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Archive for May 2009

Preaching Through The Hymns: How Great Thou Art

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O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,

I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed;

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
“My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

This is a hymn that I learned from my Dad (my earthly one) and I think I know why he lead it almost every time he would lead singing (regardless of whether the congregation knew the song or not).  You see, my Dad is the outdoorsy type.  He is happiest when hunting a deer, catching a fish, or simply just mowing the lawn.  You might say, “nature speaks to him.”  I have felt this same way when walking through the forrest or meditating by a gentle stream.

This is a part of spirituality that doesn’t get emphasized much in the pulpits.  The only knowledge that is taught is that which can be defined by book, chapter, and verse.  But is that all there is?  I don’t think so.

As great as Bible study is, the knowledge of God cannot be contained in any book.  The author of this song speaks of a spiritual knowledge that is deeper and speaks to the heart in a way that book knowledge never can.  This knowledge is found through prayer, fasting, and meditation.  Through silence and solitude.  It is given by the Spirit and infused into the human heart.

The creation glorifies God, but we must be aware of it so that we can hear its teaching.  This type of knowledge used to seem too subjective to be true or helpful until I embraced it for myself.  This truth is better and deeper than that theologies and religions that are created by men.  This is God writing the law on our hearts.

It makes us proclaim “My God, How great Thou art!!!!”

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Preaching Through The Hymns: He Lives

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The second church of Christ hymn I would like to discuss is:  He Loves Me
I serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
Chorus:
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And though my heart grows weary I never will despair.
I know that He is leading, thro’ all the stormy blast;
The day of His appearing will come at last.
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian! Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
I serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
I’m not sure quite how this one got into a church of Christ hymnal. Here are some things that this song states that may be challenged if delivered from the pulpit:
“he’s in the world today”  —  It’s fine to say that God is in the world today provided that you don’t attribute anything that is actually done to Him.  For example, church of Christ folks are a little apprehensive about stating that God heals a relative that is in the hospital or that God works in other ways.  They tend to de-spiritualize the things that happen in the world.  They tend to look at people who verbally give credit to God as being somewhat fanatical.
“I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer” —  If you’ve seen either of these things, I’ve yet to hear about it from the pulpits.  If you’ve seen them, why won’t you give them to others?
“He lives within my heart”  —  Never heard a preacher say this.  I’ve even heard preachers deny it.  Sermons typically deny that you can trust knowledge that is gained Spiritually and insist on only finding a book, chapter, verse for everything.  If I ever asked a church of Christ preacher how he knew that Christ lives he would never say “he lives within my heart”.  I think I’ll try that if I’m ever asked.
“In all the world around me I see His loving care”  —  Really?  The preachers I know see everything but God’s loving care.  They see the morality of America going down the toilet.  They see a world full of people (millions of believers even) who are going to hell.  They see a whole world full of evil and have little hope of its solution until the end of time.  Hardly “loving care”.
“The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find”  — Only if you also know everything about baptism, the pattern of worship, the official name of the church, proper church organization, and other such things.  They don’t think that “seeking Him” is near enough.  That’s not much hope or help, huh?
“None other is so loving, so good and kind”  — I didn’t learn this in the church of Christ.  I had to learn it on my own.  It is the most important truth that anyone can ever learn.

I serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

Chorus:

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And though my heart grows weary I never will despair.
I know that He is leading, thro’ all the stormy blast;
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian! Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King!
The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.

I’m not sure quite how this one got into a church of Christ hymnal. Here are some things that this song states that may be challenged if delivered from the pulpit:

“he’s in the world today”  —  It’s fine to say that God is in the world today provided that you don’t attribute anything that is actually done to Him.  For example, church of Christ folks are a little apprehensive about stating that God heals a relative that is in the hospital or that God works in other ways.  They tend to de-spiritualize the things that happen in the world.  They tend to look at people who verbally give credit to God as being somewhat fanatical.

“I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer” —  If you’ve seen either of these things, I’ve yet to hear about it from the pulpits.  If you’ve seen them, why won’t you give them to others?

“He lives within my heart”  —  Never heard a preacher say this.  I’ve even heard preachers deny it.  Sermons typically deny that you can trust knowledge that is gained Spiritually and insist on only finding a book, chapter, verse for everything.  If I ever asked a church of Christ preacher how he knew that Christ lives he would never say “he lives within my heart”.  I think I’ll try that if I’m ever asked.

“In all the world around me I see His loving care”  —  Really?  The preachers I know see everything but God’s loving care.  They see the morality of America going down the toilet.  They see a world full of people (millions of believers even) who are going to hell.  They see a whole world full of evil and have little hope of its solution until the end of time.  Hardly “loving care”.

“The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find”  — Only if you also know everything about baptism, the pattern of worship, the official name of the church, proper church organization, and other such things. They don’t think that “seeking Him” is near enough.  That’s not much hope or help, huh?

“None other is so loving, so good and kind”  — I didn’t learn this in the church of Christ.  I had to learn it on my own.  It is the most important truth that anyone can ever learn.

Written by freeinchrist

May 30, 2009 at 10:43 am

Preaching Through The Hymns: Amazing Grace

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I have often seen a discrepancy between the hymns that are sung in traditional churches of Christ and the theology that is taught from the pulpit.  The songs preach one gospel and the preachers preach another.

I would like to start with the most popular hymn of all time: Amazing Grace

Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.

I’m not hearing the thoughts or attitudes of this hymn from our pulpits. Was it “Amazing Grace” that “saved a wretch like me” or was it having the correct doctrines and worship practices that saves me.  Does the “grace” taught in the churches of Christ relieve our fear or does it just create the fear going to hell?  Does it lead to “a life of joy and peace”?  I don’t think so.

The saddest part is that the church of Christ has lost the ability to preach the gospel with the strength that John Newton does in this hymn.  We have become too afraid of looking liberal, pentecostal, or whatever to preach the gospel with the excitement that it deserves.  It’s GOOD NEWS!!!!!!  Our speech and (most of all) our lives should be lived in this wonderful, amazing, grace.

Written by freeinchrist

May 29, 2009 at 10:03 am

Sunday Morning Vs. Sunday Night

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You wouldn’t think that a Sunday morning sermon and a Sunday night sermon could be that different when offered by the same preacher.

I went to two services on Sunday (not a usual thing for me anymore) and I witnessed the oddest thing.  I wonder if you have ever witnessed it.  Tell me if you think these two sermons go together.

The Sunday morning sermon was about how we need to evangelize because we are commanded to do it and God will be upset if we don’t.  It was a big guilt trip trying to get people to go bother their neighbors with something that they have no-doubt heard hundreds of times.  The preacher used guilt tactics like stating that the church in the town would die out without new members and that the country would continue to be morally bankrupt if these people did not step out to evangelize.  Guilt was the number one tactic.

The Sunday evening sermon (by the same preacher) was about how we do not earn our salvation but it is given to us as a gift.  We cannot earn it.  It is by grace.  He was clear that we cannot earn our salvation and that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”.  He was clear that we do not get favor with God by our works, but by His grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He was clear that “no one is righteous” and that it was Christ’s work on the cross that gives us favor with God.  This was a good Gospel sermon.

Do these two sermons go together?

I don’t mean to rag on this preacher because I have heard many just like him.  When they talk about the Gospel, they accuratly give the credit to God for our salvation and correctly identify Christ’s death on the cross as the reason for our justification.  But when they begin to discuss doctrinal issues, they throw justification by grace out the window.  Justification by grace is not just how we relate to God during conversion but how we relate to Him under the New Covenant always.  We do not earn favor with God by evangelism (or any other work) we receive favor from God by grace through faith.  Our works do not make God happier with us or mad at us.

This is the lesson that changed my life.

Written by freeinchrist

May 25, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The Faith List and the Curse of the Christian Religion

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Have you ever heard of the faith list?  I bet you have.

It looks like this:

Faith                 Opinion

Then the teacher will put what he/she believes to be matters of faith and what he/she believes to be matters of opinion.  The matters of opinion (if the teacher allows for any) are those things that the teacher believes a Christian shouldn’t argue with other Christians about.  The faith column is for the things the teacher considers non-negotiable.  Christians we label as “conservative” have a long “faith” column and those we label as “liberal” have a long “opinion” column.

Both are missing something.

We are not saved because we have our faith list right, we are saved because Christ died to take away our sin and we have put our faith in Him.  He alone saves!!!  No list of orthodox doctrines can define a person’s faith in Christ and there is no reason to try.

In Galatians, Paul tells us that those who try to find justification in the Law are under a curse.  I recently asked a preacher what the “curse” was:  he didn’t know for sure but I’m pretty sure I do. 

Trying to earn justification by right belief and right practice and by my works was the greatest curse that I have ever been under.  It is not a curse God placed on me, it is one I placed on myself by not accepting the grace that God freely offered.

Love Jesus, Hate Church

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Sorry all the book recommendations but I have to recommend a book that I just started reading called “Love Jesus, Hate Church” by Steve McCranie.  It is available at http://www.lovejesushatechurch.com as a free download or you can just read it at the site. 

This book discusses many of the same issues that I have discussed on this blog.  The site also has a podcast that is well worth your time.

Written by freeinchrist

May 11, 2009 at 8:55 am

A Christianity Worth Believing In

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I just finished reading Doug Pagitt’s “A Christianity Worth Believing In” and thought it was excellent.  He has many great insights into the Scripture (some of which I have discussed in this blog and some that I am currently working out myself) and I highly recommend this book.  I hadn’t read Pagitt before and will now look for anything that he has written.  If you have read my blog and wondered what my problem was with things the way they are, this would be a great book to get some insights into possible problems with traditional interpretations.  This is one of the best books I have read this year.

Written by freeinchrist

May 10, 2009 at 1:05 pm