the band starts playing the Texas fight song, “The Eyes of Texas,” you cannot help but sing along. It is so exciting to see a sea of burnt orange standing with their pointer finger and pinky in the air and singing, “until Gabriel blows his horn.” At that point you move from spectator to participant. For those on the outside, or at home watching the game on TV, this may seem strange because at that point you are a spectator. However, if you are in the stands, participating, there is absolutely no way you can just sit and watch everyone else sing their hearts out. You have to sing. You can’t keep from singing.
Isn’t that the same way with our faith? The bible tells us that, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing (spectators), but to those that are being saved (participant) it is the power of life.” We can see this truth fleshed out through the life of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 8 we meet Paul, who was at that point named Saul, who was a spectator to the faith and a persecutor of the church. He was present during Stephen’s sermon and stoning. Verse 3 says that Saul made havoc of the church and was dragging men and women to prison because of their belief. Saul knew that the name of Jesus Christ was beginning to spread throughout the land and he was watching it happen.

However, everything changes when we read on into chapter 9. This is where we see that God shown a light down on Saul and gave him his calling. His calling was very clear in verse 15 and 16. It reads, “for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel, for I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Saul immediately began preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. What was the change? How could a man who was a persecutor of the church change instantly into arguably the most influential Christian of all time? The answer is Jesus. Coming face to face with Jesus, and understanding his calling, changes everything. At this very moment he moved from spectator to participant, or from Saul to Paul.

These verses also give us a little more understanding of why Paul had to suffer so much. 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27 (from the Message) says:
I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

How could anyone go through all of that and still have so much joy? Paul obviously got the bigger picture. He had met Jesus and was doing the work that he was called to do. This understanding of his calling and his new identity in Christ is the reason that he could go through such difficult times and still say, “but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Acts 16 is home to the story of Paul and Silas singing in a jail cell. Incase you are unfamiliar with this story, Paul had just commanded a spirit to come out of a young fortune-teller girl. Her father was angry at them, because now all his hope and profit was gone. He then took Paul and Silas to the authorities in the marketplace and we read that, “the multitude rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” After being beaten, sentenced, and chained, how did they respond? Verse 25 says, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” They were singing! In the midst of extreme persecution, they still sang their praise to God… and what happened? Their chains were loosed. They could have run away (like many of us would), but they stayed around to see the hand of the Lord at work and see their jailer get saved. Paul was now participating in the gospel being spread. How could he not sing?

Our friend Paul understood that no matter the circumstance he would be delivered. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:19-21) He had met Jesus! He had been given his calling, and was fulfilling that calling no matter what came his way. He says that if these circumstances bring death, then Praise the Lord. There was nothing that was going to keep him from singing to his Lord and Savior.
Let us be reminded that we, like Paul, have had the grace of Jesus extended to us. We have been given the same promises. It is because of Jesus, and the hope that we find through Him that we can sing:

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling
How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives
And I will walk with You
Knowing You’ll see me through
And sing the songs You give

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing ‘cause You pick me up
Sing ‘cause You're there
I can sing ‘cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Private Worship Day 3 - Glory

Glory - It's What You're Talking About
Author: Louie Giglio

Scripture References: Psalm 16
1. Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. 2. I said to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.' 3. As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. 4. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips. 5. The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. 6. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. 7. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. 8. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 11. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Nobody likes exams. At least I never have. They stress us out, make us cram and cause us to be anxious when it’s time to see the results. Why? Because tests show us, and unfortunately those around us, what’s true about you and me.

And that’s the way it is with glory. We know what is supreme in our souls by what comes out of our mouths. That’s the true test of our devotion and affection. In other words, what we value most is what we talk about. Whatever we’re talking about is what we value most. It’s one thing to say the words “I want to glorify God with my life” or “God, be glorified in me,” but at some point we have to break these wonderful, spiritual sounding phrases into practical terms. And to do that we have to ask the question, “What am I talking about most?” Because whatever it is that we talk about most is what we are glorifying with our lives!

The reason is simple—we all have been made in God’s image, housing mirrored souls designed to reflect His glory. We are created to worship and that’s what we constantly do, declaring the praise of whatever our heart’s affection is riveted on.

Imagine carrying around a huge mirror everywhere you go. It’s going to reflect to you, and to those around you, whatever you aim it at. If you turn it away from yourself, it will reflect the objects or people that you point it towards. If the mirror is facing you, it will reflect your image back to you and others.

It’s no different with our souls. They reflect whatever we point them towards. Our souls give glory to whatever they are fixed on. But since we cannot see the soul, how do we know what we have aimed it towards? By what comes out of our mouths. The truth is, we talk most about what we love, what we think about, what we’re impressed by, enthralled with… what our hearts are set on.

That’s why I love the declaration David makes in Psalm 16:8 when he says, “I have set the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken.” The scripture tells us that David was a “man after God’s own heart,” and we know that to be true because of his actions AND his words. All through his life, in good times as well as in difficult places, David keeps on telling of the greatness of God. In all kinds of varied circumstances He always ends up glorifying God.

And you know how he pulls it off? As verse eight tells us, David was “always” setting the Lord before Him. David knew the secret of aiming His gaze (his thoughts and affections) towards the Almighty God at all times. Another translation says David set the Lord before him “continually.” The result—God’s praise is continually coming out of his mouth.

Listen to some of the things David says about God in this Psalm:

Apart from You I have no good thing. (v. 2)
You fill me with joy. (v. 11)
I love being in Your presence. (v. 11)
My pleasure is being with You. (v. 11)
You are my refuge. (v. 1)

Once David’s heart (mirror) is pointed at God, amazing things happen. For one, his heart is glad. Aiming our souls toward an unshakable God brings us “inside joy” in any situation. As well, his tongue rejoices. Oh yeah! There it is. His tongue (some versions interestingly say his “glory”), or the core of who he is, tells God’s praise. And to top it all off, his body rests secure.

So, what are we talking about? As followers of Jesus, worshippers and lead worshippers alike, we must examine ourselves, asking the hard question about what we are glorifying with our lives. Is it the songs? Is that what we talk about most? Our ministries? The hottest band? The latest conference we attended or the latest CD we listened to? Or what “so and so” said about whatever? Or what book we read? Or the latest ministry strategy?

Or somewhere in the midst of it all are we talking about Jesus? Is His name often on our lips as we go about our lives… as we are hanging out with friends over a Starbucks or lunch? The degree to which Jesus is the center of our conversations is the true test of how much we really have found our delight in Him.

Think about how much glory we give to sports teams, pop stars, ourselves, the clothes we wear, other people, possessions, events, experiences (the stuff our souls are aimed at most) everyday as they fill our mouths and dominate our conversations. And yet we claim to have an intimate love affair with the God of the universe.

The life that glorifies God is not easy, but it’s not complicated either. Such a life begins with little intentional steps as we moment by moment turn our attention to the living, loving Lord of All. The point is NOT that there’s anything wrong with enjoying the life around us, but that these “lesser things” are no match for the God who has made us… and they never fully satisfy our souls. So the answer is NOT that we stop talking about them, but that we more consistently take time to redirect our souls towards Him. Soon, His joy will satisfy our hearts and shape our words. And even our flesh will rest secure


Friday, August 21, 2009

Private Worship Day 2 - Above All Else

Above All Else

Author: Vicky Beeching
Scripture References: Matthew 13:44
Verse Text: "God’s Kingdom is like a perfect, flawless pearl. When a Jewel Merchant sees it, in his excitement and joy he sells all he owns to buy this one treasure” (Matthew 13:44 paraphrased)

Listen to the song:

Life can often feel like a busy, fast-moving journey. We have to keep running onwards, and get little time to look around and take in the scenery. But every now and then, we arrive at a bend in the road, or reach the top of a hill or mountain. In that place we have to pause, take in the view around us and decide which direction and path we will take next. We must also choose who and what governs our decisions and priorities in life.
I found myself on that hill-top of decision, after three busy years at Oxford University. There had always been an obvious next step – school, college, university, and now what? I looked around at the view, seeing many pathways and options to pursue. I needed God’s direction as I stepped into this next season of life.

At that time of reflection and decision making, a song was born. It was a heart cry that clothed itself in lyrics and melody. I had dreams, goals and hopes for my life, but one desire eclipsed them all - wanting more of Jesus. At that bend in the road, I chose that all my decisions in the years ahead would be based on one foundational prayer – “God, above all else in life, I want you. Give me Yourself”. The song lyrics I wrote, express this desire:

Jesus, my passion in life is to know you
May all other goals bow down to
This journey of loving you more
Jesus, you’ve showered your goodness on me
Given your gifts so freely
But there’s one thing I’m longing for
Hear my heart’s cry
And my prayer for this life...

Above all else
Above all else
Above all else
Give me yourself

It is my ‘mission statement’ for life, in song form. It reminds me what really matters. When I’m faced with decisions, the jukebox in my head usually starts playing this song! Suddenly I hear the line “may ALL other goals bow down to this journey of loving you more”, and it keeps my choices anchored on loving and following Jesus.

Right now we all stand on a hill top together, watching as this day comes to a close and a new day begins to dawn. The view stretches out ahead of us - new horizons, new challenges, new choices to make. I hope you will join with me, praying that God will be first in our lives - above all else - in all that lies ahead. May knowing and loving him more, be the passion that guides our steps.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Private Worship Day 1 - Beautiful Savior

Beautiful Savior
Author: Stuart Townend
Scripture References: Psalm 27:4, Ephesians 1:19-20, Colossians 2:15...

Listen To The Song:

As I look at the wonderful outpouring of worship songs in recent years, I’ve noticed that many of them describe our feelings and experiences of God in worship; rather less turn our attention completely away from ourselves to look at God. We need to make sure we don’t limit God to our experience of Him; part of our worship needs to be exclusively for, about, and to God Himself – as the psalmist says, “to gaze upon His beauty” (Ps 27:4).
That’s what I’ve tried to do in the chorus of this song. The verses chart our history, current place and future in Christ, but the chorus is entirely devoted to describing the Saviour, using various names that the Bible itself uses for Him. Let’s examine a couple of them.

Lord of history – the Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all the earth. Although there are many things we don’t understand about what happens in the world, whether it’s an international crisis or a personal tragedy, we do know that God is bringing all things to a divine conclusion. God is not frustrated by the plans of men: His plan for the world and the church will not be thwarted. We can trust in His total sovereign plan.

But God isn’t just Lord of the big picture: He’s Lord of our personal history too. He knows where we have been, what we have done, and He’s used it all to bring us to this place and point in time. His purpose is being worked out, and we are being shaped by the same power that raised Jesus form the dead (Eph 1:19-20).

Heaven’s Champion - sometimes we can be so focused on our personal redemption that we can miss the glory of the greater purposes of God in salvation. Jesus came to earth with a mission – to bring back a lost humanity, to restore a relationship severed by sin and rebellion, and to shape a beautiful Bride for eternity.

Jesus became the Champion of heaven as He set about His mission, preaching good news to the poor (Isa 61:1ff), enduring the cross, defeating death and the curse of sin, and arriving back in heaven having disarmed the principalities and powers (Col 2:15). Imagine the celebration of heaven at the ascension of Christ – truly the Champion’s return!
Finally, there’s one phrase in the song that I want to look at, which I believe is fundamental to our full freedom in Christ (2 Cor 3:17; Rom 8:21; Gal 5:1). In verse 1 we sing “of sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed”. Now the first phrase we tend to fully embrace. We know that our sins are forgiven, that all the wrongs we have done were laid on Christ at the cross (Isa 53:6).

But many of us stop there. We know we’re forgiven, but we still carry round with us the guilt and condemnation associated with those sins. We may be free, but we still think and act as slaves, “miserable sinners saved by grace”. We know the prison gates have been smashed open, but we still live within the prison walls.

But Jesus didn’t die just to forgive us when we sin: He broke the power of sin over us! The forgiveness of God means we can live with a clear conscience, knowing we stand pure and blameless in His sight, with the ability and power to live in a way that pleases God. Sure, we may fall from time to time, but His acceptance, love and presence are always there, and are not dependent on our effort or righteousness (Rom 8:38-9; Heb 10:22).

May God really establish these truths in our lives as we gaze upon our beautiful Saviour.