It Matters.jpg
Worship pastors, leaders, and team members.  If you play even the slightest part in selecting songs, praying prayers, or leading the people of God in worship, please understand the weightiness of your role.  You are not there to entertain.  You are not there to put on a show.  You are not there to look and sound good.

You are there to lead the people of God to sing the praises of God (Psalm 145:21).
You are there to remind the saints of the gospel through song (Col. 3:16).

Believe it or not, you are giving people a vocabulary to praise God with.  You are giving struggling saints weapons in their battle with sin.  You are giving those grieving and mourning words that will act as a healing balm on their soul.  You are teaching new believers how to relate to God in prayer.  You are shaping the way people view God.

So don’t take what you do lightly.  Your work matters.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)

“So also you have sorrow now…”  Our sorrows in this world build up because the things that we see all around us are ultimately stealers of joy.  Think about it, we see murder, adultery, theft, and all sorts of sin that flow from the well of pride and selfishness.  In an attempt to shade our eyes from the glaring evil, we turn to that which is good in creation -trees, sunsets, moon, and stars, people, sex, food, money, and all other things that possess some degree of beauty.  But even as we turn to these beautiful things, we know deep down that they cannot hold the weight of the joy-gap that is in our hearts.  Indeed they were not designed to.  We were made for eternal joy and anything that will eventually be taken from us cannot eternally satisfy.  No spouse or child, no job or career, no wealth or possession can or ever will satisfy us forever.

“But I will see you again…”

But.  What a glorious word!  “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.”  Theology propels doxology.  That is, the revealed glory (value, worth, beauty) of God yields the worship (adoration, rejoicing, thanksgiving) of God.  When we see all that God is for us in Christ, our hearts will eternally rejoice.  God is the inexhaustible fountain of joy that our eternally thirsty hearts will drink from forever.  In Christ our temporal sorrows cannot last because they will be pushed out by eternal joy. 

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

Drink from Jesus today.  He alone will satisfy.

Tell a better story

We all love a good story.  Good story-tellers captivate their audience and keep them on the edge of their seats.  Why?  Because we all want redemption.  We long for authenticity and beauty.  A story is good because it is believable.  A story is good because it’s honest.  We get sucked in by the suspense, tension, and friction, which makes us ache for a beautiful resolution.  These are all elements of a good story.

As believers in the Lord Jesus, we must testify to how the gospel has worked and is still working in our lives.  This is not only in our salvation, but how the gospel meets us in our depression, miscarriages and loss of life, financial ruin and job loss, adultery and marital strife, adoption and fostering of orphans, selling all possessions and entering the mission field, engaging the lost in our neighborhoods, etc.  The gospel literally impacts every facet of our lives, and these stories need to be told in order to build up of the church, engage the lost, and above all to glorify our God and Savior Jesus Christ. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

This is why I think it is so important for the redeemed, covenant members of our churches to tell their stories.  We want to show the world that the all surpassing power at work in us is from God.  At the Mount Church we have recently begun a story-telling ministry that aims to do just this through the medium of video.  Here are a few guidelines to help you tell a better story using video at your church:

1. Look for nutshell statements that encapsulate what needs to be communicated. We aren’t looking for every nitty gritty detail, but rather specific details that assist to tell the greater narrative -what are the darkest moments, the brightest moments, etc.  Look for the truth that needs to be communicated and what stories and examples are given to illustrate that truth well.  Usually the pieces and parts of our stories that we are tempted to hold back are the very bits of truth that need to be brought to light.

2. Excellence is our servant, Jesus is our King. While we want to harness the excellence and creativity the Lord has given us to seamlessly point people to the excellencies of our Savior, don’t “sacrifice Jesus at the altar of excellence.”  If the audio isn’t perfect or the shot isn’t the most appealing, keep it if it shows Jesus as beautiful.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).  It isn’t our pretty, polished production that is going to lead people to Jesus but the TREASURE inside the content of our production that will show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us.

Jesus needs to be the hero of the story.  We are not trying to offer a hallmark story.  In the deepest of valleys and the highest of mountains, in the darkest of nights, and the brightest of lights, the glory of God should be at the forefront and the viewer should leave thinking, “Jesus is good.  Jesus is sweet.  Jesus is greater than our mess.  Jesus is worth the loss.  Jesus is better.”

It’s all about Jesus.  He has chosen to work in and through his people to show case his story and glory to the world around us.  So tell a better story by telling the best story.

wiat what?
At our church’s gathering this past Sunday, we sang a famous hymn from the 1700’s, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  The melody and tune of this song are incredibly beautiful, memorable, and singable (just as the best corporate worship songs should be).  On the other hand, the words are, how do I say it, a little outdated.  I mean seriously, who today actually prays the words, “Father, here I raise my ebenezer, here by Thy great help I come.”  What in the world does that even mean?  I asked some students at church camp what an “ebenezer” is, and the most common answer I got was, “a grumpy old man”. 

This begs the question, why in the world would we sing that, and if we don’t understand something, should we just not sing it altogether? 

Surely God is no fool.  He hears words attached to our hearts, not empty words that we don’t understand.  Isaiah prophesied about people who don’t understand what they are singing, and ultimately don’t actually mean what they sing, “This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).  Jesus himself tells us in John 4:24 that “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  Not only do the words need to be true, but we need to grasp them in our intellects (truth) and let these glorious truths capture our heart’s affections (spirit).  We must be informed worshippers.  So I want to take a minute to break down two of the key words in the popular hymn.

First off, an ebenezer literally means “stone of remembrance” and it comes from from 1 Samuel when the Lord gave the Israelites an incredible, against all odds, victory over the Philistines.  Israel’s king set up a stone, something common, to represent something incredible, the Lord’s help.  So when we sing, “Here I raise my ebenezer, here by Thy great help I come.  And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”  We are saying, I remember and recall the Lord’s victorious work in my life, chiefly in our salvation, and I am going to let God’s past work fuel my future hope.  When adversity strikes and trials come, we look back and remember him who was faithful to be our help and we speak that truth to our souls.  “The Lord will be our help,”  “The Lord will get us through,” “The Lord has never failed us and he won’t start failing us now.”

A fetter references shackles to be used to restrain and bind a prisoner, typically a fetter would be placed around the ankles.  In other words, that prisoner aint goin’ nowhere.  When we sing, “Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee,” we are making a desperate plea for the Lord to keep us, to bind us, to “chain us” to himself.  By God’s grace, we realize with the prophet Jeremiah that our hearts are desperately wicked.  “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.”  Only the Lord can keep us; we cannot even keep ourselves.  What a beautiful way to declare our dependence on the Lord!

Here’s my my two cents, there is too much depth and beauty in this hymn for us to simply yawn words that we don’t understand.  Let’s not be people who are “satisfied with making mud pies when we are offered a holiday at the sea” as C.S. Lewis said.  And let us not throw out a song altogether because it feels “outdated” to us.  Singing a song from the 1700’s reminds us that we didn’t come up with this whole Christianity thing.  We stand upon the shoulders of giants in the faith who stand on giants, from generation to generation.  May we be a people who allow the word of Christ to drench our hearts by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

New-Fashioned Hymns

My good friend, Shauna Henry, has been gracious to take some of the hymns that I love and write lyrics in contemporary language to help these rich lyrics come to life in our hearts and minds.  Without further ado, Here’s “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.”

rock-of-ages

This hymn, called Rock of Ages, was written by a dude named Augustus Toplady, and rumor has it that he wrote this song on account of being caught in a thunderstorm. Upon finding a rocky limestone glen to take cover under, he hid himself in the rock and wrote the words to this 1776 melody.

I think it’s so cool that, even after nearly three hundred and fifty years, the words to this song are still powerful and relevant. Praise the Lord for that – he is truly the timeless Rock!

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Forever a safe place
Where no one can find me or hurt me.
Your sacrifice on the cross is the two-fold remedy:
First, to save me from hell,
Then, to continually erase my hard-earned sin.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

I simply cannot work hard enough,
Your standard is way too high.
My attempts at being passionate, diligent, or lachrymose
Bring no relief
Until you alone come and save me!

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

The measly offerings I give to you can’t compare
To just having open hands before you.
I truly come to you with a trifle,
Wretched and hopeless without your grace.
If you don’t take my sinful, dirt-wrenched corpse
I will surely perish.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Life, it doesn’t last.
Soon, you’ll take me home.
When I get to heaven
And meet you face to face, I will forever sing,
“My stronghold; split, broken in two to save me,
You have covered me amidst life’s storms.”

Written by Shauna Henry, Shauna’s Window

Surrender Summit Songs

I had several requests about what songs I led with at the Surrender Summit in Grapevine, TX this past weekend. So here ya go!

O Come to the AltarElevation Worship
In Christ Alone Keith and Kristyn Getty
Sing Sing Sing Chris Tomlin
Stronger Hillsong United
Come Thou Fount Jason Waller Arr.
Made AliveCitizens & Saints
Jesus is Better Austin Stone Worship
One Thing Remains Jesus Culture

To God alone be glory!

-Jason

Christmas is Over
Another Christmas has come and gone. The happiness has inevitably ended, as exchanging material gifts were never meant to sustain happiness.

What now? Go to the gym. Get into shape. That will make you feel better, right? You were made for more. You were made for God.

Only in Christ will you be satisfied. Every gift that you got and gave is only an appetizer, a sign, a pointer to stir up a hunger for the real thing -Jesus Christ himself. That healthy, fit, “young” body you long for is the longing God has placed within all of his creation for the final day when God restores all things and makes all things new again.

If you aren’t in Christ, the Bible says you are spiritually dead (See Ephesians 2:1-3). You are separated from God, and will never be good enough to gain his favor or blessing. Only One person has been good enough to earn the favor of the Righteous Judge -the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He joyfully left heaven to come down to us sinners, condemned and unclean. He laid aside his eternal crown and clothed himself in flesh, becoming like us. He lived Perfectly, yes perfectly, in our place. He died a brutal death in our place, for our sin, absorbing the full wrath of God. He rose again in victory, the grave couldn’t hold him. Because of this gospel (good news), “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

So come to Jesus and find life. REAL life. Come to Jesus and find sustaining joy that will endure and sustain you in each high and low that you will inevitably walk through. Come to Jesus and know that “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

Come to Jesus today.