I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with a single day of celebration.
We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind.
This is our greatest festival.
Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity.
If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again!
Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course you have to weed the garden from time to time; that’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth. Easter is the time to sow new seeds.
If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off… then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit.
The forty days of the Easter season ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.
How will you celebrate Easter this year? What new thing could you or your church plant?
Thanks, Paul, for posting this.
Why yes, God is the greatest (Capital C) Creator and artist. Thank you for asking.
Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility.
It is because of this idea, put easily and succinctly by a great modern songwriter, that we decided to begin a six month journey of memorizing songs that will help encourage and strengthen us as they impart truth and wisdom founded on God’s word. The six songs we have picked each focus on a different idea, whether it be God’s faithfulness or the incarnation of Jesus, so as to give us a well rounded understanding of God and His character. We will focus on a different song each month, with the goal of having each memorized at the end of their month so that we are able to sing them without having the words on the screen. At the end of the six months, we will have a service which will contain all of these six songs and the goal will be to not have any words on the screens.
This project will not be a success, however, if we merely can sing the songs without the words. It will only be a success if the words penetrate our souls, changing the way we think about God and the way we think about those around us. It will be a success if these songs are in our hearts and on our lips as we are at work, at home, at school, and at play. When we are happy, when we are sad, when we are surrounded by friends or when we are all alone, these songs will be with us and remind us that our God is with us.
We have created some materials to help you get started if you do not already know these songs. We have the lyrics, along with a little background of the song and a scripture reference that ties in with the song up on the website. (calvarystcloud.org) We also have original recordings by Chris and Toni Stone available for free download of each song to help you learn the melody. So please join us on this journey, as we seek to put the truth of God’s word in our hearts and on our lips and continue to sing out the cry of the redeemed.
Stuart Townend said the following when speaking about the role of music in worship: “I think content is vitally important to our corporate worship. Sometimes great melodies are let down by indifferent or clichéd words. It’s the writer’s job to dig deep into the meaning of Scripture and express in poetic and memorable ways the truth he or she finds there. Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility.”
It is for this very reason that we have embarked on a six month journey of memorizing songs that will do just that. We will sing a song every week for a month, with the goal of having it memorized by the fourth week and singing it without projecting the words. The ideas is that these songs have truths and ideas that should permeate our whole lives and we should memorize them as we memorize scripture, so that we can recall them at any time we need some hope or encouragement.
For the first song we have chosen In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Both wonderful songwriters own their own, they came together to combine this haunting melody with words that seek to convey the the power that Christ has over all things and His central place in our lives as believers.
Townend continues, “The lyric [of this song] excites me because it places our hope, our assurance, our eternal destiny in the right place—on the solid foundation of Christ. I know in my own life I need reminding continually not to live by my feelings or my circumstances, but by the unchanging truth of the gospel.”
The central theme of this song can be found in this section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 3:7-11  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Here are the lyrics to help you get started memorizing:
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
© 2001 Thankyou Music
(Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
This is my very good friend Desmond. He is incredibly talented and you will be happier and more theologically sound if you watch this video.
This is my sermon from this past week, on the topic of art, worship and the Bible.
My first time ever preaching.
Turns out I’m a hand talker.
What makes a great story?
“Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart, nudity, sex. Happy endings. Mainly happy endings”
Sounds like the Bible….. (see previous post)
Griffin Mill played by Tim Robbins in the Movie “The Player”
Today I Googled “greatest book of all time”, with little to no expectations. I assumed I would find hundreds of blogs, each with a different list, written by people of, at best, questionable authority. What I found, however, at number one on Google’s list was much more interesting, and much more authoritative than that. There is a book that came out a few years back called “The Top Ten: Writers Pick their Favorite Books”. It is, as one might assume, a book filled with 125 authors’ picks for top ten books ever. The lists contained books by those you would expect, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Austen as well as those you might not, King and Clancy, (although I suspect some of the lists were a bit tongue in cheek, artists being who they are and all) as well as a myriad of writers known and unknown from every era and genre. Fascinating lists, for sure.
The reason I went looking for information on this topic was not so that I could make a list of books I should read, or even because I wanted to compare my list to theirs, if I actually had a list, which I don’t. the reason I looked for a list was because I think I have decided on what goes in number one.
You’re probably thinking “Of course you think the Bible is the best book. You’re a Christian. You have to. You volunteer at your church. You probably have to sign something saying the Bible is the best book ever right after you initial next to what item you would like to bring to next weeks potluck.” While it’s true I am somewhat biased, I feel like it truly stands up to any other book out there.
Take a look.
Scope - How many books out there cover the entire history of the universe? The Bible tells us how it came to be (God created it) and how it will end (God will destroy it) and how it will be remade (God will recreate it), and in the process documents thousands and thousands of years of human interaction. Talk about epic. The Odyssey and the Iliad have got nothing on the Bible. But we all know that just because a book is long, does not mean it is good.
Storyline - This is a little hard to nail down, since a lot of stories happen in this length of time, but the main storyline is this: God creates us, we reject Him, He sends his son to bring us back to him by sacrificing his own life. His people continue to reject and return to Him until He comes back again to destroy the world and create a new, perfect one. Within this grand storyline are stories of battles lost, wars won, love spurned, love found, politics, religion, art, culture and every other storyline common to man. Then throw in a healthy dose of unexplainable events such as walking on water, raising the dead, a river turning into blood and a city destroyed with trumpets and yelling.
Characters - A long interesting story is only as good as the characters that populate it, and the Bible has a laundry list of heroes and villains to fit any occasion. There are prophets and prostitutes, tax collectors and arrogant religious leaders, soldiers, kings, widows, orphans, shepherds, giants and poets just to name a few. The main character of the New Testament (and of the whole book, really) is a carpenter from a small town who was almost raised by a single mother and who just happens to have a knack for debating rabbis. (And did I mention that it turns out He is actually God, too?)
I realize this is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. The Bible is not just a book of rules (although it has those) or moral platitudes (them too) or cautionary tales (oh yeah, lots of those) but the story of how God came to reconcile us to himself. It is a great story and it can be your story. You are no different from any of the characters in the Bible (except God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, of course). They are all just ordinary people who allowed themselves to be used by God for His glory.
So start reading the Bible, and find your story in His story.
You Are the Light
by Steve Fee
This week our guest preacher is Desmond Glenn and he will be speaking from 1 Thessalonians about encouragement and how we encourage each other in worship. To exemplify this message in song, we will be singing You Are the Light by Steve Fee. The song talks about how we, as Christians, shine God’s light to the world around us, whether we are at church or at home or at work.
Verse one talks about how it is that we are able to shine God’s love - it is because we have been forgiven, restored and redeemed, and our goal should be to “live our lives to the praise of our king”. As it continues, it reminds us that we may be the only one that someone knows who shines God’s light to them.
The chorus reminds us of the main point (as a chorus always should) that this light we shine does not come from us. The only goodness that we ever display is only by the grace of God and Him shining through us. Sometimes we, just like the pharisees, get puffed up and arrogant about our good works and begin to think that they are indeed our own works. We need to humble ourselves and allow God’s light to shine through us.
We are the people of God
The sons and daughters of love
Forgiven, restored and redeemed
Living our lives to the praise of our King
We are the ones who will shine
His light in the darkness of the night
The hopeless, the broken, the poor
They will be hopeless no more
You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine You, Lord
You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine You, Lord
We shine like stars in the universe
Proclaimimg the hope of our God
And to the sons and daughters in all the earth
We shine You, Lord
And to the lost and the broken
The hurting and hopeless
We shine You, Lord
To the ones who are weary
Burdened and suffering
We shine You, Lord
As we sing this on Sunday, ask the Spirit to shine brightly through you this week. Pray for a humble and willing spirit, that you would be willing to submit to the will of the Father in the knowledge that anything He does through you is immeasurably better than anything you could do on your own.