Category Archives: Church Life

“I am amazed at my own belief, and I don’t Understand it …” Jordan B. Peterson

As we approach the Easter season, many of us take time to reflect on the person of Christ and the reality of who he is and what he has done. One of my favorite movies this time of year is Risen. A historical fiction following a Roman Tribune who Pilot charges with investigating the rumors of the resurrected Nazarene and to quell any insurrection that may be brewing. In his investigation, his eyes come to be opened. In this film, there are two quotes from Clavius (the Roman Tribune) that strike me. The first is Clavius struggling with what is before him. “I have seen two things which cannot reconcile: A man dead without question, and that same man alive again. I pursue Him, the Nazarene, to ferret the truth.” The second is Clavius trying to come to terms with what he has found. When asked, “What frightens you?” Clavius responds, “Being wrong. Wagering eternity on it.”

This is, of course, a fictional account, but it gives insight into the mind of those struggling with this truth. Now we turn to the real world. In his podcast discussion with Jonathan Pageau, who himself is involved in the Orthodox Christian tradition, Jordan Peterson seems to find himself in a similar struggle to Clavius. For those unfamiliar with Peterson, he is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, well known for his conservative views on political and sociological issues. While not a professing Christian, he has built much of his worldview on morality built on a Judeo-Christian ethic. The theme here is not about his sociological or political views. Rather it is the content of the struggle within him that reflects the same issues seen in Clavius. Here we see the heart of a man who seems to be on the precipice of truly believing. It is moving and compelling, and I pray for God to continue working in Peterson’s heart.

Now Peterson is not special because of his education or his high profile. He is simply a man coming to terms with an incomprehensible truth, what Paul called “foolishness to the greeks.”

“Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than mankind, and the weakness of God is stronger than mankind.” 1 Corinthians 1:20- 25

Peterson, in his podcast makes the following stements:

When speaking of Christ as the embodiment of “myth” and “Reality,” he says, “The problem is, is I probably believe that but I don’t know … , I don’t … , I’m amazed at my own belief, and I probably don’t understand it.”

He continues with, “Sometimes the objective world and the narrative world touch, … and I’ve seen that many times in my own life. And so, in some sense, I believe it’s undeniable.”

Continuing, he says that ” the ultimate example of that in principle is supposed to be Christ.”

Then he makes the statement that shows the true struggle he is facing. He says, “but I don’t know what to … , that seems to me to be oddly plausible. But I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s too …, partly because it’s too terrifying a reality to fully believe. I don’t even know what would happen to you if you fully believed it.

You can watch the podcast at the link below. The entire podcast is 1 hour and 45 minutes long, but the relevant portion is found from 21 minutes – 24 minutes and 30 seconds.

This is not unique to him, and it can be found in people from all walks of life. Some of you reading may be in this same struggle. I encourage you to pray to God to open your heart to the truth. I invite you to speak with a pastor of a good Bible-preaching church. Additionally, you can find some links below to websites for good organizations to follow-up with.

For those of you who know Christ, I to ask that you pray for Jordan Peterson and for all who find themselves on this precipice to take the step of faith into believing. Take time to build relationships and even serve as a sounding board to help them work through the truth.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Desiring God

Reflection on: Why We Are Going From Small Groups to Sunday School by Jim Davis

The points that Jim Davis presents are well worth considering. While I understand the intent of small groups and see them as historically sound, from Zinzendorf to Wesley, I believe that the points that Davis presents here are dead on where many churches have dropped the ball: Biblical knowledge, Developing of Teaching Gifts, Deeper Community, Cultural Engagement, and fulfilling the Role of the Chruch.

1) Biblical Knowledge – Do a quick search on Biblical Illiteracy and more than 71,000 results come up. The first three listed are “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches“, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem” and “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy.” It is recognized across the board that Biblical Illiteracy is a problem in the church today. Davis presents why the small group model is often not enough to counter this.

2) Developing of Teaching Gifts – Romans 12:6 – 8 tells us “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” While small groups have a reason for existing, they do not allow the opportunity for those with teaching gifts to truly exercise and develop them.

3) Deeper Community – As Davis states, this one seems counter intuitive. Most churches will tell you that one of the purposes of small groups is to develop community.  Yet while it can produce relationships within the group, there are two clear negatives that seem to arise. First is that these relationships need to be organic to truly grow, yet most small groups are artificial in their development, put together by the church leadership. Second, when these relationships do flourish, it is very easy to not become a community of the church, but little communities (or cliques) within the church.

4) Cultural Engagement – Here is the purpose of gathering on Sunday morning. Ephesians 4:11 – 13 tells us, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Sunday morning is the time to “equip his people for works or service.” Here God’s people come together to learn, to fellowship, to be built up, so that they can, in turn, take Christ to the world. Yes, small groups can prepare members for this, but too often it is just a time to gather with their group of friends, thinking inward and not outward.

5) Fulfilling the Role of the Church – This is a natural follow-up to the previous point. The role of the church is to teach and build-up the body for service. It is not to entertain or to, as Davis puts it, play matchmaker. When the church fulfills its God given role, we may just find that what the small groups have tried to manufacture, God will grow organically.

Final Thoughts

Am I saying that this will solve everything? Am I giving a guarantee that what Davis has presented is indeed the answer to any challenges in the church? Of course not. No one can do this, and I certainly do not have all the answers. Yet I believe that we need to be open to honestly evaluate our current practices. Are we doing them because it has become what everyone else is doing? Is our current model truly accomplishing what we intend it to do?

Is there a place for small group? Yes. But are small groups the miracle answer that many have come to believe? No. Whether we choose to use small groups or not, I think Davis’ point of the importance of Sunday School can not be dismissed.

Grace Applied

This fall we are going to do something that will seem crazy to many. We are going from a small group model to a Sunday school model (under a different name). Most church growth material over the past 20 years would advise against this move. We are a young, growing contemporary church. Why would we make that change? Here are five reasons.*

To Grow in Biblical Knowledge

The average committed evangelical today goes to church twice a month. Many churches don’t have an evening service so that means two times a month people are being taught the Bible. Couldn’t they just open a book? Yes, but most don’t.

Small groups are rarely times of Bible teaching, but Sunday school is. Small group leaders prepare for about 10 minutes while Sunday school teachers study and prepare all week. Beginning Sept. 10th, we will replace discussion groups about the sermons (which tend…

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What are your favorite Contemporary Christian Songs used in Church?

In the same vein as my previous series on hymns, I am planning a series on contemporary worship songs. To that end, I am asking each of you to share with me those contemporary songs from church that you have found most inspiring, that have spoken most deeply to you. This will allow me to compile a list that I can begin to work from as we look for how God can be glorified through them.

What’s in a Name? – Branding The Church

“Welcome to GraceLife.  We are so glad to have you here.”

Word’s like this are heard more and more often all across this country.  Why?  Because many Churches have jumped on the change your name band wagon.  They argue that by giving ourselves a new name we can better explain who we really are.  Really? So “Church” no longer does the job of explaining who we really are?

Churches have chosen to drop the word “evangelical”, “fundamental”, “gospel” and” Bible” from their name because it is “confusing”, “people really didn’t know what it means” or “it leaves a bad tastes in people’s mouths.”

So they change their name to something like, “GraceLife,” “LifeJourney,” “Crossway”, “CrossPoint,” etc. Now you may ask “Well, what is wrong with that?”  My answer is that, in and of itself, it is not wrong. The problem lies not in the new name, but the justification behind it.

Let’s take a look at these reasonings. First, what exactly does” GracePoint” mean anyway? This is clearer than “Gospel”? It seems to me you have to do as much explaining to non-churched people (and probably those raised in the church) of what “GraceLife” means as what “Evangelical” means.

Second, most of these churches have dropped using the word church in their name.  Now for some it may still be in their official legal name, but in their regular everyday usage they simply refer to themselves as “GraceLife”. Apparently the word church turns people off.  Really? So here is what I take from this.  We have allowed society to coop words like “church”, “evangelical”, “fundamental” and “gospel” so that we are afraid to use them. As a result, we choose the easy route and simply avoid them rather learn to defend their true meaning. So some have chosen to change their name rather than educate people.

But as problematic as I see this rationale, there is a more disconcerting reasoning behind the trend.


“We need to get people’s attention.”, “How can we get people to remember us?” So churches come up with a new name (and maybe a cool logo) so people recognize it immediately. After all marketing research has shown that catchy names and slogans are easier for people to remember. They call this “branding,” not unlike the symbol burned into the hide of a young calf by a rancher.

Now before you think that I am bashing marketing, I am not. Marketing is a great tool, but it is just a tool. A tool that has clearly worked in the world around us. When you see a Pepsi logo you know immediately what it is. But as a church are we supposed to be looking at corporate America as our example? Marketing should not be the guiding force of the church. That is to say, marketing research should not be a reason to justify a change, though it can help us find the best way to communicate the message of the gospel.

Catchy Names, Slogans and Logos

So marketing research has shown us that catchy names and slogans stick with people. I can quickly prove this true by throwing out several slogans to you and you will know exactly what it is. First, “Have it your way”, Second, “just do it” and third “your in good hands.” If you guessed that respectively these are Burger King, Nike, and Allstate you would be right. So catching slogans help us remember the company to which they are attached.

The same is true when it comes to logos. If I showed you a picture of “Golden Arches”, a “Red Target” and a “swoosh” odds are you would know what companies they represent. The first is McDonald’s, second is Target and third is Nike. Yes marketing has a job to do and when branding is successful, the logos becomes indelibly written on people’s minds.

Stepping beyond the slogans and logos we now come to the names. Marketing tells us that names should not be bulky. They should communicate what is important about your “company” in as few syllables as possible. So we look for quick easy names. As a result, rather than ” Walton’s Departments Store” we have “Wal-Mart”, rather than Boston Mass Transit Sandwich Shop” we have “Subway” and rather than “Sound of Music” we have “Best Buy”.

In each of these cases, branding served the companies well, but how does this transfer to the local church? When does branding cross the line from being a tool used by the church to being a guiding force of the church’s direction?

We Are Not Trying To Please People But God

It seems to me that the answer is not as complicated as people would have you think. Twice in scripture Paul poses the answer.  In Galatians 1:10 he presents the question we must all ask ourselves. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 presents it not as a question, but as a statement of truth. “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

Now I present these not as a condemnation of marketing in the church, but as a challenge to those who elevated marketing to the level higher than it should be. What is the deciding factor in your decision-making, pleasing God or pleasing man.  After all, that is the very essence of what marketing is. It is an attempt to find those things that will tickle peoples ears.  Those things that will get people excited and talking about the product. It is to find those things that please man. And while this does not automatically place it in opposition to God, it must make us stop and think.  Have we so taken from the world around us, that we see its systems on the same level as the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking of Christ

So as I hope I have communicated, I am not simply throwing marketing techniques out the window, but I am questioning their emphasis.  Is a catching name, slogan or logo where we need to be putting our emphasis.  If not, then what should be the emphasis of the church? As I ask this question I shake my head thinking, “Is this a question that should really need asking?” The emphasis of the church should be nothing less that Christ Himself.  This is why we come together.  We come together to worship Him.  We come together to entreat His help and guidance.  We come together to hear His word.  We come together to build His body. This is the church, believers in Christ who join together to build up one another and Glorify God.

For 2,000 years the church has had a “logo” that is automatically recognized the world over.  The Cross.  It symbolizes the sacrifice that Christ made, that He gave His life as an atonement for the sins of the world.  Travel the world over, and you will find the Cross.  In homes, on mountainsides and at the pinnacle of Churches.  Yet today, how many church building are built without a Cross visible to the sorounding community.  Instead, we send out our flyers in the mail with our churches new exciting logo.  A logo that too often fails to promote Christ’s Church, but rather simply our local congregation. Yes, perhaps the logo has a cross within it, but not at the forefront as it has always stood.

What of names? For years names of churches helped people to find them and to know what they believed.  The word church simply means “of the Lord”, that is to say a group of people committed to the Lord.  And while church has been taken into use by other religious groups, the almost universal understanding of the word is an assembly of Christian believers.  Beyond this, churches often gave a geographical part to their name, not to say that those are the only people they reached to, but to know its location.  And, until recently, almost all churches identified their beliefs system through terms such as “Evangelical”, “Baptist” and “Methodist.” In many of these cases, these were denominational identifiers to unite them with others of like thinking.

When I hear a name like “GraceLife” there is nothing that tells me we are speaking of a church.  There is nothing to tell me where they are found. There is nothing to help me understand their beliefs. And if I come from a particular denomination, there is nothing that lets me know this is a like minded body.

Final Thoughts

Lest you think I am judging all churches that changed their names as wrong, I am not.  I simply want us to stop and think seriously about why it is we choose to change names. What is it that is guiding our change?  Is the change glorifying to God or is it pandering to man? Is the name change really the image change we want to present or is our concern changing the image people have of us as a body?

So go ahead and change your name if it is for a valid reason.  Create your logos and slogans, but remember that the only change that really matters is the change that comes from within.  A change in the hearts of your people.  It is this change that will stick with those who look at your church, not names, slogans and logos you present.


Beneath The Cross of Jesus

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was giv’n,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to Heav’n.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide;
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Words by Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868
Music by Frederick C. Maker, 1881

See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Isaiah 32:1 – 2

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
Genesis 28:12

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:7

“I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.
Job 40:4

It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
Ephesians 5:12

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelations 22:4 – 5

I am not a fan of hot weather. My ideal temperature is in the mid-seventies. Yet I chose to spend a week with the Boy Scouts living on an island off the coast of the Florida Keys. Mid-seventies is what we were lucky to reach by morning. Needless to say, when the sun was high over head, it was well above my comfort zone. Thankfully our camp was set just within the tree line where there was shade from the hottest heat of the sun and a gentle breeze could be enjoyed. If it were not for the shelter from the sun, I do not know that I could have survived the week. This is the image which is drawn for us in Elizabeth Clephane’s hymn, “Beneath The Cross Of Jesus.”

The imagery of the break from the burning sun is presented starting in the first verse where it says, “Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way, From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.”

As we begin to look more closely, we see the meaning behind the picture. It is the cross, which is our shelter. Described as “a mighty rock within a weary land.” The cross becomes our place of refuge from the trial of this world. This image draws our minds to Isaiah 32:1 – 2 were we read, “See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” This image is tied to the Great King, Jesus himself who hung upon that very cross.

The hymn continues by describing it as “O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet.” It then begins to change the image from that of a place of shelter, to seeing the cross as the way to God. It is a “place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!” It bridges the gap that separated us from God, bringing together His justice and mercy. Just like the stairway seen in the dream by Jacob in Genesis 28:12, the cross is seen as the direct pathway to God.

But how can a cross be the way to God? Clephane reminds us that it was the sacrifice upon the Cross that makes the difference. A reminder that should come to us as we see the cross, for “Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see, The very dying form of One who suffered there for me.” It was Christ death upon the cross that opened the way to God. His death, in our place. This is a wonder beyond our understanding, and so the hymn writer says, “And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess; The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”

It is the wonder of God’s redeeming love that opens the door for us to know him. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” We have been forgiven of all our sins. The things that separated us from God have been erased that we might stand before him. He extends to us a love that we do not deserve. We are unworthy of His gift. Job understood this in chapter 40:4 when he declared “I am unworthy–how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” So the wonder of our unworthiness should remind us of the extend of God’s redeeming love.

The cross is our shelter and our bridge. It protects us from the trials of this world and opens the door to eternal life. It will lead us into the presence of God, that we may look upon His face. His face is the only sunshine we will need for all eternity. (Revelation 22:4 – 5)

Yes, when we find ourselves standing beneath the Cross of Jesus, we find ourselves looking at the bridge to God. This item of shame to the world upon which criminals died, is to us a thing of glory. So in the company of Paul in Galatians 6:14, who said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I join in the words of the hymn declaring, “My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.”

Read more about “Beneath The Cross of Jesus.”

The Journey Has Just Begun

Back on September 30 I posted the blog “Remembering Hymns and Their Place in the Church.” In that blog I committed to writing about a different hymn each day through the end of the year.  At the time, I thought it didn’t seem too much.  When I found myself in the middle of it, there were days I was not sure I could make it. Between my job, my various ministry commitments and my family, finding time to throw this into the mix was at times, near impossible.  But here we are, 93 days later and I lived up to my commitment.

Everyday, yes some were later in the day before they got published, but everyday I wrote. What I found is that some hymns I know like the back of my hand.  Some, I thought I knew, (maybe I only knew the first verse) but had never really looked at all the words. Some hymns are brilliantly profound and beautiful.  Some of the things we find in a hymn book, well there is a reason they are never used.

Most importantly though, I confirmed what I had already believed. The hymns still have a place in the church.  They bring unity to a diverse body.  They allow a genuine corporate worship of the body, that is everyone is personally involved in the worship and not simply following the whims of the leader. They are filled with deep reflection on the words of scripture.  They present theological truths that are foundational to what we believe.

Are hymns the only form of worship music? No.  There is a place, a time, a purpose for each.  But hymns, perhaps, best embody what Sunday morning has always been.  A time for the body to come together and renew as they join together to worship God as one.

So for the past 92 days I have written each and every day. As I move forward, there are still more hymns to consider. Starting today and going through Easter, I will continue to reflect on hymns, but I will cut back to three days a week.  My plan is to publish on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning to allow me the needed time to spend on my other ministry commitments as well.

Thank you to each of you who have joined me on this journey and I invite you to continue as we move now from the birth of Christ, to His glorious resurrection.

I’ll Fly Away


Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley, 1929


I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Psalm 55:6

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16 – 17

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as also I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ
Colossians 2:16- 17

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10

So with you: Now is your time of grief but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22


Children all over have found themselves in the same place every year. Waiting for Christmas. Waiting for the excitement and joy that will come with Christmas morning and the gifts that will be found under the tree.

But it is not as simple as waiting for the excitement of that morning, because these same children have been told that “he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake,” Santa Claus can see their behavior and it will have a direct impact on what they receive for Christmas.

So we find children behaving well and getting along with their siblings. We see them doing extra chores and helping out at home. In short, they are facing the the work of today, hoping for the joy to come on Christmas morning.

This is the theme behind, “I’ll Fly Away.” Brumley writes, “One glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” Just like the child waiting for Christmas has an end goal in sight, so we who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can can face the struggles of today knowing that there is an end target. This is not simply an escapist dream as some have proposed, but rather a reminder that whatever comes our way, it is temporary, giving us the strength to face it.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 17, Paul tells us, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The fact is we all face troubles in our lives that are more than we can handle on our own, but our focus is not on them but the promises of God. Our hope of the end day, however does not have us living simply in the future, but giving us the strength to live today.

But even when everything seems to be going right it is a dim reflection of what is to be. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that “for we see now in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. . .” No. we look not at the shadows that darken our vision, but forward to the day “when the shadows of this life have gone.” Because Paul tells us that “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16- 17)

No, we do not look at hide away living in the future that has not yet come. Rather, we live today with the strength we find in what is to come. It is because of this that we can sing, “Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away; To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).”



Read more about “I’ll Fly Away.”

Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Words by Julia H. Johnston, 1911
Music by Daniel B. Towner, 1910


But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:4 – 10


It is said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that is, “you don’t get something for nothing.” This is what we call a proverb, an insightful observation of the world around us. And as we look at the world around us, most of us would agree with this.

It is no wonder then that we are so excited when we receive a gift, especially when that gift comes out of no where and seems utterly undeserved.

But an undeserved gift with no string attached is exactly what God has offered to each and everyone of us. But this gift is only of use to those who are willing to accept it.  It is received by believing in Jesus and choosing to follow him.  We call this gift grace.

Ephesians 2:8 – 9  tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Salvation has nothing to do with what we do.  In fact, there is nothing we can do to earn it.  “It is the gift of God.”  And this grace is able to forgive us for all of our failings.   Romans 3:21 – 24 tells us, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Grace.  It is one of the most beautiful words in the world.  It is receiving, for free, something we do not deserve, something we can never achieve on our own.  This is what Julia Johnston expresses in her hymn, “Grace, Greater Than Our Sin.”

In her final verse, Johnston writes, these words, “Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe!” There is an endless list of words that can be used to describe the miraculous gift of grace.  And so I rest in the truth presented in the chorus, “Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.”



Read more about “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.”

Remembering Hymns and Their Place in the Church

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”  Ephesians 5:18-19

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  Colossians 3:16

 For those of us who grew up in the church, they can be fond memories.  Sitting in the pew, holding the hymnal in our hands and following along with the words.  In fact, this is where many of us learned how to read and follow music.  And it didn’t stop with learning music.  From these songs we learned scripture and theology. Hymns served as a key component of the Christian worship service for over 400 years.

But recently hymns have begun to fall silent in the church, being replaced by contemporary worship songs. And while some of these contemporary worship songs still carry a good message, many of the them are simply trendy, feel good, pop songs with christianized lyrics.

Now before you think this is simply a diatribe on how much I dislike contemporary music let me clear that up.  There are many contemporary songs that I love to sing.  My point here is not simply a matter of style.  I could list the many reason why I support the use of hymns and hymnals, but I will simply refer you to a couple articles written by Jonathan Aigner; “We Should Use Hymnals Because …” and “A Few More Reasons Why We Should Use Hymnals“. (A couple of the additional reasons in the second article were shared by me.)

No, this is not my personal bias and complaining.  There is a place for both in the worship service.  In his writing on worship, Max Frazier Jr. states:

“What Music Is Best for Worship?
The conflict over musical styles is the number one problem facing the evangelical church today. It is not witnessing to the lost. It is not missions. It is not training and disciple-making. It is what kind of music to sing. I find that very sad.
I think we have a clue as to what music is acceptable to God when we worship. It is found in the Colossians 3:16, the verse cited above. We are to use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
There is a place for psalms. The early church had as its primary hymnbook the book of Psalms. Many of the psalms were set to music and sung within the church. Psalms today are those portions of the Word of God that have been set to music. So we must ask, as we select the music for worship, “Do any of the songs teach us the Word of God? Is their text based upon Scripture?” Many of the newer praise songs are really portions of Scripture that have been set to music. . .
There is a place for hymns. Hymns have as their focus the majesty and greatness of God. They focus on the many attributes of God. Hymn writing has become a lost art within the evangelical community, therefore, we must rely upon those great hymns written in a by-gone era. Their words are timeless. Their messages still encourage our hearts. We must never let them disappear from our worship. . .
There is a place for spiritual songs. These are testimonies to God’s grace in our own personal lives. These songs are very relational and personal. The writers express experiences with God with which many of us can identify. These songs focus, not so much upon who God is, but offer thanksgiving for what God has done. . .
We need those songs that will help us learn God’s Word, the psalms. We need those songs that allow us to rediscover the greatness of God and the dynamic truths of our doctrine, the hymns. And we need those songs that allow us to celebrate God’s faithfulness to us, the spiritual songs. Each is important if we are to teach and admonish one another.”


To this end, my goal is to set forth a study of great hymns of the church ranging from 5 – 500 years old (or further on occasion).  I hope to share a hymns each day for the remainder of the year with my thoughts and scripture readings.  I invite you to join me on this journey and to share your thoughts.