Showing posts from 2013

Don't Ask Me to Rejoice

" Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Rom. 12:15 As you read this verse, which command do you find more difficult? At first glance, you may say the latter (that's the second one if you have trouble with the whole former/latter thing like me). Weeping isn't easy. It's difficult to bring ourselves to the place of weeping, especially when the source of sorrow doesn't directly affect us. When we're with a weeper for whatever the reason we may find ourselves at a loss for words or reverting back to trite comforting phrases our culture has given us for those awkward times. I often find myself in this situation. I'll hear of the death of a loved one, a tough financial burden, a particularly stressful season at work, or a handful of other difficult situations and just nod my head. I'll offer the traditional, "That's tough, I'll be praying for you, hang in there, things will turn around, God is in control, I hope yo

Musical Encouragement #24- "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." ~ Psalm 103:1-5 ~ This Psalm reminds us to never forget what the Lord has done for our souls. I love that we live in a culture where every year, no matter how commercialized or secular it gets, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Though this song is fairly new and not usually associated with Christmas, I find it very appropriate to sing. Soon gifts will be opened and traditions will commence. We will get wrapped up (pun intended) in all the craziness that comes with kids playing with presents and grown-ups eating yummy food and seeing old friends. But, in the midst of all that, don't forget the reason behin

Musical Encouragement #23- "I Have A Shelter"

With only 2 days left of our musical encouragement I'm scrambling to narrow down all the options. There are just so many songs that have meant so much over the years. One such song that needs to be heard more is the one for today, I Have A Shelter.  This song accurately tells us that our shelter is found in the cross and has been a great encouragement to me through many trials. I hope it encourages you as well. I Have a Shelter by Steve & Vikki Cook and Bob Kauflin I have a shelter in the storm when troubles pour upon me Though fears are rising like a flood, my soul can rest securely O Jesus, I will hide in You, my place of peace and solace No trial is deeper than Your love that comforts all my sorrows I have a shelter in the storm when all my sins accuse me Though justice charges me with guilt, Your grace will not refuse me O Jesus, I will hide in You, who bore my condemnation I find my refuge in Your wounds, for there I find salvation I have

Musical Encouragement #22- "It's Your Grace"

The grace of God is a majestic mystery. Grace is receiving what we don't deserve. The very concept of grace is taken for granted in a culture where so many feel entitled to what they didn't earn. And yet, grace is the foundation for everything a Christian has. We cannot comprehend when, where, and why God chooses to give this grace. There is no reason why we, His enemies, should have received it, but we have. We have God's grace if we are His own, and this truth should overshadow every discouragement, especially the kind that accompanies our sin. Sin can be the most discouraging thing a Christian faces. The guilt that washes over us, the depression that follows failure, casts a shadow over a heart that has been freed from a past of wrong-doing. The truths in this song, coming right from Romans 9-11, remind is that there is nothing we did to earn our salvation and nothing we can do to lose it. It is truly God's grace, from beginning to the end. Because of that truth I

Musical Encouragement #21- "It Is Well"

As we get closer to Christmas the word "content" seems to used more often. Am I content? Will what I receive make me more content? I'm not content, so buy me ____. Today's song reminds us that, no matter what comes our way in this life, we can be content because of what Christ has done through His death. Presents won't satisfy, job-security doesn't last, and even the most stable members of our family can be taken from us in a moment (as happened to the author of this song). And yet, even in the midst of things that should rock our world, we can still say "It is well." I hope this message is an encouraging one for you today. "It Is Well" by Horatio Spafford (1873) When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul." Refrain: It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul. *Though Sat

Musical Encouragement #20- "On Jordan's Stormy Banks"

It seems there are an unusual amount of people around me staring heaven full in the face. A couple from my old church that were my youth leaders and close mentors growing up have less than a year left in their battle with cancer. You would never know it to look at them, but they will probably be with the Lord before my next birthday. I have friends who've called in hospice for their parents and a sweet man in our choir who regularly reviews his funeral service with me and the other members of our staff at church. All of these individuals are facing heaven with different perspectives. For the couple mentioned above, they are eagerly anticipating being with their Savior. Of course they will miss their three sons, three daughters-in-law and grandchildren, but their eyes are fixed on their Prize and they are finishing well. I hope I face my end with the same grace and excitement to see my Lord. As Christians, we may be considered strange to have this view of death and the next

Musical Encouragement #19- "Blessed Be Your Name"

One of the greatest sufferers in scripture is Job. In a matter of hours he went from being one of the most prosperous men in the world to one of the poorest. He lost his possessions, livelihood, and children and was left with a contentious wife and judgmental friends. Yet, in the midst of this, Job did not curse God. He understood that everything he was a steward of belonged to God, even his family. In the midst of discouragement he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." ( Job 1:21 ) I pray that we can all have that same faith in the sovereign hand of the Lord. In light of this, our song for the day is a very familiar one, but one that continues to encourage: "Blessed Be Your Name"   Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman Blessed be Your name in the land that is plentiful, Where Your streams of abundance flow, Blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your n

Musical Encouragement #18- "It Is Not Death to Die"

Death can be one of the most discouraging, if not downright frightening, things we face in this world... but it doesn't have to be. For the Christian death isn't really Death. As this song reminds us, it is not death to die. Death for the Christian means to be present with Christ. As Paul writes, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." For those of us who have faced death, either personally or through the eyes of a loved one, let us take encouragement from these words. It Is Not Death To Die Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864) Music, Chorus, & Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin It is not death to die, to leave this weary road And join the saints who dwell on high Who've found their home with God. It is not death to close the eyes long dimmed by tears And wake in joy before Your throne Delivered from our fears Chorus: O Jesus, conquering the grave, Your precious blood has power to save Those who trust in You will in Your mercy find

Musical Encouragement #17- "Nothing In All The Earth"

One of the most encouraging passages in Romans is  the end of chapter 8 , which this song is based on. It expresses that great truth of our unbreakable bond to Christ through his death and resurrection. This is the kind of truth our hurting hearts need to hear and sing and shout out in worship. It also flows from the admonishment from  Colossians 3:16  to teach one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. What better way to do this than to sing actual scripture to each other? I've  posted  about this song before, but it is worth hearing again. Be encouraged as you listen, and remember that nothing can tear us from the everlasting arms of our gracious and saving God! Nothing In All The Earth by Joel Sczebel What shall separate us from Your love? Can years of sorrow break eternal bonds? Can condemnation ever raise its voice against the pardon of the blood of Christ? Though our journey here is long, this will be our triumph song: Chorus: Nothing in all

Musical Encouragement #16- "Be Still and Know"

The final verses of Psalm 46 tell us to "Be still and know that I am God..." Be still. Two very simple words that are so difficult to obey. In our culture we are bombarded with non-stop calls for our attention. Children cry for our help, cell-phones beep with "important" messages, ads on TV tell us to buy this and invest in that, and of course we have to know the latest on every bit of world wide news from the status of our sports team to the health of our favorite celebrity. It's hard to be still. We have a million excuses to stay busy, but that doesn't change the command of this Psalm. We are to "Be still and know that [He] is God." I have found great encouragement from the times I've obeyed this command, especially when it was difficult. The busy seasons, the trying times, are the moments we need to remember who really is in charge of everything. As the final verse of this Psalm says, "The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob i

Musical Encouragement #15- "Awakening"

I first heard this in college many years ago. My then wife-to-be lent me a mix CD with this as one of the tracks. I was struck by its simplicity and how it transported be back to so many moments when the gospel was crystal clear in my mind. Have you experience that before? Perhaps your life is crazy busy. Perhaps you are surrounded with difficulty and trial. Perhaps things are going well, but your spiritual life is a bit lethargic. Whatever the situation, do you know the cure? It is The Gospel. Being confronted with our sin, our need for a Savior, and God's amazing grace refocus our minds on what really matters. Yes, we need to be responsible for what God has given us stewardship over. However, we need to remember that at our core is a sinner who needs Christ. Too often we try to give out five easy steps to manage your life or something similar. What we need is to be confronted with the Gospel on a daily basis and reorient our world to that unshakable truth. As we preach the Gosp

Musical Encouragement #14- "Rock of Ages"

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee..." Whether it's Chris Rice or Fernando Ortega singing the traditional tune or one of the many new melodies from the likes of Indelible Grace, David Harris, James Ward, or Sovereign Grace, this song gets to people. The lyrics are ones we can all relate to. The frailty of our humanity shakes our faith in our ability to save ourselves from anything. This song reminds us that salvation rests in God alone; that nothing we could do can change the status God has placed on us, and that apart from the Savior we are truly lost. This truth gets us through the most difficult times of this life and leads us faithfully onto the next. I have heard many versions of this hymn, but for some reason the one below is my favorite. Maybe it's the meditative tone or the sweet harmonies. I can hear Martin Luther singing this way as He wrestled with the idea of working for his salvation. I can also hear myself, crying to God for His

Musical Encouragement #13- "Come All Ye Pining"

Sometimes it seems we never have enough... enough money, enough health, enough peace, enough time. When we lose our contentment we begin to yearn for satisfaction of that empty feeling. Some of those cravings can be satisfied, at least temporarily. But, the sad thing about this life is that we will never truly have enough of anything. That is where the joy of the next life must take hold. Today's song tells us that through Christ we have boundless grace, a never-failing store of bounty, and unmeasured bliss. Pining for things will never happen in heaven, because we will be fully satisfied. Come, All Ye Pining  is a hymn I was recently introduced to. It's one of many from Red Mountain Music that is beautifully and meditatively done. It is written by Anne Steele, whom you may recognize as the author of Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul.  These brief phrases, which have a depth of meaning, have been an encouragement to my heart. All Things New by Red Mountain Music Come, All Ye

Musical Encouragement #12- "God Moves"

The mysteries of God's will are hard to understand. Why does He do what He does when He chooses to do it? This week I was hoping to start a new schedule of morning devos. The day that was supposed to start I got sick, so the early schedule wass postponed until I was back to normal. Our family purposed to get out of debt, and then the same day a ginormous car bill gets dropped on us, setting us back a bit. I'm sure your life is filled with these "coincidental" moments which we know aren't really coincidental at all. Each moment is planned from the Lord. "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" ( Lam 3:38 ) After all, "the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" ( Prov 16:33 ) and "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord as commanded it?" ( Lam. 3:37 ). There are dozens of other passages that speak of this great mystery of God's sovereign hand. In the end, we must a

Musical Encouragement #11- "Oh the Deep, Deep Love"

" There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear ." ~ 1 John 4:18 Why are trials so difficult to weather? What is it about hard times that causes us to worry and lose faith? I believe much of the difficulty comes with a fear of the unknown. We don't know when a trial will end. We don't know what the results of the test will be or how we'll come up with the money. We don't know how someone will respond or if we'll be able to handle something. Fear is a powerful emotion that can cripple those who don't know how to handle it. So, how do we as Christians handle it? We rest on the love of God. The verse quoted above speaks an important truth. Perfect love casts out fear. That perfect love cannot be achieved by us alone, but it flows from God our Father. It enables us to trust Him because we know nothing we do and nothing outside of us can separate us from the love we have in Christ Jesus ( Romans 8:38-39 ). When I've been surroun

Musical Encouragement #10- "Taste and See"

Psalm 34 continues to be one of the most encouraging passages I've come across. So many of the verses carry this message of grace...      " I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears ." (verse 4)      " This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles ." (verse 6) During difficult times in my life this Psalm has brought peace. God's promised provision, healing, and rescue have helped me through unemployment, temptation, unexpected death, and even simple trials like an inconvenient head cold. No matter the trial, no matter the reasons for being "this poor man", the promises of this Psalm stand firm because they rest on our unshakable God. This particular song is the fruit of my love for Psalm 34 and I've posted about it before . Many of the words originate with Isaac Watts. I hope it is an encouragement to you this December. Taste and See verses by Isaac Watts ~ chor

Musical Encouragement #9- "I Heard the Bells"

As we look around the world, 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, it might be hard to think about peace on earth. All many of us have to do is look at our own lives, our own trials, to long for a sense of peace. It's easy to become discouraged and bogged down with the weight of everyday life. Even joyful things can bring an underlying stress with them, like expecting the birth of a child or starting a new job. Yesterday I had the joy of leading my first Christmas concert at my new church. While the concert turned out to be a wonderful thing, there was a lot of stress and worry leading up to it. One of my favorite choral songs I like to sing at Christmas is this new arrangement of I Heard the Bells . It takes the familiar words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and matches them to a powerful tune. The words of the second verse seem to echo the sentiment I mentioned above, how it's hard to see peace on earth amid the evil of this world. But, peace isn't based on our perce

Musical Encouragement #8- "Be Thou My Vision"

It finally happened. It wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it's happened to you. You take your car in for a routine fix, like an oil change, and the mechanic tells you your car has the equivalent of a failing liver and needs an immediate transplant that costs about half of what the car is worth. Something about a catalytic converter and rust and other expensive words. That's what everyone loves at Christmas time right? A large bill. But wait a minute. In the grand scheme of things, what is the big deal? Our pastor this morning reminded us of the truth that all we have is the Lord's and we are simply stewards. So, the reality is that our loaner needs to be repaired, and we will just use some of the money God has lent us to deal with it. In the end we still really have nothing of our own, and all that we enjoy is from God and still belongs to him. This truth reminded me of the encouraging song for today, Be Thou My Vision . One line in particular really struc

Musical Encouragement #7- "Valleys Fill First"

The idea of trials being a valley comes to us from the very familiar Psalm 23 - "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me..."  I love how this imagery is captured in many different songs. Valleys Fill First  uses that simple title phrase to paint a picture of how God brings blessing to those "in the valley". Those in the valley will be the first to truly feel God's blessing in the end. Whether you interpret the end to be The End of all things or just the end of a season of trial, the truth remains that those in the midst of suffering feel the relief in a greater way. This is similar to the truth expressed in the parable of the two debtors in Luke 7 . The one who was forgiven much, who was relieved of the greater burden, loved God more. I believe the same is true for trials. The ones who go through the greater period of suffering will be all the more grateful for the relief that comes later. Whatever your level of trial, pain,

Musical Encouragement #6- "Yet I Will Praise"

At the end of 2009 our family was going through a particularly dark time. I was wrestling with sin, and we were struggling at our church as it split in two. Little did we know that we were about to enter one of the hardest years of our life together. The highlight of the year came in February when our daughter was born. Sadly, the year ended with the death of my wife's father. Today actually marks the 3 year anniversary of that dark day. I worked several different jobs that year to make ends meet. We tried to make sense of what God wanted for our future, all the while knowing that the bank account was running thin. Even in the midst of this, God was working out His plans. He was getting things ready for us to move to southern IL for a new ministry. He was healing our church by merging it with another in the area. I was reminded that sometimes God does His greatest work in the midst of our greatest trials. During that year I consistently went back to this song. So many of the

Musical Encouragement #5- "Joy In My Morning"

In many ways, Psalm 30 has inspired this month of music. Verses 4-5 tell us that we are to sing praises to the Lord and give thanks to his holy name. Weeping may last the night, but joy comes with the morning. I think we can all resonate with seasons of weeping in the night. Perhaps it was many nights. But the promise of this passage gives us hope that joy is on its way. This joy isn't simply based on a lack of pain or relief from anxiety. It is based on the indisputable fact that God showers grace upon His children, even in the midst of the storm. This song takes us through the truths of Psalm 30 and urges us to preach these grace promises to our souls. Joy in My Morning by Peter Gagnon When darkness falls, temptations call, and all around me seems undone You hear my pleas, supply my needs, and tell me of Your wondrous love Chorus: You are the joy in my morning, You're my song of praise Just like the new day dawning, flooding my world with grace Th

Musical Encouragement #4 - "Dear Refuge..."

"Dear refuge of my weary soul..." That's how this, one of my favorite hymns, begins. I was first introduced to this song in college by the man who sings on this recording. He was of the mindset that college students, much like everyone else, need to be reminded that God is our refuge in the midst of difficult seasons of life. As my life has gone through ups and downs, this song has been an incredible encouragement. I've had the privilege to teach this song to several different congregations over the years. Dozens have come to me during that time saying how this song has ministered to them in dark seasons, and I have to agree that these simple words from Anne Steele speak volumes. For me, this song will always remind me of my introduction to the world of deep, rich, uplifting hymns while I was in college. So, in honor of that I've put together this recording from that time along with the original slides we used in chapel. I hope it ministers to you as it has to

Musical Encouragement #3 - "In the Valley"

The Puritans were no strangers to difficult times. As they forged a new way of life in America they faced disease, starvation, attacks, and persecution. One of their great fruits is a collection of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision . Many great songs have been based on these prayers, and one in particular is based on the introductory prayer of that book. This prayer speaks of the paradox of being a follower of Christ and how it's often through the valley of trial that we are led to the heights of blessing. In the Valley by Bob Kauflin, based on the Valley of Vision  prayer "The Valley of Vision" When you lead me to the valley of vision, I can see you in the heights. And though my humbling wouldn't be my decision, It's here Your glory shines so bright. So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown, to be low is to be high, That the valley's where You make me more like Christ. Chorus: Let me find Your grace in the valley.

Musical Encouragement #2 - "My Soul Finds Rest"

Day 2 of our encouraging songs brings us to Psalm 62 - "My Soul Finds Rest". Rest is a key idea throughout scripture. Rest speaks of our dependence on something outside ourselves for strength and refreshment. Our physical existence depends on regular rest (as in we simply cannot function without being unconscious for several hours a day). Psalm 62 is wonderful reminder of how our true rest is found in God. Whether we encounter temptation, trials, the frailty of life, or the certainty of death, we know that our Creator holds us in His sovereign hands. Because of this we can sing " O praise Him, hallelujah, my delight and my reward; everlasting, never failing, my Redeemer, my God ." My Soul Finds Rest (Psalm 62) by Aaron Keyes My soul finds rest in God alone, my Rock and my Salvation A fortress strong against my foes, and I will not be shaken Though lips may bless and hearts may curse, and lies like arrows pierce me I'll fix my heart on righteo

Musical Encouragement #1 - "How Firm A Foundation"

"When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply..." These are just some of the words of How Firm A Foundation that have brought me comfort and peace over the many years of singing this song. A foundation is where everything begins, and the foundation of the Christian must be rooted in the Word and Work of Jesus Christ. When our footing is sure on the foundation of Christ nothing can move us or shake our faith. This hymn is where we begin our 31 day journey through many songs of encouragement throughout the month. How Firm A Foundation How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled? Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

My Favorite Gift

I often get after my wife for having multiple favorites or "bests" of things. I tell her that having a "best _____" means that one thing is the greatest and all others are lesser. How can she have multiple best friends or favorite foods? It is frustrating as a guy that needs everything to line up and logically make sense. Can't she say I have ultimate and penultimate friends like the rest of us? However, around Thanksgiving I have to take exception to my normal "best" rule and say that I have lots of things that I'm the most thankful for. What are you thankful for? My list is very long this year. There are of course the traditional things - friends, family, a home, a great church, my salvation. All of these are incredible blessings in my life and I am grateful to God for each of them. Yesterday, as our family was talking about a few of the things that have happened in the past few weeks and months, I couldn't help but hear some music play

Buffering and Baby Talk

Buffering... 30%... 40%... Buffering... "Daddy, why's it keep doing that?" asks my cute little 3-year-old for the seventh time. Here we are, trying to enjoy a quiet evening with some ice cream and 101 Dalmatians. My three daughters are patiently waiting for the scene to unfold on the screen, yet we are stuck watching "Buffering" instead of seeing if Roger and Anita will fall in love after they fall into the lake. Why does this keep happening? Well, the long answer is complicated. Maybe the bandwidth is overloaded on our particular router. Perhaps too many users are accessing the same file. Maybe our BluRay player is updating itself while we are watching the movie. Maybe the signal sent to the house is being split around the neighborhood and we got the short end of the Mbps. All of these reasons swirled through my head as I prepared to answer her question. And then I realized that my daughter is three and still doesn't grasp the concept of snapping