Entry #5 - One Priest, One Sacrifice
Heb 7:27-28 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Man's pursuit of perfection never ends. It continues through all generations. When Old Testament priests made atonement for themselves and for the people, they knew they would need to repeat the process every day, until they died. Then the next generation would repeat the process and so on. Christ lived one perfect life, made one sacrifice on the cross, and continues to intervene as our High Priest today. There is no need for any more sacrifices, and there is no need for any more priests.
How many times have I tried, like the Old Testament priests, to make myself clean? I have made daily sacrifices and thought "this time I'm going to repent for good and never return to this sin. Then surely God will answer my prayers. I've made my sacrifices! After all, the bible says God hears the prayer of a righteous man. " But I am not righteous. And God will never hear my prayer unless I have a high priest to intervene for me. And no matter how hard I fight against lust, no matter how much scripture I memorize or books I read, God is going to answer the prayer of my High Priest, not the prayer of my selfish heart.
Jesus, I praise you for being the one true High Priest who made the one true sacrifice. Help me to see how dependent I am upon your intervention as my high priest. When I struggle with sin, help me surrender that sin before the cross, instead of developing my own plan for deliverance. Help me to both turn from my sin and turn toward you. Then enable me to move towards holiness. I am dependent on you to help me repent. Amen.
Entry #4 - Being Content With Our Place in History
Psalm 44:1&9 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old...
9 ...But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
In the time of David, God's Holy Word was the Torah. David would've grown up reading and memorizing the story of Moses: how God supernaturally intervened to deliver Abraham's people out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. When God does not supernaturally intervene for David's army, David feels rejected. He wonders why God does not intervene the way he did in Moses's time.
In the time of Jesus, God's Holy Word included both the Torah and the Prophets. People read about David and thought so highly of him that they referred to Christ as "the Son of David." They read about how God supernaturally intervened to deliver Israel from the Philistines by empowering young David to slay a giant. They read about how God's presence supernaturally dwelled in the ark, giving victory to Israel in battle and killing those who touched it. They looked at the tyranny of the Roman government in their own time and wondered why God would not give Israel the freedom and prosperity it enjoyed during David's era.
Today, we look back at the time of Jesus and long to see our Messiah face to face. We wonder why God doesn't perform these miracles in the here and now. We say that our faith would be increased if we could have been amongst the 5,000 who were fed by five loaves of bread and two fishes. But is this the case?
Just after Jesus fed the multitude, the people said “what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” John 6:30-31. Jesus had just supernaturally fed 5,000 people and still they longed for God to intervene as he did in the distant past. When Jesus did not provide manna, but insisted that He was the Bread of Life, only the disciples remained. And despite seeing miracle after the miracle, even the disciples abandoned Jesus to die on the cross. Only John and a few women stayed loyal to Jesus at Calvary.
There is coming a time when "there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors…" Luke 21:11. People will question God's goodness and will look back at this point in history and say "If only we lived when there were two billion Christians in the world. If only God would grant us the peace and prosperity that Americans enjoyed, when people could worship freely and never worry about famine. If we could live then, our faith would be increased."
Father, I believe that you are Lord over all of history, and that you are supernaturally intervening at every point in your story. I thank you for the miracles you performed in the time of Moses, David, and Jesus, and I ask that you open my eyes to see your blessings in the here and now. Give me a holy contentment for the things you have provided at this point in history and a holy discontentment to see more of the Great Commission fulfilled during my brief time on Earth. I thank you that the parting of the Red Sea was but a symbol of the deliverance I now enjoy through Christ's work on the cross. Thank you for your Sovereignty. In Jesus's name I pray, Amen.
Entry #3 - The REAP Bible Study Method
Each Wednesday morning, the worship leaders at my home church (The Austin Stone) get together and REAP through the Bible. REAP is an acronym that stands for READ, EXAMINE, APPLY, PRAY. We READ four chapters of the Bible, and when a particular verse strikes our heart, we write it down. We EXAMINE that verse by writing what it means in our own words. Then we consider how we can APPLY this verse to our lives. And we end by writing a PRAYER in light of what we have learned. Here is my REAP journal entry from this morning...
READ: “The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1
EXAMINE: Jesus came as the Lamb, but he is coming back as the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5). And even during his time on Earth, the Lamb was not soft. He overturned tables in the temple, he came not to bring peace but a sword, he boldly approached the unapproachable (women, tax collectors, lepers, etc), and he was not afraid to rebuke those who needed rebuke (Mary Magdalene, Peter, Pharisees, etc). He was righteous. And the righteous are as bold as a lion.
APPLY: Firstly, if all Christians are called to be righteous, and the righteous are as bold as Lions, then all Christians are called to be outspoken (Lions roar). But what does it mean to be outspoken?
1. Going on mission trips
2. Volunteering with the youth group
3. Reading the bible
4. Praying silently
5. Caring for the poor
6. Going to bible study
7. Singing at church
1. Explaining the resurrection to people you meet while on mission trip
2. Boldly preaching the gospel into individual students' lives
3. Articulating what you've read in the Bible to others
4. Being willing to pray for people out loud
5. Telling the poor about the hope of Christ
6. Edifying your bible study by actively listening & contributing to the conversation
7. Being a worship leader out in the congregation by responding to God's presence as we have been taught in scripture to respond: passionately!
Secondly, we are called to “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach AND ADMONISH one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Col 3:16
When I come to church on a Sunday, I am ready to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I am ready to let the word of Christ dwell in me richly. I am ready to teach and be taught. But am I ready to admonish? If it becomes evident that a brother is walking in sin, I must be ready to listen, ask good questions, and if necessary, take the brother aside, point out his sin (Matt 18:15)* and restore him gently (Gal 6:1)**.
PRAYER: Jesus, help me to be righteous as you are righteous and bold as you are bold. Let your Gospel always be on my lips, both in conversations with your followers and those who don’t know you. And give me the boldness and discernment to admonish others in such a way that your love is displayed and your Kingdom is advanced.
*“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matt 18:15
**“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Gal 6:1
Entry #2 - Christmas Story for Omar
This is the Christmas letter I wrote to my 4 year old compassion child, Omar. As I was writing it, I was reminded that the story of our Lord is as simple as it is profound. "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" Mark 10:15
Merry Christmas! Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Just like you, Jesus was once a little boy. His mother's name was Mary. His dad's name was Joseph, but his real Father was God, and that's why we call Jesus the "Son of God". He was born in a stable, where there were many animals, maybe even a donkey like you rode at your grandmother's house! The night Jesus was born, his Father God sent a big choir of angels to sing a song about Jesus to some shepherds who were watching their sheep at night. The angels told the shepherds where to find Jesus, so the shepherds ran to the stable where Jesus had been born. God also put a big star in the sky, and three wise men followed that star until they found Jesus. And though Jesus was a poor child, and his family did not have much money, the wise men gave Jesus great gifts, including gold!
Jesus had many friends, he liked to pray, and he worked with his dad Joseph making things out of wood. One day, when Jesus was about 30 years old, he started to do amazing things called miracles. He turned water into wine, he made blind people see, he made sick people healthy, and he made dead people come back to life. Then, in his greatest miracle of all, Jesus died, was buried for three days, then came back to life! He walked on the Earth for 40 more days after he had come back to life, then he went up to heaven to be with his father, God, forever.
We all do bad things, but Jesus was perfect. And if we believe that Jesus died and came back to life, then he will forgive all the bad things we have done. Then when we die, we will go up to heaven and be with Jesus and his Father forever! This is what I believe, and I pray that one day, you will believe this too. I love you, Omar, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, as people all over the world celebrate this wonderful story about Jesus.
Entry #1 - King David: A Skillful Musician After God's Own Heart
I was reading 1 Samuel 16 today and was challenged by the description of scripture's most prolific songwriter, David. Before he became king, David found his way into Saul’s court because of
his reputation as a musician and a man of God: “I have seen a son of Jesse the
Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing (the harp)…and the Lord is with Him.”
1 Samuel 16:18. Worship leaders must
strive after a gift-mix of musical excellence and Godliness. How often do we, instead, make a choice between the two?
So many gifted musicians are biblically illiterate. Others can recite half of Romans, but their rhythm, pitch, and song transitions are distracting. I confess that I have fallen short in both areas over the years. When I first started leading worship, I told my dad, "It's impossible! It's impossible to play the guitar and sing at the same time." Was my heart in the right place? Hopefully. Was I a regenerate believer? Yes.
But I was not "skillfull in playing."
Years later, I was a high school student at a church camp. The pastor asked how many students in the room could articulate the gospel through scripture, using exact references. I could not. I had been leading worship since 7th grade, I was making great strides as a guitarist and vocalist, but I could not turn my eyes upon Jesus and say, "I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
My skill as a musician had surpassed my desire to be "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).
As worship leaders, may we never settle for either musicality or Godliness. As a body of Christ, may we encourage the development of both spiritual and musical excellence in our worship pastors. Here are some questions to consider...
Regarding musical excellence:
Church leaders, is there room in the budget for an acoustic guitar or piano that will inspire our leaders as musicians and hymn writers? Are we choosing capable men and women to run sound? Is the sound system and monitor set-up a source of inspiration or frustration?
Worship leaders, are we being intentional with rehearsals, playing with the click, thinking through song transitions, coordinating background vocals, listening to inspiring music, and practicing our instruments?
Regarding spiritual growth:
Church leaders, are we giving our worship leaders adequate time, information, and encouragement to plan set lists that are intentionally connected with the sermon? Such encouragement has been crucial to my own spiritual develepment both personally and as a leader.
Worship leaders, does our private worship outweigh our public worship? Are we being intentional with our time in the Word, in prayer, and in community with other believers?