A Word From Steve Jones
April 15th, 2019
The Holy week begins culminating on Easter Sunday, “He is Risen!”, “He has risen indeed!”
A few years ago I heard Dr. Don Carson speak about the peculiar ironies surrounding the work Christ accomplished on the cross. I scribbled a few notes and sought to caption them in the following outline.
Let’s prepare ourselves for Easter by peeking at three “ironies” surrounding the cross and the impact they have on our lives:
1. The man who is mocked as a King is the King!
They stripped Jesus, put a cloak on his blood-stained body, a stick in his hand to imitate a scepter with a crown of thorns. What a mockery. But for the first three centuries of the early church, they spoke of Christ as reigning from the cross. At face value that seems an oxymoron, but it is the truth.
2. The man who is utterly powerless is all powerful.
Jesus becomes too weak to even carry his own cross-beam. But Jesus tells us, unless you pick up your cross, you’ll not know the Kingdom of Heaven. Our cross is a symbol of our self-denial and death to self. Our empowerment to live the Christian life only occurs when we die to self. We find power in death.
3. The man who cannot save Himself can save you.
Mary and Joseph named the baby Jesus; a Greek word. But the Hebrew equivalent is the name Joshua which literally means: Yahweh saves! God sent His Son to save sinners. But if He saves Himself, He cannot save others. This is another irony. One that kept Jesus nailed to the cross. Jesus cried out the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1), so that you and I would never have to cry it aloud.
Don’t let Easter pass you by this year without letting these wonderful ironies truly impact you once again.
Have a blessed week; from a fellow cross-bearer,
I recently watched the movie, The Case for Christ on Netflix. The story of journalist-turned-pastor, Lee Stobel, who journeyed from atheist to Christ-follower. His book of the same title and follow up books have sold more than 14 million copies. The movie was actually pretty good.
Easter is the Mount Everest of the Christian calendar and an opportunity to share the cap-stone of the Christian faith: the resurrection. Lee Stobel set out to disprove the resurrection, but became convinced of its truth. What other reactions to the resurrection do we find in Matthew chapter 28?
Resurrection Witnesses and Testimonials:
And those who are convinced of Christ’s resurrection, this promise:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this? - John 11:25-26
The Good News really is good news!
Have a blessed week,
How do you prepare yourself for worship? What, if anything, do you do to get yourself ready before the Sunday worship service?
In his book, “Stress Fractures”, Chuck Swindoll remembers a time when the demands of ministry were unbearable. He eventually brought his “hurry-up” pattern of living from his office to his home. At dinner one evening his youngest daughter wanted to say something important to him. In a hurry she said, “Daddy, I-wanna-tell-you-something-and-I’ll-say-it-real-fast!” Swindoll sensed Coleen’s frustration and said, “Honey, you can tell me and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.” Swindoll says he’ll never forget her response: “Then please listen slowly.” Hmmm…. Sound familiar?!
What do you do to prepare for worship? Worship should speak paramountly about our response to God. And God is certainly worthy of our worship.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God which is your spiritual worship.” – Romans 12:1
I recently asked some Fellowship worship pastors from our churches how they personally prepare themselves before a worship service. I received some great insight and solid practical suggestions. Please take the time to read the counsel of some of our “official worship prompters”. I hope you’ll consider something you read for your own life starting this week:
“I personally try to “soak” in the Scripture focus and worship themes for our services by reflecting and meditating in prayerful exchange with God multiple times throughout the week. I also spend considerable time to practice and rehearse the planned elements (musical, technical, transitions, etc.) so that I feel free to lead in a way that allows me to fully engage in worship rather than just execute a plan. I also choose to protect myself from late nights before our corporate worship services so that I am physically rested and renewed.” —Steve Cottrell, Calvary Baptist, Oshawa, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by…. spending time in prayer meditating on the text we are focusing on that Sunday and thinking through the movement of the service to make sure I am prepared to communicate clearly the progression of worship in that service. It is a delight to be reminded by each other of who we are in Christ and what his character is and to pray for each other and for the people who will gather. —Sarah Quartel, Forward Baptist, Toronto, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is twofold. The first thing I do is ensure that I have spent sufficient time in prayer and with God the night prior and/or the morning of the service. This helps to centre me, and it ensures that my focus is in the right place. I also make sure that, as a team, we spend time in prayer together prior to the service, so that we have the proper focus going into the service. The second thing I do is to ensure that all the practical details have been looked after as thoroughly as possible. This, of course, is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but it allows me to place my focus where it must be, on the worship of Jesus.” — Patrick Timney, Bramalea Baptist, ON
“…I also spend time in prayer, being thoughtful of Jesus’ grace over my sin, and being thoughtful of the gift that I have to be able to lead His people in my local assembly. Then we as a team of worship leaders (tech and music) participate in a devotional time which is usually a Psalm that I have chosen to settle our hearts on God’s character.”
— Corey Brown, West Park Baptist, London, ON
“I know this seems like a no-brainer – but my Sunday morning begins on Saturday night. It’s been a priority since I started leading worship 20 years ago to begin the preparation process on Saturday evening. My wife and I have a standing arrangement that we do not book anything on Saturday night – we often turn down invitations to events and dinners for the sake of preparing ourselves for Sunday morning. Although I have chosen the music and plan the service a week in advance, and had our time of musical rehearsal on Thursday evening, the Saturday evening is still critical to my preparation. This often includes going through the order of service, any notes I have on transitional “words of worship” between songs, some prayer time, etc. My wife and I may watch a TV show together – and then I’ll make sure my clothes are ready to go and I am in bed early.”
— Paul Turner, Emmanuel Baptist, Barrie, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by getting to the church building at least a half hour before anyone else. We typically practice at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, so early mornings can be difficult. However, when I’ve been able to give myself at least 30 minutes of quiet time with the Lord, before people show up, and chaos of work begins, I find I am much more energized, patient, and focused as I serve the church on a Sunday morning. — Jacob Elliot, Grandview Church, Kitchener, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by having 15 minutes of prayer time with the praise team, sound technicians, and individuals from our church prayer team. Sunday mornings are incredibly busy for me, so we schedule 15 minutes of prayer (30 minutes before the service) to help us take our focus off accomplishing the task of music ministry and instead to focus on the why of music ministry, and the who (God) of music ministry. I can lead with peace and joy when I have given the outcome to God and have fully committed the service to His Will.”
— Daniel Dayton, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Bloomfield, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by praying over and meditating on the day’s Scripture text, walking through the sanctuary picturing the congregation’s faces and situations, carefully aligning my thoughts and heart to the worship service’s “takeaway” of the day, then recounting that to the team and reminding them to point to Christ in an encouraging way before a time of team prayer.”
—Dan Salmon, Westney Heights Baptist, Ajax, ON
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by thinking about and praying for the people that I will be leading. It is easy to make things all about me, especially in worship ministry, but it’s paramount to contemplate how everything will best serve the congregation. This includes new people walking into church for the first time, students and young people in the service, families and children, old faithful saints that have been worshipping here long before me. Throughout my preparation I want to be asking, “How can I bless them and point them to Jesus most effectively?” and praying, “God, open their eyes to see the beauty of the Gospel in a new and fresh way through this service.”
— Luke Cuthbert, Summerside Church, London, ON
“Preparing for a worship service is a week-long process for me. My best preparation times are at the piano, worshipping by myself. I find that if I just try to “engineer” a song set and a service on paper or on the computer, it often falls flat. But if I worship alone and feel the presence of the Lord myself, the service seems to come alive by the Holy Spirit working through the team. Just before we lead our service, we gather our music and tech team together as one, to pray for each other, and for the hundreds who will attend the service. We often serve communion to each other. This alone has changed the working relationship of our team, and has ramped up our spiritual preparation.” — Gary Sharpe, Forward Baptist, Cambridge, ON
“The way I personally prepare (when I’m preparing properly!) is by taking time alone, often in the space we’ll be worshipping in. With the upcoming gathering in mind, I will take time to read, pray, and meditate on the truths we will be touching on in the service, asking that God work in all our hearts and minds as we meet in His name.” — Ben Smith, Bonnyville Baptist, AB
“The way I personally prepare before a worship service is by… making sure all the details are cared for so that I, the worship team, and other service participants can truly enter into worship and meet with God. If my heart and mind are clouded, I will be forced to “go through the motions” rather than experiencing the Lord’s presence. Through prayer, through preparation, and staying sharp with God, I can experience the ‘peace of God’ (Phil. 4:7) which puts me in a right place to lead on Sundays.” — Lee Brubacher, West Highland Baptist, Hamilton, ON
Romans 12:1 qualifies the word “worship” with the word “spiritual”. This is the Koine Greek word “logikos”, which we translate into English as logical or reasonable. In other words, in view of God’s “mercies” bestowed generously upon us, it is “reasonable” to render a wholehearted devotion when we praise God. Worship is logical when I ponder the goodness of God’s character. God is worthy of my worship. It is something I do; want to do.
Biblical worship is something I do. It is not so much a state of being (pagan worship) but a verb. The 19th Century philosopher, Sorën Kierkegaard, put it this way:
“In Christian worship…. God is the audience, the congregation the performer and the minister, choir and other leaders are the prompters.” The congregation is not the audience, but the performers. We do not come to the 10:00 a.m. service to observe and spectate, but to participate.”
A big “Thank you” to the Fellowship worship pastors suggested ways to prepare ourselves to actively celebrate when we gather with our church family to praise and extol our great God and King.
Have a blessed week,
I recently learned of a wonderful way in which one FAIR donor was seeking to raise funds for our Fellowship humanitarian and relief appeals. I’d like her to explain, but first…
Our current FAIR appeal is called Brightening Smiles.
We are seeking support for our mobile dental clinic in Cambodia. Oeut and Nhep Pech have cared for thousands of patients in rural villages in Cambodia, hundreds have come to Christ, over 50 dental students have been converted and four churches have been planted since 2007. Their ministry has been extraordinarily fruitful!
The FAIR mobile dental clinic receives no funding from the Cambodian government. I visited them a few years back and watched Nhep and dental students do extractions, fillings, and other dental procedures. Each patient also received a clear presentation of the Gospel. It was a fascinating day of practical Gospel penetration in a very remote Cambodian village
A FAIR Easter Offering
Would you consider an Easter offering for this FAIR appeal? Either yourself personally or your church? To find out more and get access to promotional materials like a poster, bulletin insert and video for Brightening Smiles,
A Creative Way to Support a FAIR Appeal
I heard from Averil Smith (Lansing Avenue Baptist Church, Sudbury, ON). She and her husband Mark serve on the pastoral team at Lansing. She is a busy mother of two and an artist. She decided to use her artistic skills as a means to fundraise for future FAIR appeals. I asked Averil to explain:
“At the Fellowship National Conference in 2016, I heard about the Philippines: Rebuilding Innocence project and my heart was deeply troubled. Back in my hotel room, taking in the amazing view of Niagara Falls, I began to dream. I had attended a few social painting events in Sudbury and thought it would be fun to teach a class myself. Would people really pay to spend an evening painting with me? Could I help alleviate some of the pain and suffering of these children? With the full support of my husband, and the encouragement of my adventurous sister and some enthusiastic friends, The Paint FAIR Project was born.
“I hosted painting parties in my home every Monday evening in February, “the month of love,” to introduce people to the concept of step-by-step painting instruction in a social setting. Participants paid $30 to attend; $5 covered the cost of supplies and $25 was given as a charitable donation to FAIR.
“Over the year I taught twenty-seven parties, ranging in size from two to 30 participants, including children all the way up to seniors. Together we raised $5,000 for various FAIR appeals. In addition to raising funds, we also spread awareness about FAIR and the plight of the people it supports, enjoyed fellowship, and created beautiful art.
“FAIR is on the front lines bringing the Gospel and hope to some of the world’s deepest needs. Please consider the resources God has placed at your disposal: talent and time, people and passion. What will your project be?”
Thank you Averil, for using your God-given talent to bless so many children in the Philippines. So many more of us could follow Averil’s example and mobilize many more people in giving to future FAIR relief, development, and justice projects. Please start today by thinking how to encourage others to give to our current Easter appeal, Brightening Smiles.
Thank you for generously giving.
Have a blessed week,