(once again, WordPress logged me out midway through my draft, so this is mostly a second try, so I may miss a few things...)
This weekend, we focused on Philippians 3:1-11 for a message on "An Appraisal of Worth and Identity." From this passage, Joe pointed out that we are to place no confidence in our flesh (the things of this world by which we might try to identify ourselves) and we are to compare our lives and the stuff of life against Jesus Christ and His “surpassing worth” (3:8 ESV). Nothing we have to offer—nothing we have done—even comes close to comparing with the worth of Jesus. Our salvation is completely dependent on who He is and what He has done. Paul says it this way, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9 ESV). In the music this weekend, we focused completely on the gospel, recognizing our complete inability to save ourselves, and the unique ability and work of Christ to rescue us and to give us life. We are completely dependent on Him for salvation and eternal life, hence the repeating themes of “nothing but the blood of Jesus,” “You alone can rescue,” and “I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord.” Jesus Christ is all we have!
Here's our set from this weekend:
"All Because of Jesus" (Bb) [Steve Fee]
Call to Worship - Psalm 86:8-10
"I Stand Amazed" (G) [Charles Hutchison Gabriel]
"Nothing But The Blood (Your Blood)" (Bb) [Matt Redman] / Child Dedication (at Sunday 10:45 AM service only)
"Always" (Bb) [Kristian Stanfill, Jason Ingram]
"You Alone Can Rescue" (Bb) [Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin]
Message - "An Appraisal of Worth and Identity" [Joe Hishmeh]
Response - "Nothing But The Blood" (G) [Robert Lowry]
"All Because of Jesus" - This song is a strong declaration and reminder of where our real life comes from: Jesus Christ. It is only because of Him that we are alive. We have life in Him alone. As the verse says, even the breath that we breathe is a gift from God. We are completely dependent on Him, from beginning to end. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” Everything that is truly good is from God, and Him alone. Therefore, no one else is worthy of our devotion, our worship, or our glory.
"I Stand Amazed" - Like many hymns (think "It Is Well"), this one speaks to the past, the present reality, and future of our faith - our condemnation, our redemption, and our glorification in Christ. I believe that is what is so timeless about many hymns. It is a song that just revels in the amazing love of God for us. It is truly marvelous, and we should never get beyond a state of wonder when we think of it.
"Nothing But The Blood (Your Blood)" - YouTube- I love how Matt Redman took the thought from Robert Lowry’s hymn and reworked it into this song. The concepts of placing no confidence in the things of this world and of the blood of Jesus “[speaking] a better word/ than all the empty claims/ I’ve heard upon this earth” and “[speaking] righteousness for me/ and [standing] in my defense” are beautiful and powerful.
I also love the Brazilian version of this song, done by Fernandinho (the Brazilian equivalent of Chris Tomlin), “Nada Além do Sangue.” I first heard this on my last trip to Brazil in 2009, when I joined my friends on the worship team of Igreja da Paz in Santarém, located in the Amazon River basin in the Brazilian state Pará. They let me join in leading with them for their Sunday services (all SEVEN), and it was an amazing experience, one of the highlights of my life. You can get a glimpse of what their services are like Igreja da Paz Central. They let me lead “Poder Pra Salvar” (“Mighty to Save,” one of the few that I can actually sing in Portuguese…), and we also did this song, which has a very cool bridge part in Portuguese, and it drives me crazy that it doesn’t really work in English. In Portuguese, it sings “Eu so livre,” which translates into English as “I am alive.” I love the melody of that part, and how it simply sums up the result of what Christ has done. The best I have come up with is to simply sing the melody with no words, and then to repeat, “Nothing but Your blood…” This song makes me miss my friends in Brazil.
"Always" - This was our third week teaching this song to our congregation. You can read more about my thoughts on the song here. The congregation is definitely learning the song, and we are singing it out more together. We will let the song rest a few weeks and then we’ll bring it back to see it with fresh eyes. This is now part of what I would call, “our worship vocabulary,” or basically the songs that we know together as Fellowship Bible Church (a little bit of strategy here…). I think each worship leader needs to know what is the vocabulary of his context, and needs to be careful to teach the congregation he serves new songs intentionally and with a plan, so that they have a chance to know it and to own it, rather than just singing from the screen or wherever else they see the lyrics. In our church, we want the projection to be a backup plan rather than a crutch. We want our congregation to sing from their hearts, and to have the screen as a backup if they forget the words. We teach a new song at least three consecutive weeks to make this a possibility. I think many modern worship leaders, myself included, underestimate how many times our people need to hear a song before they know it. We wonder, “Why do they sing older song so well?” The answer: they have heard those songs hundreds of times, even if they didn’t attend church gatherings in their youth. It is likely that the newer songs we use are only heard in the context of our worship gatherings. So, they only hear it/sing it as often as we lead it in our worship gatherings. I think it is valuable to any worship leader to assess how many times our people have sung each song, and to be intentional about teaching our people the songs we sing, as I said earlier.
"You Alone Can Rescue" – This song was a great fit for the message this weekend, as it emphasizes that we are incapable of saving ourselves, and that only Jesus can rescue us. I also liked how this song tied together with “Always,” in referring to the passage from Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift my eyes up to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” This song is a simple, powerful declaration of confidence in the work of Christ on our behalf. I love it!
We taught this song a few months ago, and it was time to bring it back, especially for this message. I love how the congregation responds when they really know a song, and it was obvious that they knew this one as we sang it together. This is the fruit of what I mentioned above. We spent the time to learn this song together, and now, whenever we bring it back into our services, our people know it, and can sing it wholeheartedly. This, I believe, is one of our goals as congregational worship leaders. We want our people to be able to sing with sincerity, and that only happens when they really know, from experience, what they are singing. They have heard it, they have seen it, and they have sung it, and they remember it. It’s a beautiful thing.
"Nothing But The Blood" - This is one of my favorite hymns. The simple truth that there is no other pardon for sin than in the blood of Jesus Christ, tied to the truth that there is no forgiveness for sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). During the fourth service, a thought occurred to me: how many times did I sing this song while still having confidence in my own good works as it relates to my standing before God? How many of us have done this? We cannot sing this song honestly if we are still clinging to our own good works before God—we could not sing, “Nothing can for sin atone/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus/ Naught of good that I have done/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” May each of our hearts be able to sing this with honesty. I stand on nothing but the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who died in my place for my sins, who reconciled me to God, who made a way where there was no way, who is my confidence.
I am thankful for our team and our church, and for the opportunities we have to worship together. This weekend was refreshing for me. I never get tired of hearing and proclaiming the gospel in word and song, and this weekend was a beautiful example of just that. Christ was lifted high this weekend.
I hope you had a great weekend of worship wherever you were. Be sure to hop on over to The Worship Community to check out what other leaders and worshipers experienced this weekend. Have a great week!
I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Join the discussion!
In the Son,