Indelible Grace Church

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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Worship Matters

Recently, the worship music leaders have been reading a fantastic book about, what else, worship music leading, called Worship Matters, by Bob Kauflin (director of worship development for Sovereign Grace and songwriter of many great worship songs). This excellent, theologically strong, well-written, practical guide always spurs a lot of thoughts in our email discussions that follow.

Here are some thoughts from the team:

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I really like how transparent and honest the author is about his struggles as a worship leader and hope that I too would just be able to follow in his example. What I liked most about chapter 2 was how he talked about our greatest challenge as worship leaders which is "what we bring to the platform each and every Sunday. Your heart". I think this is so important to realize as so many times I find myself worrying so much about the songs, or how it will sound, or what to say that my focus starts becoming all about me and not about God. Even though the worship set may run smoothly or things may not go as planned, if our heart is not in the right place and is serving something else other than God, than our worship is meaningless. --Melissa

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The Bible tells us to worship God in truth, and we need to know who God is in order to do that. The book says that "When we're dodgy about our theology, we're really saying we want our own Jesus. But our worship isn't based on people's personal opinions, ideas, or best guesses about Jesus. Nor should we base our understanding of him on anyone's individual experiences. He has a name, a particular history, and a specifically revealed body of teaching. God has theology; will we sharpen our own biblical understanding to find out what it is? Will we worship the Son of God, the Redeemer, the second person of the Trinity, the Alpha and Omega, our High Priest, sanctifier, and intercessor and seek to understand what all this means?" I totally agree. I'm glad IGC doesn't only sing hecka shallow songs which only say that we love Jesus and he's awesome. Of course those two things are true, but when we sing songs which go deeper into who God is and why he's awesome, and what Jesus has done, then I feel that it helps people connect the dots as to why we are lifting up praise. --Marsh

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I'm gonna reach back to chapter five and point out something that stuck out to me - "individuals on worship teams wear clothes that are too tight and revealing." This is something I need to change because I know that lots of people are distracted by my muscles and lean, tall body when I am standing in front of the congregation. --Wade

One thing that I remember and stood out was that we no longer need to worship in the temple anymore because Jesus is our new temple. Pretty profound stuff. I love how he keeps going back to the Christ centered-ness of our worship and our lyrics. I think it's pretty cool that our church tries to follow this model and we do our best incorporating that into our worship. --Sammy

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For me, the main take away from both these chapters was that we need to magnify God IN CHRIST during our times of worship singing. Our worship singing has to be all about how God has revealed himself, his nature and his works in the work of Christ on the cross. As Kauflin said, it should not only be Christ-centered, but cross-centered. Meaning, we need to be specific, concrete and very explicit about what Christ did and how he did it on the cross. And I love when Kauflin challenged us to think about whether non-Christians would enjoy our worship music. Would Muslims, Buddhists, secular pluralists enjoy singing our songs? I remember in college there was a Hindu girl who loved singing worship songs at a Christian club I visited. Those songs were all vague and unclear about what Christ did - it was just general language about God loving us, forever and ever and ever, etc. Kauflin's own example, about how the song Amazing Grace is quite vague and never mentions the cross was really insightful - no wonder non-Christians like that song so much. --Christina

Please pray for us as we continue to strive to glorify God in Christ through musical excellence and personal hearts of devotion to Him. If you’d like to read this fantastic book with us, contact Christina and she will send you a book and add you to the list.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 15:42
 

Death and the Christian Hope

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Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It is these moments that bring into sharp relief our most searching questions about grief and the presence of evil. What is the answer to death? Christianity offers us the great hope that one day even death itself will be undone and all our tears will be wiped away.  On September 11, 2006, Rev. Tim Keller spoke at the memorial service for the 5th anniversary of 9/11. Below is a transcript of his message:

As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question - the why question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we've lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need three ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.

First, we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are. Now, if you believe in God and for the first time experience or see horrendous evil, you rightly believe that that is a problem for your belief in God, and you’re right – and you say, “How could a good and powerful God allow something like this to happen?”

But it’s a mistake (though a very understandable mistake) to think that if you abandon your belief in God it somehow is going to make the problem easier to handle. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail says that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not. So think. If there is no God or higher divine Law and the material universe is all there is, then violence is perfectly natural—the strong eating the weak! And yet somehow, we still feel this isn’t the way things ought to be. Why not? Now I’m not going to get philosophical at a time like this. I’m just trying to make the point that the problem of injustice and suffering is a problem for belief in God but it is also a problem for disbelief in God - for any set of beliefs. So abandoning belief in God does not really help in the face of it. OK, then what will?

Second, I believe we need to grasp an empowering hint from the past. Now at this point, I'd like to freely acknowledge that every faith - and we are an interfaith gathering today – every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith's resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got. When people ask the big question, “Why would God allow this or that to happen?” There are almost always two answers. The one answer is: Don’t question God! He has reasons beyond your finite little mind. And therefore, just accept everything. Don’t question. The other answer is: I don't know what God’s up to – I have no idea at all about why these things are happening. There’s no way to make any sense of it at all. Now I'd like to respectfully suggest the first of these answers is too hard and the second is too weak. The second is too weak because, though of course we don't have the full answer, we do have an idea, an incredibly powerful idea.

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: "I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?" Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn't, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn't love us! It can’t be that he doesn't care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake.  They will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and like the stars for ever and ever." And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: "I am the resurrection and the life!"  Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!

In the year after 9/11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?"

The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.

Oh, I know many of you are saying, "I wish I could believe that." And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3, "Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure." Even to have a hope in this is purifying.

Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in The Brothers Karamazov: "I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they've shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened."

That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right.  Amen.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 September 2011 16:46
 

Retreat 2011

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Our first retreat was at Mission Springs from August 19-21, with IGC joining New Hope Church in San Jose.  The theme of the retreat was “Encountering God” – that our greatest need is not a good life, or a job, or even health, but to know God and experience his grace.   Undoubtedly, the best moment of the retreat was the campfire on Saturday night when Pastor SooSang led New Hope in praying for IGC’s work as a church plant. It was a powerful experience to know the love and support of our new Christian friends, and to be reminded of the important work of the gospel in the East Bay. We come back refreshed and with renewed commitment for gospel life together.

More images from the retreat:

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You can also listen to the four retreat messages here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 15:04
 

Reflections on the Second Commandment

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The second commandment says that we are not to make images of God.  Most Christians breezily believe this is one of the easier commandments to keep.  Just go through your home – no weird idols statues laying around? – check, I’m keeping the second commandment.

The story of Jeroboam tells us otherwise.  Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom after Israel split in two.  He was anxious about the people going down to Jerusalem to worship God, so he built two alternative temple sites centered around these huge statues of pure gold, each depicting a bull calf.  Now you would think Jeroboam was introducing a new religion.  After all, the people were bowing down to a golden calf!

But here’s the kicker.  Jeroboam did not say these were pagan gods, but that the golden calves was the God of the Bible.  He said, “behold your God*, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28)  Jeroboam believed the golden calves were an accurate picture of God.  This might seem ridiculous to us modern people, but in the culture of the day, it made enormous sense.  A bull calf was the most valuable animal in a farming society, signifying great worth and strength.  And rendered in glittering gold, it must have made an overwhelming impression on the worshippers – surely here is the glory and majesty of God!

The sad truth is that Jeroboam was woefully ignorant of Scripture and thus let his imagination and the culture of his day shape his understanding of God.  The question for us is this – how do we know we’re not doing the same thing?  How do we know that the God we worship is the true God, and not a golden calf?  The answer is that unless we’re immersed in Scripture, we don’t.  If we’re not constantly seeking to understand God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, then we will simply depend on our own imagination and the images popular culture gives us.  In other words, we will create a god of our own convenience and a god who serves our interests – just like Jeroboam.  And just like Jeroboam, we won’t even know.  We’ll just think the Bible is too much of a hassle to read, and besides, it won’t tell us anything we don’t already know about God – again, just like Jeroboam.  This is a sobering reality.

Here’s what this tells us about how to keep the second commandment.  Unless you’re constantly battling the false images our modern culture tells us about God, by soaking yourself in Scripture, you are breaking the second commandment.  For, as you read the Bible seriously, you will find yourself constantly surprised and stunned at who the real God is, the God who acts in Scripture and whose final revelation is Christ crucified.

"Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:3)

* Most translations render the verse in the plural, “behold your gods, O Israel.” The original Hebrew word is “Elohim.” The problem here for translators is that this word is both singular and plural – so it can be either “gods” or “God,” depending on the context. Some translators look at the fact that there were two golden calves and so render it “gods.” But if you look at what Jeroboam says, he clearly has the God of Exodus in mind (“who brought you out of Egypt”), and so the better translation is the singular “God.” We also know Jeroboam was not creating a new pagan religion because he establishes identical feast days and priestly responsibilities as what was done in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:32)

Last Updated on Monday, 08 August 2011 11:16
 

Church at the Park 2

This past Sunday, we held our second "Church at the Park" at Palomares Hills Park. It was a beautiful day to worship God, grill meat and hang out.

You can see images from our first "Church at the Park" by clicking here.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 22:06
 


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