Christ the King Sunday, Thanksgiving, and a Service of Music

This Sunday, November 24, is Christ the King Sunday in the church calendar. Churches all over the world observe the church year to one extent or another (Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost Sunday, etc.). Next Sunday, December 1st, the church year begins anew with Advent as we anticipate the coming of Christ in His incarnation.

But before we get to Advent, we will celebrate the reign of Christ as King, anticipating His return to earth to judge the living and the dead when He will set all things right, bring justice and righteousness to the earth – an end of sin, war, death, suffering, injustice – to eventually wipe away every tear so that there will be no more crying and no more night.

More than anything, the reign and return of Christ means that we will know the presence of the Lord – no longer by faith, but by sight. He will reign on the earth, and we will reign with Him.

Sunday begins a week of thanks for our nation as well. As Americans, we have much for which to be thankful. As the Church, we are most grateful because we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We are recipients of Christ’s inexhaustible riches that are ours by right of adoption.

As a grateful people, then, we will gather to exalt Christ as King in the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father. Here are four reasons why:

1)      He created us – John 1:1-4 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.”
2)      He saved us – John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:14-16 – “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
3)      He keeps us – John 10:27-30 “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
4)      He is Lord – John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”

The Father has exalted Christ as Lord and placed all things in subjection to Him. Jesus reigns, and He is coming again.

Christ shed His own blood, bore God’s judgment, and set us free. This is why we worship. Thanks be to our God.


New Resource for Hymns: Systematic Hymnology

Do you love hymns as much as we do? Be sure to check out John Gardner’s new blog, Systematic Hymnology! This will be the new home for some of the content that has previously been posted on this blog, with new stories and studies based on the music of the Church added several times a week. Be sure to check back often to see how much we have to learn from our great heritage of hymns! You’ll also find lots of good resources for discovering new artists and songwriters, as well as arrangements that will serve local churches, particularly our own.

Reflections from Sunday

Sunday night’s “High Praises” service was a beautiful worship experience. It was joyful, thoughtful, authentic, musical, inspirational, spiritual, truthful, and more. I loved it, and I hope you did, too. Many thanks to John and the orchestra/School of Performing Arts, the choir, tech team, and Pastor Sam. We led worship in and from our respective roles, each of us contributing our part to this ministry and the body. Without you, it wouldn’t have been as meaningful or impactful, so thank you for your faithfulness and dedication.
In choir rehearsals beginning in January, we have been reading and discussing Bob Kauflin’s book, “Worship Matters.” When you think about it, Sunday night was a picture of what we discussed from that study. With right mind and heart and modeling an example of godly worship-leading, we magnified the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit, skillfully combining God’s word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, cherish God’s presence, and live for God’s glory.
Quite simply, that’s awesome.
Let’s build on this as we look forward to many more such worship times; not only for special events like this but each week as the church meets. Let’s be worshipers, renewed daily in the word and prayer and faithful in worship with our church family, all the while remembering our calling as worship leaders. There is no higher calling than that which the Lord places on our lives. Let’s keep walking in that calling together. 

Gethsemane Thursday, Easter Sunday Worship

I’ve slacked in my posting of service plans in the last few weeks but want to let you know what is happening tonight and Sunday in worship at Stevens Street. The somber quiet of the upper room gave way to jubilant celebration as Jesus emerged from the tomb “on the first day of the week.” (John 20:1) We need to embrace both, and we will beginning tonight at 6p. Come ready to worship.

Gethsemane Thursday
Song – “Beautiful Savior”
Scripture – Luke 22:14-38
Song – “At the Cross”
Scripture – Luke 22:39-23:1
Songs – “Jesus Paid It All” & “The Power of the Cross”
Scripture – Luke 23:13-25, 32-49
Song – “Hallelujah, What a Savior” (sung by Worship Choir ensemble)
Message – Pastor Sam Rainer
Lord’s Supper
Songs – “By His Wounds” “This Is Our Freedom” “There Is a Redeemer”
Closing song – “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Easter Sunday
“Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed” (Worship Choir & Orchestra)
“Christ Arose”
“Jesus Saves”
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Song – “You Are Worthy” (Worship Choir & Orchestra)”
Message – Pastor Sam Rainer “Alive: With Christ”
Ministry reports
Closing song – “Because He Lives”

Keeping the Word the Main Thing; February 24 Worship Order

A faithful worship leader – and a faithful church – “magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.” (Bob Kauflin, “Worship Matters”)

It is important to realize that music is not worship; it is only a mechanism to express it, albeit a wonderful gift from God for the purpose of glorying in Him. Worship is not emotionalism or a well-timed key change. It is not a particular style. Worship is simply our response to God’s Self-revelation in His Word. Authentic, spirit and truth worship is Word-centered and Word-rooted. If we, as faithful worship leaders, want to lead through the power of the Holy Spirit, then our worship must be informed by and filled with the Word He inspired.

Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 are parallel. To “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5 is the same as letting “the word about Christ dwell in you richly” in Colossians. They are interchangeable phrases that result in the same thing – that we “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:17)

In other words, being Spirit-filled means being Word-filled. A worshiper doesn’t need music to worship, though a song in our heart is the natural outflow of the Spirit-filled life. As we are immersed in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit renews our mind by the Word, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And we worship.  We are “transformed into the same image (of Christ) from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

The more you know Christ, the more you love Christ. The more you love Christ, the more you love the things that honor Christ. The more you love the things that honor Christ, the more you become like Christ.

So, how do we make worship Word-centered both personally and as a church? We treasure, sing, read, and pray it.

(individually) My goal is to value God’s Word more than anything else that occupies my time or thoughts.
(corporately) Everything we do as a church is to be guided by and saturated with Scripture – services, LifeGroups, committee meetings. Everything. I am thankful to be a member of a church where that is true.

(individually) Fill your life with songs that are Scripture-rich. And sing those songs to yourself throughout the day. An indication of a Spirit-filled life is that we have a song in our heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
(corporately) We will continue to fill our services with hymns and songs that are rich in Scriptural foundation. Not only does it honor the Lord, but it edifies the church to sing God’s Word.

(individually) Read the bible daily. And read the entire bible continually. Note it, memorize it. Furthermore, come to worship as a regular practice. The Scriptures will be opened and explained, and the Spirit will apply them to your life.
(corporately) 1 Tim. 4:13 commands “the public reading of Scripture.” We will make it part of our weekly worship to read the Scriptures aloud and together. The Holy Spirit supernaturally blesses the reading, exhortation, and teaching of Scripture, and that is what we will do.

(individually) Pray Scripture back to God. Fill your prayers with promises and truths found there. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) The expressions of our thoughts and desires should be guided by God’s Word so that His desires become ours; that our minds are renewed to the point that our hearts are attune to the Lord’s will.
(corporately) The same is true as individually. We are what we sing and what we pray. Worshiping in truth means praying the truth. God is honored and the church is strengthened when we pray according to God’s Word because God’s Word is powerful. That is why, for example, we dismiss our services with a Scriptural benediction or prayer of blessing. We believe the grace that has come to us in God’s Word will go with us as we depart.

We will be a people in whom the Word dwells richly. This Sunday will be no exception. Here is the service line-up:

Scripture reading – Psalm 27:1-6

“Thou, Oh Lord”
“A Mighty Fortress”
“I Will Not Be Shaken”

Ministry report from Jesus Is Hope Ministries (Jimmy & Diane Arms)

Song – “O Church, Arise”

Message – John 2:12-25

Response – Invitation & Offering

Sunday, February 17 Worship; Leading Through the Power of the Spirit

We will observe the Lord’s Supper this Sunday morning. Communion services are always the richest worship times because  the Lord’s Supper is the most magnificent proclamation of the gospel, and Jesus left it for us to observe until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26),

Here is the order for Sunday:

Baptisms of Davin & Drew Dyal (9a)
Baby Dedication of Aria Elise Herman (10:30a)
Scripture responsive reading – Psalm 103:1-5, 8-12
Songs – “To God Be the Glory” & “Before the Throne of God Above”
Scripture reading & prayer – Romans 10:8-13
Song – “Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)”
Message – “Sinners with the Sinless” (1 Corinthians 11:17-26)
Lord’s Supper

As we lead the church in worship, the Holy Spirit leads us. That is what a faithful worship leader does – we magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. “Through Him (Christ) we…have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:18) “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God…” (Phil. 3:3)

To know the Spirit’s leading in worship, we could say there are three attitudes we need:

1. Eager expectation – Not a theoretical belief, but a belief in reality that the Spirit leads and works in worship. We should be seeking to know what the Spirit wants to accomplish in worship. How much do you really expect to encounter Him in worship each week?

2. Humble responsiveness – If we expect God to reveal Himself in worship, then we should be ready and eager to respond to His revelation. We do that by faithfully fullfilling our responsibilties, showing up every week prepared to lead. We should never consider any worship service routine or ordinary. God is near, and we should be ready to respond.

3. Desperate dependence – The Spirit’s leading and anointing is directly related to two things in the worshiper’s life – obedience and prayer.
obedience – the Spirit works powerfully through the person whose heart is fully devoted to the Lord, whose hands and heart are clean, and who lives obediently to the commands of Scripture (2 Chronicles 16:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8). The extent of Spirit power in our lives is relative to our obedience. If we truly want to walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
prayer – Spirit-filled, Spirit-led worshipers are deep, sustained pray-ers. It is what we are commanded to do (Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20; Romans 8:26).
How desperate are we for the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives?

We will come to worship this Sunday expecting, responsive, and dependent. The elements for worship are planned – rich songs, a wonderful worship team, great teaching, Scripture reading.  The Spirit’s power at work in us is what will make it authentic and honoring to God, so let’s pray to that end.

“…In Jesus Christ”

“…In Jesus Christ…”

 “A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ…”
(notes from choir rehearsal, 2.6.13)

We worship “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24)
Jesus is Truth, the “Amen,” The “Verily, verily” – the truth of Scripture is rooted in Christ
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” (2 Cor. 1:20)
“The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.” (Rev. 3:14)
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) Literally, “tabernacled”
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5)

What is the point? The location of our meeting place to worship God has moved from a building to a Person, Christ Himself.
He not only is the focus of worship but the means of worshiping God.
New Testament worship is Christ- and cross-centered.

What does it mean to magnify the greatness of God in Christ? It means that we make Christ and His cross the spectacle of worship; that the flow and content of our services have that as the focal point; that worshipers are encouraged to respond in faith to Christ

Why is Christ the focus of worship? Because He died to bring us to God.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God…” (1 Peter 3:18
Through one solitary sacrifice, Jesus brings us into God’s presence.
That is our glory now and will be eternally (Rev. 5)

Jesus’ provides two things for us:

  • Access to God
  • Acceptable worship

The gospel is who God is and what He has done in the cross. It is everything about Christ – His eternality, incarnation, sinless life, obedience, atonement, resurrection, ascension, present ministry, and future return.
Not all of these elements are specifically mentioned in every worship service, but allusions to them are there. And if we continue in weekly worship, we will eventually hear them in the teaching, songs, prayers, and Scripture readings.

To magnify God in His greatness, we do so “in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)
“No one has seen God at any time…Jesus has made Him known.” (John 1:18)
It’s not our acceptability or excellence. It is Christ’s.

Believers obey Christ as the one by whom our obedience is accepted by God. Believers know all their duties are weak, imperfect, and unable to abide in God’s presence. Therefore, they look to Christ as the one who bears the iniquity of their holy things, who adds incense to their prayers, gathers out all the weeds from their duties, and makes them acceptable to God. (John Owen)