You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

His Robes For Mine

The glorious work of what Christ has done for me can overwhelm the heart and soul. That God was estranged from God cannot be truly comprehended. Just as great is the truth that this beggar had Somebody to die in my stead so that I would be able to stand faultless before the Father.

All because of Christ and Christ alone!

 

Are You Leading Worship or Entertaining?

My brother travels across the country, ministering in a variety of churches, and I have the blessing of traveling with him. There are times, though, that I look around and think, Something is missing.

A few years ago, I was beginning to worry about myself. I felt like I was becoming one of those stodgy old women who refuses to accept modern praise and worship music, because they are not hymns. Now don’t get me wrong. I love hymns and am saddened by the fact that many young people (if not most) will never know the lyrics that have stood the test of time. But I finally realized that my objection is not so much the songs that are sung (although some leave much to be desired); it is the way they are sung.

People complain about the old 7/11 songs but, today, churches introduce songs that are not only shallow; they were not written to be sung by a congregation. They may be great for a praise & worship singer to sing in concert, but they are very difficult for people to sing along with.

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Often on Sunday mornings, I am tired. Especially if I’ve been on my feet at a convention all weekend, Sundays can be very hard. I rely on God’s strength to get me through the day, and I look forward to worshiping with His people, but some weeks, I don’t really get that.

There are exceptions, of course. Some churches are full of the presence of the Lord the moment we arrive. It’s obvious the people there love the Lord and each other, and they are eager to see what God is going to do in their midst. This is what the Church should look like.

I would love to see more churches do a mixture of hymns and praise and worship songs. The key to worship is singing songs that honor our Lord while focusing on Him, not the people around us. At the same time, the leader must be in tune with those around him or her. Are they singing? Praying? Worshiping? Or are they merely watching? The difference between a worship service and a concert is that the former should not be a performance. It is not a contest of vocal or musical ability. It is the gift of seeing those who have had a rough week, who are discouraged, who wonder why they are even there, and leading them into the presence of the Lord. Once there, they can leave their burdens at the altar and better hear the message God desires to speak to them.

A true worship leader is just as important as a pastor who preaches the Word without compromise. Together, they will help to build a church that God can use in a mighty way.

Facing a Task Unfinished

This is a great post about the hymn entitled, “Facing a Task Unfinished.” It can be found here at the Gospel Coalition website.

“In Matthew 24, atop the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Almost 2,000 years later, we’re still here, which is all the proof we need to keep on preaching the gospel, especially in places it’s yet to be heard.

Yet the gospel message isn’t restricted to sermons or tracts or books. Think of how you first absorbed the good news. For many of us, I imagine it wasn’t through a sermon, but a song.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are convinced of the vital role music plays in Christian discipleship. This is why they’ve spent much of the past two decades writing new hymns and restoring old ones—to help Christians and churches continue “making melody to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

I corresponded with Keith Getty about their re-introduction of what he dubs the “greatest hymn on missions ever written,” how God uses music to shape Christians, other missions hymns your church should start singing, and more.


What’s the story behind the song “Facing a Task Unfinished”? Who wrote it and why?

Frank Houghton, an Anglican bishop and missionary to China, wrote the hymn in the 1930s. Originally it was written with a request to bring 200 more missionaries to China, which was a horrific period in Chinese history.

Facing a Task Unfinished” was a hymn I grew up loving. So I began talks with OMF (China Inland Mission) about a new version around the time of TGC’s Missions Conference in 2013. OMF then approached me last year and asked if we would do something for their 150th anniversary in Singapore, where OMF director Patrick Fung planned to introduce a new challenge and revitalized vision for missions.

We were so excited for the hymn itself. I think it’s the greatest hymn on missions ever written. The vital importance of missions is present throughout the entire song. So we put an agreement together to create a new copyright.

The hymn has fallen out of widespread use over the past century. How’d you come across it?

It was still sung in the churches I grew up in, but I think the hymn lacked two or three things it needed for popular appeal in today’s churches. First, it’s a Great Commission hymn, but it doesn’t give a chance to respond. Second, it was typically sung as a strophic four-part hymn, and with each new word came a new note—this tends to give guitarists sore hands! Third, the hymn doesn’t have an amazing sense of contour or journey, so by writing a new chorus we shaped it into more of a ballad. As a result, we were able to reinvent the song, still allowing people to sing Houghton’s original lyrics but with Kristyn’s new chorus.

You’ve talked about the “power of a hymn to galvanize a community, even in the most difficult of circumstances.” When it was originally written, in what ways did it accomplish that?

The amazing story of the song is that 200 missionaries were able to go out to China. The wider story of China is perhaps the most incredible story of Christian growth in history. The church has grown from fewer than 750,000 Christians in the 1930s to more than 80 million today. My wife and I always comment that when we sing the hymn, it clears our minds of things that are, by comparison, irrelevant.

How do you hope its re-introduction will continue that tradition?

Houghton understood that what we sing affects what we think, how we feel, what we pray for, and, ultimately, every decision we make in life. It is my prayer that by singing this song Christians around the world will get more excited about both music and mission, but also about living the mission of God on our own doorsteps and in our own kitchens, as well as around the world.

I imagine few churches sing hymns about cross-cultural missions—not for lack of desire, but lack of worthy choices. Could you point our readers toward a few missions hymns that are underrated and under-sung?

When Don Carson asked us to do the music for TGC’s Missions Conference, we wrote a song called “Lift High the Name of Jesus.” Over the years, Stuart Townend and I have written hymns inspired by different key missional figures. Our love for Martin Luther’s hymns inspired “O Church Arise.” Our friendship with Operation Mobilization and its prayer book led to us write “Across the Lands.” We also wrote a song called “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.”

The missions hymns I sang growing up were mostly gospel songs from the 19th- and 20th-century worldwide missions movement, which weren’t exactly the most timeless hymns. “All Over the World,” “For My Sake and the Gospel’s, Go,” and “We Have a Story to Tell the Nations” are a few I grew up singing. Other traditional hymns I sang in more choral-based churches include “Who Is on the Lord’s Side” or, my favorite, a hymn called “Go Forth and Tell” (set to the English choral tune “Tell Out My Soul”).

Let’s say a pastor or music director wants his church to start singing this song in their corporate gatherings. What does he need to do next?

It’s simple. If they visit our website, we’ve got everything they’ll need: lead sheets, chord charts, orchestrations, as well as translations into other languages. In fact, this coming Sunday, February 21, we’re asking any church who’s interested to sing “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Our goal is over 10,000 churches across every continent!

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, emphasis added).

As I was reading the Beatitudes the other day, this verse especially jumped out at me. It seems like the verses on purity and holiness are the least-quoted verses any more, but I am challenged by this verse.

I wonder how many people on earth are truly pure in heart. It is a rare person who doesn’t at least struggle with lust, jealousy, anger, etc. Yet, these are some of the things that can keep us from seeing God.

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Despite popular belief, we have no reason to be proud. We should be constantly asking God to search us and try us and show us those impure thoughts and motives. We should be daily drawing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be blessed. I want to see God. I want to be pure so that I don’t stand before Him full of shame and disgrace. I want to hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” I expect that I will be more aware than ever before of how holy He is and how wretched I am. But I praise Him that He saved a wretch like me, and I will continue singing, “More like the Master I will ever be. More of His meekness, more humility. More zeal to labor, more courage to be true. More consecration for work He bids me do.

Peace That Passes All Understanding

As we grow older, life does not get any easier. Not only do we find ourselves concerned about the regular cares of the world, but now we have children and grandchildren that must be taken into account. In the midst of a world that is rocked with scandal, pain, wars, and turmoil, it is so easy to find ourselves distracted and overwhelmed by the world. It seems that our little lives can also be torn apart with strife in our families. These times simply show that we are fallen creatures of clay who have been saved by grace.

Our desires should not be for this world but to realize we are just passing through. Soon enough will come a day where like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we will dip our feet in the waters of death as we prepare to go to the other side where we will be forever with our Lord and those saints who have gone before. What a glorious day that will be.

Although the pain in our hearts is very real, there are many who have suffered much more than most of us will ever experience. Such a person was Horatio Spafford, who wrote the words to a well-loved hymn called, “It is Well With My Soul.” This man suffered greatly with the loss of four children at once through the sinking of a ship that was enroute across the Atlantic Ocean. This beautiful hymn was written by Spafford as he journeyed to meet his wife in Europe on the next ship. Crossing over the spot where the ship entombing his daughters was, Spafford, with the strength of the Lord, wrote with full assurance in the God of his salvation that “It was well with his soul.”

No matter what struggles or pain you and I may endure today, there will always be a peace that passes all understanding. Only those who rejoice in Jesus Christ and know Him as personal Savior can reiterate with Paul that there is nothing in life or death that can separate us from the love of God.

Family and friends may forsake us and foes may assail us, but His love will endure forever. I am thankful that today I can ask with the Psalmist in 116:15, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD.”

For those who remain friends, you are a blessing and an encouragement. May you be encouraged with the words of these two hymns today.