Thank God for Moms

My two daughters are very young, but God has already been very kind to them. There are a number of reasons I say that, like the health and happiness they enjoy, and the fact that they were born into a time and place where the Bible is in their language, and into a family and church where they’re going to hear it a lot.

But God has shown unique kindness to Willa and Everly by giving them their mother. To watch Anna care for these two little girls is to behold a display of Christlike service and sacrifice. Our girls have the privilege of learning from their mother, who aches for them to know Jesus and teaches them diligently to that end.

And they have the privilege of watching Anna live. Without knowing it, they are enrolled in a life-long masterclass on hard work, joy, organization, godliness, humility, womanhood, service, and how to love your family.

I couldn’t help but grow yet more grateful for Anna as I read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. In the book, Chesterton describes the “tyranny…of women,” whose role and authority is singularly formative for their children. By the time a child goes off to school, the formation has already happened: “the real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women.” He then says that if men ever march to protest against this tyranny, “I shall not join their procession.” Amen and amen.

At the Together for the Gospel conference in 2012, John Piper mentioned the significance of his mother. During a panel discussion on the inerrancy of Scripture, Mark Dever asked Piper why he believes the Bible to be true. Piper’s first response: “My momma told me it was true,” which was met with understanding nods and applause. Piper referenced 2 Timothy 3:14-15, which attests to the legitimacy of this kind of influence. It’s a great moment (you can watch it here).

A mother who teaches her children that the Bible is true – and that the Jesus it reveals is worth following at all costs – is a merciful tyrant, wielding her influence for the eternal good of those entrusted to her.

Thank God for moms, and thank God for the mom he gave to my girls. What a gift.


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A Good Friday Prayer

This is “Love Lustres at Calvary” from The Valley of Vision. A moving and fitting prayer for Holy Week.

My Father,
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
   supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
   made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
   and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
   and infinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
    cast off that I might be brought in,
    trodden down as an enemy
    that I might be welcomed as a friend,
    surrendered to hell’s worst
     that I might attain heaven’s best,
    stripped that I might be clothed,
    wounded that I might be healed,
    athirst that I might drink,
    tormented that I might be comforted,
    made a shame that I might inherit glory,
    entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
    groaned that I might have endless song,
    endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
    bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
    bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
    experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
    closed his eyes in death that i might gaze on unclouded brightness.
    expired that I might for ever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
   my every step buoyant with delight, as I see
    my enemies crushed,
    Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
    sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
    hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross,
   mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

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The Worship Leader’s Words

I like weddings. I mean, who doesn’t like a free meal? And yet I cringe at the same moment of every wedding reception: right when the best man and the maid of honor – then the father of the bride, the mother of the bride, the long-time friend of the bride, the former babysitter of the bride, and then the bride and groom – grab the microphone.

I get anxious because the chances are good that the speech is not. They talk too long, and the microphone gradually drops from their mouth to their waist before it’s halfway over. They cry and tell stories nobody remembers. The speech may end up moving us all to tears, but when it starts I can’t fight the feeling that it’s going to be bad.

The best speeches stick to the script, keep it short, and get on with the party.

I confess to feeling the same foreboding whenever a worship leader decides to talk extemporaneously during a worship service. There are some people who do this well. I’ve been deeply encouraged and edified by something a worship leader said; I’m not so cynical to think it can’t be done. But I do think it should be attempted less frequently. Or at least it should be attempted more carefully. Good worship leading is often like good fiction: more showing, less telling.

Expositional Worship Leading
At best, worship leaders talk because they want to shepherd people. That’s a good desire. And we in the conservative evangelical world have rightly placed high value on words in the task of shepherding. That’s why we value expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is wonderful. Expositional worship leading? Not so much.

Worship leaders can accomplish most of what they’re trying to do by choosing good songs and leading them well. If you do that, I dare say the need to interject significantly declines.

Bob Kauflin recently said in an excellent post written for worship leaders:
“Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach. When speaking, typically less is more. Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching.”

Sing Good Songs
If you’re a worship pastor or leader, don’t neglect the impact of good lyrics set to good melodies. Those are the words you can use to shepherd your people. And there’s a 100% chance lines like “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,” and “No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in Him is mine” will roll through the minds of your people more – and inspire greater faith – than anything we might say.

The songs don’t say everything that could be said, but it’s highly likely the low point of singing “It Is Well” or “In Christ Alone” would be my own interpolations.

So, yes, shepherd your people. Choose songs that allow for the diversity of expression the Bible models, songs that celebrate the gospel and give space for sorrow, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, prayer, and triumph. If you thoughtfully choose songs week-to-week, you will shepherd your people well, and you can let the preacher do the preaching. And don’t forget that you’ve got six other days in the week to teach and care for your people; it need not all happen between songs.

Have a Plan
There are good reasons to talk. Some liturgies depend on the worship leader to move the service along. Some worship pastors feel compelled to say something because it won’t be said otherwise (e.g., corporate confession of sin or an articulation of the gospel). If that’s the case, then by all means say something.

But before you say anything, plan it. Write it out, and be succinct. Stick to Scripture readings, corporate prayers, or things that coordinate elements of the service. Stay away from prayers that do nothing but paraphrase the first line or title of the next song. Avoid anecdotes or anything one of your songs or the preacher will say better.

So, worship leader, you don’t need to say much. You’ve got all sorts of words you can use to care for your people. Choose good songs. Trust the Spirit. Don’t think too highly of your own gifts. Check your motives. Love your people. And, if nothing else, stick to the script, keep it short, and get on with the party.

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Album Round-Up

Now that No Grave Could Keep is done and released, I thought I’d provide a roundup of the whole thing.Album Cover

This was the first recording project for Kenwood Music, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. The guys at Resonate Recordings – Mark Owens and Jacob Bozarth – are very good at what they do. I learned a ton from them, and I’d recommend them to anyone.

One reason I love serving at Kenwood is the many talented and servant-hearted people there. A lot of those people contributed their gifts to this thing, whether it was their song-writing, their voice, or their instrument. You can find those names and what they contributed on the bottom of this page.

There are a number of places people can purchase and/or listen to the album:
Jim Hamilton created a YouTube channel with all the song videos.

Anyone interested in chord charts for the original songs on the album can find them here.

My hope is that these songs serve and encourage God’s people, and that they stir up affections for God in the churches that sing them. The canon of Christian song is not closed, and I hope these songs add to the already rich tradition of congregational music full of truth and beauty.

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When They Die They Do Not Perish

“Now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed.”

-Athanasius, On the Incarnation

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Jesus Is Better

In Hebrews 1:1-4, the author claims, in majestic language, that Jesus is God’s supreme revelation. He’s better than the prophets, better than angels.

In what ways, then, is Jesus better than what came before?

Adam named the creatures, but Jesus made the creatures.
Abraham fathered many nations, but Jesus is Lord of nations.
Moses gave the Law, but Jesus has the words of eternal life.
Aaron offered sacrifices for his people, but Jesus offered himself for his people.
Joshua conquered the land, but Jesus conquered death.
David saved from the Philistines, but Jesus saves from sin and hell.
Solomon knew the wisdom of God, but Jesus is the wisdom of God.
Elijah and the prophets received the words of God, but Jesus is the Word of God.

We strive to bring God glory, but Jesus is God’s glory.

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Where “Ours” Surpasses “Mine”

From Wendell Berry, on marriage:

“Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate ‘relationship’ involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the ‘married’ couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere.

There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, ‘mine’ is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as ‘ours.’

This sort of marriage usually has at its heart a household that is to some extent productive. The couple, that is, makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of economic independence and self-employment, a measure of freedom, as well as a common ground and a common satisfaction.

(From “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine”)”

(HT: Alan Jacobs)

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