Music for Sunday 1/13/13

“Only Thou art holy.”
“How great Thou art.”
“You are amazing, God.”
“Our God is an awesome God.”

These are all phrases from our worship music this week.  As we study the passages from Deuteronomy and see that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no otherwe’re going to spend time in our music reflecting on who that one God really is and what He can do.  As we sing in Holy, Holy, Holy:

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

And in How Great Thou Art:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

We’re going to sing the first two verses of How Great Thou Art.  The second verse is the one most commonly omitted when not all the verses are being used, but I wanted to include it this week because, together with the first verse, it emphasizes that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.  Here are these two verses together:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

But of course, all our words and phrases, all our human ideas and images fall short of describing or understanding our God’s glory, because He is Indescribable.

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty;
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring,
Every creature unique in the song that it sings.
All exclaiming,

“Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name;
You are amazing, God.”
All powerful, untameable;
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim,
“You are amazing, God.”

This will be the first time we’ve used Indescribable in worship, and I’m excited to introduce it this week.  If you’re not familiar with this song, here it is as sung by its writer, Laura Story:

And finally, our special music will be sung by Hunter this week, and I’m looking forward to that.  He always does a great job for us.  Thanks, Hunter!

Join us this week to worship our indescribable, all-powerful, amazing God!

Indescribable: words by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves and music by Laura Story.  Copyright 2004 worshiptogether.com Songs/Sixsteps Music/Gleaning Publishing.

One True God or One of Many?

This week in worship we will begin a new sermon series titled “He says, She says”. Over the next few weeks we will take a look at some truths of the Bible compared to what the world has to say about them. We will look at such topics as sin, salvation and the authority of the Bible to name a few. It is my desire that we would all be better able to answer biblically the questions about our faith that the world throws at us.

This week we will be looking at what the Bible says about God being the one true God. Often the world tries to tell us there are many gods…but what does the Bible say? Join us this Sunday as we seek to find out. Our scripture passage will come from Deuteronomy 4. 35-39 and chapter 5.6-7.

Music for Sunday 1/6/13

Happy New Year!  We’re going to open our first service of 2013 with O God, Our Help in Ages Past.  We last sang this song in September when we were looking at the psalm it paraphrases, Psalm 90.  This time I’ve chosen it because it’s my favorite hymn for the New Year theme.  Just as we can look back over the past year and see God’s care and guidance, we can look ahead and know that He remains our eternal hope.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!

Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last, and our eternal home.

This is one of the few songs in our hymnal with six stanzas, but we’re going to sing them all because it’s too hard to choose any to omit!  (It’s already been cut for use in the hymnal–Isaac Watts’ original poem had nine stanzas.)

Next, we’ll sing The Risen Christ, which is taken in part from the verses immediately preceding our scripture passage for this week: I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11).  Let’s make this our prayer for this worship service and this year:

O breath of God, come fill this place; revive our hearts to know Your grace;
And from our slumber make us rise that we may know the Risen Christ.

O Word of God, so clear and true, renew our minds to trust in You;
And give to us the bread of life that we may know the Risen Christ.

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit make us one.
In holiness let us unite that we may know the Risen Christ.

The two hymns in the middle of the service are on the theme from our scripture this week of “pressing on toward the goal.”  First is The Master Hath Come.  Here’s the second verse:

The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary,
And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
We follow the Savior and cannot turn back;
The Master hath called us: though doubt and temptation
May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:
“Press onward, look upward,” through much tribulation;
The children of Zion must follow their King.

And next is the song that immediately came to my mind when I read this week’s scripture, Higher Ground.

I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.

Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

The choir will be singing a new anthem called Prayer of Blessing, which is a prayer seeking God’s blessing and guidance for the coming year.  The words are new, but the tune is very familiar; you’ll recognize it right away.

We’ll close with Let It Be Said of Us, another song that brings together the ideas from Philippians 3 and is such a fitting song for us to sing as a church family as we prepare for the coming year.

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion,
That with gladness we bore every cross we were given;
That we fought the good fight, that we finished the course
Knowing within us the power of the risen Lord.

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song;
By mercy made holy, by the Spirit made strong.
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song
‘Til the likeness of Jesus be through us made known.
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.

The Risen Christ: words and music by Keith Getty and Phil Madeira.  Copyright 2005 Thankyou Music/Mail Train Music.  Let It Be Said of Us: words and music by Steve Fry.  Copyright 1996 Maranatha! Music/Word Music, LLC.

Looking Forward

This Sunday our scripture passage will come from Philippians 3.12-15. As we take a look at this passage we will seek to find out how we can move forward into the new year in a way that best honors God and His calling on our church.

Also please remember that on Wednesday evening January 9 we will have career missionaries visiting with us. Dinner will be at 5.45. Everything else will start at 6.30 like normal. I hope you will make plans to join us and hear how God has used this great couple for His glory.

Pastor Mike

Starting Off Right!

Wow…can you believe that the year 2012 is almost over? It seems to me that it has gone by pretty quickly. This is that time of the year when most people will take stock of the past 12 months and look forward to the turning of the calendar page. Most people do this with an eye towards a fresh start in a new year. I do not see anything wrong with this even though this is one of those artificial “deadlines” so to speak. For the most part things will be the same when you wake up on January 1, 2013 as they were when you go to bed on December 31, 2012. But since we as a culture are in the habit of making much about such things, we as a church will look at how it can impact us.

This Sunday in worship we will look at how we can Start off Right in the new year! Our main passage of scripture will come from Colossians 3.1-17. I will tell you four things I think we should do as Christians and a body of believers in order to start our year off right! I hope you will join us for worship this Sunday and each Sunday of the coming year!

Happy New Year!

Pastor Mike

January Newsletter

The January newsletter is here.

Also, if you missed our Christmas Eve service, you can listen to it here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A Child Is Born!

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Merry Christmas
from Pastor Mike and Anna Ruth!

God with us…

Can you feel it? The excitement is in the air as we get closer and closer to Christmas. But in the midst of all of the activities of Christmas, please do not miss the real meaning of what we celebrate. It is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ that we celebrate on Christmas. In Matthew 1 we are told that the prophecy says “they will call His name Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God with us! Wow, when we stop to really think about that the implications of that, they are incredible.

This Sunday in our message we take a look at just that, what it means that God is with us. Our primary scripture passage will come from Matthew 1.18-25 and Isaiah 9.1-7. Please join us for worship. Also make plans to join on Christmas Eve at 6.30 as we celebrate the birth of our Savior with a Candle Light and Lord Supper service.

Pastor Mike

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Monday, December 24, 6:30 pm
Bring your family and join us for this special time of worship as we celebrate our Savior’s birth through Scripture readings, music, candle lighting, and observing the Lord’s Supper.

Music for Sunday 12/16/12

This Sunday, the Celebration Choir will lead us in worship through their Christmas cantata, Night of the Father’s Love.  Please plan to join us!

The composer of the cantata, Pepper Choplin, says of the writing process: I focused on the words “worship, mystery, and beauty.” My desire was not to be on the cutting edge, but to create a fresh telling of the Christmas story that is worshipful and beautiful.  The result is a lovely collection of readings and songs–both new music and traditional carols–based on three themes: The Anticipation, The Story, and The Response.

1. The Anticipation
We’ll open with The Coming of the Lord, which quotes from Psalm 24:7: Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in and from Isaiah 40:3-5: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  This song is to prepare us for the great story of hope and love that’s about to be told: our waiting soon will end!  God will dwell with us as Emmanuel.

Lift up your heads, O gates, and make the highway straight,
Prepare to celebrate the coming of the Lord!
Your waiting soon will end, God’s glory will descend,
Rise up and welcome in the coming of the Lord.
Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord!
The ancient words foretell, God with us, He will dwell,
Christ, our Emmanuel, and all will see the glory of the Lord!

The second song is simply called Waiting.  It’s a prayer with three parts: 1) We are waiting, 2) We are listening, and 3) Give us patience.

Waiting, we are waiting, Lord.
Fill the mind ’til we find Your light, Your truth.
Waiting, we are waiting, Lord
Fill the mind ’til we find Your will, Your way.

Now let us know Your presence, Lord, Emmanuel, God be with us.
We welcome You with open hearts, Emmanuel, God be with us.

Listening, we are listening, Lord.
Draw near, let us hear Your Word for us.

Patience, give us patience, Lord.
When we pray, give us faith that You hear every prayer.

I find this to be a challenging message.  Are we really seeking God’s will and God’s way?  Are we really listening for His word?  Do we have faith that He hears our prayers?  These are all parts of making room in our own lives for Emmanuel, God with us.

2. The Story
The events of Christ’s birth are told here over the course of four songs which cover the announcements of the angels, the birth, the shepherds, and the wise men.  First is Angels Are Making Their Rounds, which is my favorite song in the cantata.  Look at all the angel activity recorded in the Bible surrounding Christ’s birth: the angel who told Zechariah that Elizabeth would have a son, the angel who told Mary she would have a son, the angel who Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, and the angels who brought the good news to the shepherds. In this song, each of these messages is sung by a section of the choir (alto, soprano, bass, and tenor), each with its own melody, and then all four of those melodies are sung at once!  The effect is that of many angels making their rounds with their messages from God.

Fear not, Zechariah, for the Lord has heard your prayer.
Elizabeth will bear a son.

Hail, O blessed one, you have found favor with God.
O blessed one, you have found favor with God.

Fear not, Joseph, go and take Mary to be your wife,
For she carries a holy Child.

Unto you is born a Savior.
Glory to God and peace on earth, for now the Lord is with you.

The next song is Night of the Father’s Love, which gets its title from the two carols it blends together: Of the Father’s Love Begotten and Silent Night.  Of the Father’s Love Begotten is a lesser-known carol for many people, but the words are beautiful.  (This text is from the 5th century AD and the tune is from the 11th century, so if you tend to like older songs, here you go!)

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega. He, the source, the ending, He.
Of the things that are, that have been and the future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore.

After the choir sings this verse, the women continue with the same words at the same time the men are singing Silent Night.  Listen for how well these two melodies work together.

The next part of the story is the shepherds, told in The Shepherds’ Song.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came near and glory shone around.

He said, “Fear not, for I bring good news, it shall be for all people.
For unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord.

For unto you is born this day, there in Bethlehem,
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord, and this shall be your sign:

And this shall be the sign to you: for you shall find the baby,
There, all wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!

The words gloria in excelsis Deo (glory to God in the highest) have been set to music many, many times with many composers’ ideas of the sound of “a great company of the heavenly host.”  And of course we won’t know until we reach heaven what that sounds like, but we can still praise God through these words and through the writings of composers using God’s gift of music.

The story of the wise men is told in Seeking the King, an interesting song because it’s told from the perspective of the wise men themselves–and ourselves, as we continue to seek after our King.  Here’s an interesting thought:

We bring gold to crown Him with royalty, frankincense to show His divinity.
We bring myrrh, the fragrance used when someone dies,
Though we’re not sure the reason why.

Did the wise men realize what was ahead for the newborn King?  Did they know that instead of reigning over an earthly kingdom, that He was the one who would be bruised for our transgressions?

3. The Response
What would be your response to a face-to-face encounter with Emmanuel, God with us, as the shepherds and wise men had?  You would Fall on Your Knees, as they did, and worship Him:

Come, see the Child, He is here by the fire,
Silently come, draw near the manger side.
Look in His face and see the world’s salvation,
And feel the holy peace, fall on your knees.

Come now, and fall on your knees as you worship in His presence.
Thanks be to God you have found the holy Child.
Blessed are all who have seen the Lord’s salvation.
Come and lift your voice. Let your heart rejoice
And praise the Prince of Peace.  Fall on your knees.

And having worshiped Him, you would want to tell others about your encounter!  That’s the idea of the last song, Christ Is Born, Nowell!

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell!
Joyous news we come to tell,
Christ is born, Nowell!

I want to say a special thank you to each member of the Celebration Choir.  Thank you for spending every week since August rehearsing, practicing at home, marking your music– and remembering to look at what you marked in your music!  Thank you for your loving and giving spirit as you work together to prepare to lead others in worship.  Special thanks to Dee and Hunter for joining us.  Thank you to our narrators, Lara, Tom, and Janice, for sharing the story through the spoken word, and to Steve for wrestling the sound system into submission!

Glory to God in the highest!

Night of the Father’s Love: The Awe and Mystery of God with Us by Pepper Choplin.  Copyright 2010 Lorenz Publishing Company. CCLI #3163058.