Looking to Sunday – October 22nd

Looking to Sunday – October 22nd

Set List

All Glory Be to Christ

Hast Thou Heard Him, Seen Him, Known Him?

Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe)

Grace Alone

I Am One of Those

Liturgy

Call to Worship

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-11

Corporate Confession

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalm 130:1-6

Assurance of Pardon

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:4-10

Benediction

Now may God bless you and keep you, and make his face to shine upon you and give you peace, as you sow to the Spirit through your burden-bearing, your teaching, your learning, and your holding one another accountable. May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make you one, even as they are one, to the glory of our Triune God and for your joy. Amen.

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 15th

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 15th

Set List

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Jesus, Thank You

O Lord, How Long?

Now Why This Fear?

Oh, Amazing Mystery!

Liturgy

Call to Worship

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me! – Psalm 108:1-6

Corporate Confession

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face. My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! – Psalm 27:7-8

Assurance of Pardon

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:11-14

Benediction

Now may God bless you and keep you, and make his face to shine upon on and give you peace and assurance of the fact that you belong to Christ and the flesh has been crucified. May you flee from the works of the flesh, and may the Spirit produce in you his fruit, to your joy, and to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 8th (NEW SONG)

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 8th (NEW SONG)

Set List

New Again

He Will Hold Me Fast

O Lord, How Long? (NEW SONG: Lyrics below)

Bring Your Sick

O Fount of Love

Liturgy

Call to Worship

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4

Corporate Confession

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. – Psalm 32:1-5

Assurance of Pardon

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. – Romans 5:6-11

Benediction

Brothers and sisters, as you, through the Spirit, by faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness, remember that it is for freedom that Christ has set you free. May God bless you and keep you, as you stand firm and stubbornly refuse to submit again to a yoke of slavery, for your joy, and the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Amen.

 

O Lord, How Long? (Lyrics)

O Lord, how long will the wicked exult?
O Lord, how long will they prosper and boast?
When the pain of the innocent
Serves the lusts of evil men,
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we live in agony?
Our bodies ache, do you see our suffering?
Do you hear us when we cry,
When our day has turned to night?
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we go on childless?
O Lord, how long must we drown in grief for death?
If you give and take away,
Can’t our sons and daughters stay?
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we wrestle with our sin?
Disordered loves that we don’t want and we resent
When temptation wins again
And our spirits grieve within
How long, how long?

Oh Lord, how long till our faith is turned to sight,
Til you kneel down to wipe the tears off from our eyes?
When our loving Father says,
“Well done. Now, enter rest,”
How long?
When the sun is God the Son
And his blood-bought Bride will come,
How long?
When the Spirit brings us up
And we’re swallowed by Triune love
How long, how long?

On Congregational Lamentation (New Song)

On Congregational Lamentation (New Song)

As a pastor of a two and a half year church plant, my responsibilities include the happy task of crafting a “hymnal” for our church—that is, establishing a list of around fifty or sixty songs that become our congregation’s corporate prayer and musical worship language. Rather than inheriting an already existing repertoire of songs, and then tweaking it from there, we have the opportunity to simply start from scratch. In this process, we would be foolish to not use the Psalter as our template, not only by singing the Psalms, but also by making sure every genre and worship-emotion represented in the Psalter is also represented in our “hymnal.”

During the past couple of months, I have been working with one of our music leaders to catalogue all of our existing songs into categories (e.g., praise and adoration, confession, petition, celebration, assurance, etc.), so that as we continue to build our list of corporate songs, we might focus our attention on categories that seem to be lacking. And one such lacking category was “songs of lament.” I know for a fact that our church is not alone in this current state of affairs, and I have no doubt that the present drought of lamentation in congregational singing is symptomatic of our culture’s general fear of grief. We think it undignified. The joy of the Lord, we are told (explicitly or implicitly through what is missing in our preaching and congregational songs), is incompatible with sorrow, cries of anguish, and complaints to God. But this is untrue, and we should not believe the lie that says songs of lamentation and heart-broken confession and cries of sorrow are irreverent in corporate worship. God doesn’t seem to think they are. The same God who inspired the Psalter (his hymnal!) to include lyrics like, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1-2) also inspired words like, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” (Psalm 31:9-10)

As I reflected on this strange state of affairs in modern American Christianity—and the way it starkly contrasts the Scriptures, and most of Church history—I couldn’t help but think of the variegated forms of suffering represented in the small church I pastor. I have wept with and for members who have experienced:

  • The injustice of sexual abuse
  • Chronic physical illness
  • Miscarriage(s)
  • Ongoing, seemingly never-ceasing struggles with infertility
  • Depression
  • The sudden death of close family and friends
  • Joyless, contentious marriages
  • Serious health problems with children
  • Besetting sins that will not go away

And the list could go on. As their pastor, one of my responsibilities for these members is to teach them how to worship in seasons of extreme grief and suffering. Notice, I did not say “how to worship in spite of seasons of extreme grief and suffering.” The difference is important. It’s the difference between true worship and sentimentality. When my sister in Christ and her husband come to the corporate gathering after a weekend of literally hemorrhaging in the physical and emotional pain of miscarrying her baby, the last thing either of them need is a glib, chipper “nothing-can-get-me-down” song, which all but trivializes her suffering and chalks it up to “looking at the glass as half full.” She doesn’t merely have a “perspective problem.” She is down. She is starving. She needs to be reminded of a grand, sovereign, sturdy God who can handle her bitter cries of anguish—the kind that rumble from deep inside her guts, producing unintelligible groaning that only God the Holy Spirit can translate into worship.

But should this happen in the corporate gathering?

Yes, and here are three reasons.

The Psalms Include Holy Spirit-Inspired Corporate Songs of Lament

I’ve already touched on this briefly above, so I won’t belabor the point. But let me simply remind you that every one of the Psalms you find in your Bible was inspired to be singable on the corporate level. Of course, these Psalms can and should be prayed individually, but none of them are off-limits for praying corporately through song. If God has seen fit to make sure lamentations represent a significant portion of the Psalter, we should find the utter absence of lamentation in our modern song rotations disturbing.

This Is How We Weep With Those Who Weep

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul beautifully describes the organic and symbiotic relationship between members of the Body of Christ. He essentially debunks the notion that any member of the body is expendable. You can’t declare independence from any other member of the body; when one member is neglected, abandoned, or hurt, the whole body is neglected, abandoned, or hurt. “If one member suffers,” Paul says, “all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) The fact is, we have members in our congregations who are suffering. According to Paul’s logic, then, we are all suffering. This is what it means to “bear on another’s burdens.” When God supernaturally “knits us together in love,” he ties our nerve endings together; we feel the pain of our brothers and sisters. When we hear of a member’s child who’s been sexually abused, we feel the wind get knocked out of us. When another month goes by, and still, a couple in our congregation hasn’t conceived, we feel our hearts sink into our stomachs with disappointment.

Therefore, if such suffering occasions the lamentation of our brothers and sisters, it’s entirely appropriate for us to lament corporately. I may not have suffered the loss of a child, but according to Paul, when one member has suffered the loss of a child, we—as a congregation—have experienced a great loss. We are brought into their struggle, so their suffering becomes our suffering, and their lamentation becomes our lamentation.

We Need to Learn How to Grieve Well

For better or for worse, our congregational songs teach theology. Our regular corporate songs cause theology to seep into us in a way that cannot be quantified. Since lamentation should be informed and governed by right theology, one of the ways our members will learn how to grieve well is by having it modeled and scripted for them in theologically sound songs of lament. Obedience to the command to “rejoice in the Lord always” looks different from season to season. Picture the young mom of a newborn baby, holding her child and singing It Is Well With My Soul. That’s her rejoicing “when peace, like a river, attendeth her way.” But what about when a young mom, through sobs and tears, sings It Is Well With My Soul after she miscarries? That’s her rejoicing “when sorrows, like sea billows, roll.” And much of the Christian life is simply preparation for suffering. Even if some members don’t personally need a language of worshipful lamentation at this very moment, they will eventually. I want for my members to be prepared to know what to pray and how to process their grief when they are blindsided with unimaginable grief.

Make no mistake, there is a uniquely Christian way to suffer. A Christian’s suffering is no less painful by virtue of his Christianity, but there is a difference between a Christian’s lamentation and a non-Christian’s lamentation. We do not grieve as those without hope. When we cry “how long, O Lord?” we have been assured by God himself that the answer—whatever else it may be—is not “forever.” A Christian’s grief never leads to absolute despair because a Christian’s suffering is never meaningless—there is no such thing as an affliction that doesn’t prepare for us an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

If a Christian lamentation is nothing else, it is a longing gaze heavenward—it is a grief and discontentment for the present death and destruction the Adam’s sin occasioned, and it is the expectation for what God promised: that our eyes will be wiped of our tears and our broken hearts will be bound up. Christian lamentation is the shameless acknowledgement that things are not as they should be, and things are not as they will be. Through the eyes of faith—which are red and wet tired with grief—we look forward to a reality that our eyes of flesh insist is a wish dream: “We will feast in the house of Zion! We will sing with our hearts restored. ‘He has done great things,’ we will say together! We will feast, and weep no more,” “when these trials give way to glory, as we draw our final breath, we will cross that great horizon, clouds behind and life secure. And the calm will be the better for the storms that we endure.” It was with all of this in mind that I wrote O Lord, How Long?

 

O Lord, How Long? (Lyrics)

O Lord, how long will the wicked exult?
O Lord, how long will they prosper and boast?
When the pain of the innocent
Serves the lusts of evil men,
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we live in agony?
Our bodies ache, do you see our suffering?
Do you hear us when we cry,
When our day has turned to night?
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we go on childless?
O Lord, how long must we drown in grief for death?
If you give and take away,
Can’t our sons and daughters stay?
How long, how long?

O Lord, how long must we wrestle with our sin?
Disordered loves that we don’t want and we resent
When temptation wins again
And our spirits grieve within
How long, how long?

Oh Lord, how long till our faith is turned to sight,
Til you kneel down to wipe the tears off from our eyes?
When our loving Father says,
“Well done. Now, enter rest,”
How long?
When the sun is God the Son
And his blood-bought Bride will come,
How long?
When the Spirit brings us up
And we’re swallowed by Triune love
How long, how long?

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 1st

Looking to Sunday – Oct. 1st

Set List

Praise to the Lord!

We Will Feast In the House of Zion

There Is a Fountain

Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor

I Hear the Words of Love

Liturgy

Call to Worship

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers… Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the king of glory! – Psalm 24:1-2, 7-10

Corporate Confession

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Oh guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. – Psalm 25:16-20

Assurance of Pardon

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:11-14

Benediction

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

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