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Sweeter Sounds Than Music Knows

Live Life! God's way

On my other blog, I reflected briefly on the expression ‘Christmas is….’ Check it out here if you’re interested.

Today’s Olney hymn was penned by John Newton as he reflected on the Incarnation. He includes the birth of Christ but draws us to consider His death. After all, Jesus came to ‘save His people from their sins.’ He was born to die. Reread Matthew 1 and 2 or Luke 1 and 2 and you can see in His name, in the gifts brought by the wise men, in the songs sung by Mary, Zacharias and Simeon, prophetic anticipation of His death.

How shall we respond to such a Saviour? Newton pleads with God–‘Lord, unloose my stammering tongue, Who should louder sing than I?’ While musical artists, who too often may blaspheme the name of God, opt to produce a ‘Christmas album,’ let those of us who have experienced saving…

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Singing Without Understanding?

Live Life! God's way

I confess. I’ve sung lots of choruses and hymns without understanding. Have you done likewise?  Thankfully, there have been worship leaders, in various settings, who’ve unpacked the truths of the text as part of our worship experience. They have read Scripture, defined terms, tied the hymn or chorus to a particular Biblical event or explained the occasion in the composer’s life when the words were first written down.

What does the children’s hymn ‘When He Cometh’ reference in Scripture? What are the ‘jewels’ that He is coming to make up? When will that happen? Do any other Scriptural texts help unpack this truth in a field of theology filled with conflicting interpretations?

I’ll leave you, as the reader, to sort through the answers while I move on to post a hymn on the same text, penned by John Newton.

Malachi 3:16-18 This is the text upon which John Newton reflected…

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Abbreviated Worship?

Live Life! God's way

Are God’s children ever guilty of abbreviated worship? Do we ever rush through the process of worshiping God in spirit and in truth? Many times we must plead guilty to such a charge.

We abbreviate prayers. We abbreviate services. We abbreviate hymns. Many of the original composers of solid hymns throughout church history would marvel at how many stanzas we have left out. I recall one funeral I conducted years ago, when the other officiant decided that four verses of ‘How Great Thou Art’ were too many. Which one should he drop? He felt the one which declares, ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in….” I was preaching on the gospel, so I opted to reinsert the text as part of my sermon that day!

I’ve shared in worship services in other cultures, where they practice what…

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Jonah – More of An Environmentalist than an Evangelist?

Live Life! God's way

How would you describe the prophet Jonah from the pages of Scripture?

a) a prophet?

b) an evangelist?

c) an environmentalist?

In 2 Kings 14, we meet Jonah in the context of the history of the nation of Israel. The nation is divided at this point with the Northern Kingdom known as Israel and their Southern counterpart, Judah. If Jonah had a contemporary LinkedIn account, I’m sure he’d describe himself as a Spokesman and Servant of the LORD. He spoke for God as a prophet and had been used to predict a remarkable restoration of the boundaries of the northern nation. 

Here’s a map to show the restoration under Jonah’s preaching –

His joy and delight was in serving Goduntil he was commanded to head to Nineveh in an evangelistic mission. ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach against it!’ Jonah resolutely refuses and sets his…

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A 3000 Year Old Strategy?

Live Life! God's way

Satan, the enemy of the souls of people, is not very original in his strategy.  In the life of King David, Israel’s second monarch, Satan spotted an opportunity, a sinful desire–common to all people–to disobey God. Like the pattern so well established in the life of Adam and Eve, David saw, desired and took what was forbidden.

John Newton, as he penned these words in 1779, reflecting on the tragic account of lust, adultery, murder, etc, pastorally knew that sin remained appealing and that temptation should be rejected as appalling. Noone should consider themselves ‘temptation proof’ as Scripture warns us, ‘Let the one who thinks he stands, take heed, lest they fall.’ In today’s media-saturated societies, the online ramps to the thruway of temptation multiply daily. May we remain vigilant, urging each other on not to miss the voice of God by hardening our hearts.

Apart from the language, Newton…

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The Golden Calf

Live Life! God's way

‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ Whoever crafted that statement might well have been pondering the people of God as they grew fonder for Egypt as Moses ‘was so long in coming down from the mountain.’ (Exodus 32:1) In their restlessness, they turned to Aaron who, though recently appointed as the High Priest for true worship, led the people in defiant rebellion against God. Aaron’s passive explanation (Exodus 32:22-24) is staggering. He blamed the people who were ‘prone to evil.’ He explained how the calf ‘appeared’ out of the fire into which golden jewellery had been cast. The last time I threw metal into a fire, nothing recognizable appeared before my eyes. The gold was formed and shaped by human hands into an image of a calf.

As John Newton reflects on this biblical account, he doesn’t just settle for the facts of the story but presses home personal application…

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Biblical Fidelity Illustrated in John Wycliffe

Biblical Fidelity Illustrated in John Wycliffe

Dr. John E. Greever

It is true that each faithful Christian today stands on the shoulders of faithful Christians of yesterday.  In a strategic and fundamental way, faithful servants of Christ who come before us pave the way for us to know and pass along the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And added to this, biblical fidelity (faithfulness to the Scriptures and the message of Christ and the gospel presented in the Scriptures) is the means by which we are faithful to God.  The two go together; faithfulness to God and faithfulness to the teaching of the Scriptures go hand-in-hand.

This is supremely seen in the lives of the Reformers and those who followed after them.  And this is specifically seen in the life of one who was a precursor to the Reformation, John Wycliffe (ca 1330-1384).

J. H. Merle d ‘Aubigne called Wycliffe the…

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Richard Barcellos on Gospel Use of the Law

Gospel Use of the Law

Is the Gospel No Longer Enough for Black Christians?

Just Thinking...for Myself

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Located on one of the most historic streets in the United States, particularly for black Americans, Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta, stands the venerable Big Bethel AME Church.

“Big Bethel”, as it is affectionately and reverently known, was founded in 1847, the same year educator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper The North Star, and the slave Dred Scott filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court claiming his temporary residence in a free territory should have made him a free man.

It didn’t.

But, I digress.

For all its notoriety as the oldest predominantly black congregation in Atlanta, Big Bethel is equally renown, if not more so, for a simple two-word message which, for nearly a century, has stood conspicuously affixed atop the church steeple against the backdrop of an ever-expanding Atlanta skyline.

It reads: Jesus Saves.

The message that “Jesus Saves” has been

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The Ten Commandments

Theologians have commonly divided up the ten commandments into two parts (or “tables”). The first part consists of the first four commandments (i.e. Exodus 20:3-11), while the second part consists of the last six commandments (i.e. Exodus 20:12-17). The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God, while the last six commandments deal with […]

via The Ten Commandments

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