Being a Son, Not a Son-in-Law

I was at church yesterday and the preacher was teaching about Praying with Power.

She taught that one of the main keys to effective prayer is to know our identity in Christ.

John 1:12 says:

To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

The point the speaker made was that if we realise we are God’s children, we have a right to our inheritance in Christ, making us bold in our prayers and petitions.

I think this is a point easiest understood by those who are married.

Even now, when I go visit my parents’ home, I am completely at ease opening up the freezer and reaching for my mum’s extensive ice-cream collection. Even though my wife shares the same weakness for ice-cream as I do, she is much more hesitant and cautious. She will only have an ice-cream if my mum asks if shed like one.

The opposite is true whenever I stay with my wife’s parents in Singapore. Even though I am told to feel at home, inevitably, I feel more like a guest.

Thats the difference when we live our lives as sons (or daughters) of God rather than as sons (or daughters)-in-law.

Under the covenant of grace, we have access to every blessing that God has promised through His son. We are adopted into God’s family and are co-heirs with Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly places in a position of authority. Despite this, we often live as though we are still under the law, as if we are sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. We are careful when we approach God; we feel like we still need to do things to please Him and earn His favour.

I am thankful that the favour of God under the covenant of grace is unmerited! It doesn’t depend on what I do, but its all about what Christ has done for me! I am so grateful that I am a son of God, rather than a son-in-law!

Epochal Songs of the Praise and Worship Movement

I have been leading worship for the last 19 years within the Charismatic Renewal and I have seen the style (and to some extent) the content of our worship evolve. Rewind 20 years back and it would have been unimaginable for the church back then that we would sing the types of songs we sing today.

The instrumentation has changed. From keyboard-driven and big band orchestral music, the forerunner music of today’s worship is guitar-driven grunge and electronic techno.

We have also moved on from traditional hymnology to a much more prophetic, apostolic lyric but at the same time, injecting elements of heartfelt personal poetry and imagery. Worship music is beginning to bridge the cultural divide between sacred and secular.

The praise and worship movement had its origins in the 1960’s. Two streams were particularly influential: presentation blue-grass gospel songs (popularised by the Gaithers) and the Jesus People movement (which brought rock-and-roll music and musicians into the church). (It is interesting to see even then how the generations converged in Charismatic worship).

Since then, those on the cutting edge have continued to revolutionise worship music, bringing to it strong artistic merit without comprising biblical content.

An epoch means an era or season. And so when I refer to “epochal songs”, I am referring to songs that are significant to an era or season of the church in one of two ways: either it defines the season (i.e. it captures and articulates the heartcry of the church at a moment in time, usually an emotion or perspective which was felt but not yet expressed) or it is defining of the season (i.e. it catapults the church into a new prophetic direction).

Here, I want to list what I believe are the epochal songs of the praise and worship movement. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this but my opinion is based on extensive reading, listening and thinking about praise and worship and also experiencing it first hand for the last 22 years of my Christian walk.

So here they are – my list of the 15 epochal songs of the praise and worship movement in chronological order:

  1. All Hail King Jesus (Dave Moody, 1977)
  2. Give Thanks (Henry Smith, 1978)
  3. I Love You, Lord (Laurie Klein, 1978)
  4. As the Deer (Martin Nystrom, 1984)
  5. Ancient of Days (Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler, 1992)
  6. Power of Your Love (Geoff Bullock, 1992)
  7. Shout to the Lord (Darlene Zschech, 1993)
  8. Everything That Has Breath (Michelle Hira/Parachute Band, 1994)
  9. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1994)
  10. Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1994)
  11. Breathe (Marie Barnett, 1995)
  12. History Maker (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1996)
  13. The Heart of Worship (Matt Redman, 1997)
  14. How Great is Our God (Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Jesse Reeves, 2004)
  15. How He Loves Us (John Mark McMillan, 2005)

In my next several posts, I will explain why I have picked these songs and their significance to the worship life of the church. You may not agree with my list or you may think other songs should be included. What would be interesting for me (as a bit of social research) is to hear your thoughts on my list. What songs do you think should be here? Why do you think they are significant? I look forward to reading your comments!


The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness – Part 2

Today, I want to continue with the thought of 2012 being the year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. It is certainly a word which has resonated with me and it is one, which, it seems, has resonated with many Christians as well.

In his New Year’s message, Joseph Prince shared the key to unceasing fruitfulness by cross-referencing Jeremiah 17:5-8 with Psalm 1.

Psalm 1:1-3 says:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

The key is to meditate on the Word of God. Prince shared the thought that to “meditate” was to “mutter under one’s breath”; to keep the Word of God on our lips.

I want to bring this thought into the context of apostolic worship.

I believe that true worship transforms the worshipper. This happens in a number of ways. It is true that encountering God exposes our own sinfulness and convicts us to change. It is also true that we become like who (or what) we worship. But worship also transforms us, often not in a sudden, electrifying moment, but through a gradual process. This is where I think Biblical meditation and worship through singing intersect.

I remember many years ago, Integrity Music released Scripture Memory songs, Scripture set verbatim to music. It was a powerful and effective way to memorise Scripture. This is in fact how I memorised Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” – sing with me if you remember this song!) It’s actually a shame that not more worship songs these days record Scripture in this way.

So, the process of singing is one way by which we can take a Scriptural word or thought and internalise it by repetition. It is a psychological phenomenon which I am not equipped to explain, but I can only point to the evidence of my little niece who, at the age of 2, is just beginning to form sentences of longer than 3 or 4 words; and yet she can practically sing an entire song on her own (she needs to work on her pitching though, but not bad for a 2 year old!)

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head and it just keeps repeating over and over again? When I attended New Creation Church on the New Year’s service, the worship leader led the song “Unmerited Favour”. It’s actually got some awkward phrasing, but it now keeps playing in my head:

Now I’ve got every reason to rejoice
Your unmerited favour is on my life
It’s got nothing to do with what I did
But it’s all about what You’ve done for me
And because of the cross it’s plain to see
I’m irrevocably saved now I am free
And I’ll rejoice
In everything You’ve done
In everything You’ve done

Almost unconsciously, I am declaring the favour of God over my life! The power of music is not just to play over in our minds, but also to bypass our minds and affect our emotions. In fact, when coupled with the gestures of worship (such as bowing, dancing, lifted hands), it becomes a way we love God with our heart, mind, soul and strength.

So one way we can meditate day and night is to let the songs of the Lord ring in our hearts, increasing our faith to believe God for His will to be done in our lives.

It is therefore not surprising that the psalmist is also a prophet. The songs are forthtelling – bringing the future Will of God into our present.

I want to leave you today with a song (which is a bit dated now) but which captures the thought of “Unceasing Fruitfulness”. It’s called “Lord I Live by Your Word”, written by Mark Altrogge and recorded by Kent Henry. The lyrics paraphrase and capture Psalm 1 and Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Here’s the song:

As we begin 2012, my prayer for you is that in your life, God’s Word will not return to Him void. It will accomplish His will in your life. It will surely succeed. His Word transforms the desert, and His Word will transform You. May His Word water the soil of your heart and bring forth unceasing fruitfulness (and not only that, but also increasing fruitfulness) in 2012.

The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness

I had taken my seat in the cinema at Marina Bay waiting in anticipation for the start of the service. It was an interesting experience for me. Even though we would usually visit New Creation Church whenever we were in Singapore, this was the first time we were attending the service at a satellite location via live feed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The screen moved from rolling announcements to live feed as the worship leader took the stage. The first song started: the chorus of “Great is the Lord” – one of my favourite songs of all time.

It was part emotion, but mostly the presence of God. I sensed tears welling up. This was gearing up to be a great first church service for 2012.

After the worship ended and the chairperson read a couple of testimonies, Joseph Prince took to the pulpit. The whole congregation, linked through satellite at various sites in Singapore, waited in anticipation for him to release the vision for 2012.

Prince started with Jer 17:5-8:

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

In that context, Prince announced the vision for 2012: the year of unceasing fruitfulness.

Wow! That really really resonated with me.

There are two types of people: those who trust in man. They are like a bush in the parched land. They don’t experience prosperity when it happens upon them.

And then there are those who trust in God. Even when the heat comes, they won’t feel it. In the year of drought, they continue to be fruitful.

I’m making this my theme for the year too.

I’m not sure what the economic situation will hold. Life might throw some curve balls. But because my confidence is in the Lord, I will be like a tree planted by the waters. My leaves will be ever green.

In Rev 22:2, Scripture says:

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

No natural tree bears twelve different types of fruit: only the tree of life which is a picture of the cross. Because I am in Christ through the cross, I can bear fruit. I can be fruitful in every area!

So this year, I thank God for unceasing and increasing fruitfulness. In finances. In my job. In my ministry. In my relationships and family. It’s going to be an exciting year ahead.

And I believe that in 2012, my life will be impactful because the leaves are for the healing of the nations.