Tag Archives: worship

the sound of renewal

What is the sound of renewal?

What should we be listening for when God’s people gather as a collection of individuals all uniquely exposed to the renewal of the gospel in their lives? Or, what should I be listening for when I sit across a table at Starbucks, or Perk on Main (our local coffee shop), talking to a broken person whom God is redeeming in the present through the past work of Christ and the continual work of the Spirit?

I have been thinking about this.

I have been wrestling.

As regards West Valley PCA… we are a church that is growing.  Every Sunday when we gather, the critical mass is expanding such that the SOUND of our gathering should crescendo just the same.  But what is that sound?  What is the sound of a people gathered by God, whom he has been renewing daily, personally, and thus corporately?  How does renewal sound when we call to God in worship, or sing in celebration, or collectively repent in liturgical prayers?  How does renewal sound in small groups and coffee shop meetings?

I want to know the sound of renewal that grumbles within people.

We should know the sound of renewal that the gathered of God should be known for.

While pondering all this, I happened upon Ezra 3.  Immediately, I knew I was being informed by the Word of God about the SOUND of RENEWAL.  This is the hope of my soul… that I would pastor a church that has the acoustics of redemption.  That my family would sound this way… and be part of the sound.

It’s an honest sound, to say the least.  But let me not analyze it…I will leave the Word of God to you.  The context of Ezra 3 is simple: God’s people have been brought back from exile, and are privileged (by the decree of Cyrus) to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed.  Upon the completion of the new foundation, the people all gathered in worship.  They were back in the land promised them by God!  They were together!  They were experiencing a renewal of God’s plan and place and presence!  What was that sound???

Ezra 3.10-13 – And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord… they sang responsively, praising God and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”  And all the people SHOUTED with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, WEPT with a loud voice… so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  God’s people, renewed by God yet struggling because it is all still so broken, so imperfect, so not quite finished.  Yeah, to me as the pastor of West Valley PCA and as a man and husband and father… what I hear from the renewed is all so, indistinguishable.  People weeping as they long for MORE, God, please MORE!  People shouting as they taste freedom and see the glory of God in their lives for the first time.  That is the life.

Sounds like renewal to me.  Sounds like reality til Jesus returns and the weeping fades away (Revelation 21)…

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west valley presbyterian church – services have begun!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

 

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

We are so thankful that the Lord gathered his people and inhabited our praises this past Sunday as west valley presbyterian church (pca) gathered for our first preview service.  It was an unadvertised sacrifice of worship wherein we planned to give God our new expression of praise, unsure of exactly what it would be!  The Lord was gloriously present in our worship and community – and he brought more than we expected… college kids, neighbors and friends in our target area… close to 100 people to hear his gospel, to offer our broken but made-beautiful selves in thankful worship.  The text that resounded throughout the service was John 17, where Jesus prayed that we might share in both the GLORY and ONENESS of the Father and Son.  And that, I think, we did!  Through the gospel, we are glorious not grotesque.  Through the gospel we are one with each other and the Godhead!  What a gift.

kids sermon, the first try.  "I spy..."

kids sermon, the first try.

 

It is clear, that like children, we at west valley pres are being cared for and fed by our Creator and Redeemer and Father.  We are bruised reeds whom he holds and cherishes.  We are conduits of his kingdom into our broken world.  O God, may your kingdom come to the west valley as it is in heaven.  May we receive your gracious gospel in your church even as you extend it through your church.  O God, what is man that you are mindful of us?  What is a new chuchplant that you would gather people to yourself through us?  What is in store O God!

If you live in the lowermac and emmaus (west of allentown) region of the Lehigh Valley, come check us out!  We long to be a “come as you are community where Christ is celebrated and brokenness renovated”   www.westvalleypres.org

 

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processing the gospel amidst the process of churchplanting

I am becoming delinquent.  God has been gracing me with deep lessons on his gospel and his Church – lessons that I am processing amidst the busyness, but not as much over the blogosphere!  I do intend to keep writing… (I apologize as if I have regular weakchristian readers who have missed me – prideful man that I am.)

an update on how I am processing the gospel amidst the process of churchplanting:

I am reading in Ecclesiastes.  Enough said.  If you have a Bible and time, check out the parallel-but-contrast between Ecclesiastes ch.1 and Psalm 104.  What an amazing difference in the heart and soul of one who has a God-centered view of reality (Ps. 104) and one who rightly conteplates the vanity/meaninglessness/emptiness/vaporish-ness of life under the sun apart from awareness of the glory of our Creator!  I am chewing on that as I prepare to perhaps preach through Ecclesiastes as our opening exposition series at West Valley PCA (launching this Fall – hence the craziness)!  What a culturally apropos book, with HUGE gospel flashing lights to give us hope!

The other thing I am chewing on is the nature of the CHURCH as part of the Gospel, not just as the collection of “recipients” of the Gospel.  God has chosen to dwell among a people that he has formed by his Word and Spirit – we are his incarnated good news to our culture and neighborhoods!  See Ephesians 2:11-22.  We are a central tenent and irrevocable part of the gospel message… an awesome biblical truth to rediscover and ponder in an age of increased spirituality, yet decreased churchiality (ecclesiology).  I will share more of this – thanks to some studying I am doing on “the Sacramental Gospel” – by Preston Graham, Jr., pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New Haven, Connecticut.  Preston, you’ve got a new disciple.

Tomorrow (or soon thereafter) I will paste my July Prayer-letter to update you on the progress of West Valley PCA (a churchplant in the 3rd trimester, but still in embryo).

Grace and transformation amidst your brokenness and mine, your community and mine – solely through the gospel of Christ’s kingdom manifested in his church by his Word and Spirit!

jim

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the taste of God

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! 

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

 

 Yesterday I worshiped quietly over a cup of coffee while the family slept in on our beach vacation.  Last week I joined in worship with a few thousand PCA ministers, ruling elders and their families at General Assembly.  Two Sundays ago, I worshiped at 423 – the afternoon/contemporary service of Northeast PCA in Columbia, SC.  Three Sundays ago, I worshiped at Cornerstone PCA in Coopersburg PA. 

Every experience of corporate gathering is different. The taste of worship is unique.  How often I sin by evaluating corporate worship based on my palate… my taste buds.  But this week, I have realized something.  It is not about the taste of worship (meaty, ice-creamy, hearty, buffet-y).  It is not about the taste of worship at all. 

It is about the taste of the Lord.  His character.  His goodness.  His gospel of Christ’s perfect life and death for his children.  His drawing us to him by giving us new hearts.  His kingdom of perfect love that will restore all things.  His oneness with himself.  His love as definition.

Taste and see that the Lord is good!   Here is the reason for my post:  expressing my shame in how I enjoy studying (I have been reading and thinking and discussing with people for some time now) about the kind of corporate worship that pleases the Lord by being true to his Word and by engaging the whole person (the mind and 5 senses).  It has been fun to think about a worship experience that whets the palate as we taste wholistic nourishment.   I think I have done this without sitting in judgment on others, simply doing it out of consideration of our church plant’s coming worship services.

HOWEVER, I realize today how easy it is to think about public worship that pleases God (biblically-reflective and regulated elements, whole-person involvement, non-performance for man, etc.) without thinking about my life of worship that either is or isn’t pleasing to God.   In my LIFE, not just in the future worship services of West Valley PCA, do I taste and see the Lord’s goodness daily?  Moment by moment?  Do I rehearse through Scripture and prayer the goodness of the Lord to his people in his gospel – tasting moment by moment the character of my holy Lord (to whom I belong)?  Do I?  Or, do I just want to talk about the taste of a worship service… that will never do.

May my life be a sacrifice of worship where I give all of myself to taste all of who God has revealed himself to be… only then may I think and discuss a worship service where we give up all of ourselves in a transcendant hour to taste all of who God has revealed himself to be for his glory!

from the beach,

jp

 

 

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