J. Gordon Duncan

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The L Y Life – Love What Others Love

fullsizerender-13The 14 year old plays Barbies with her 10 year old sister.

A wife watches a cheesy, action movie with her husband.

A husband goes on a walk with his wife at the end of a busy day.

And on and on. What do all of these have in common? They are examples of showing love by enjoying something that another person loves. Oh, the sister, the wife, and the husband may very well enjoy Barbies, actions movies, and walks, but in these instances, they are playing, watching, and walking purely to show love.

What the other person values, they will value, because that is loving as they want to be loved.

This is not an easy skill to learn. Many a child, and even adult, have said, “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to do it.” And that may be true. People we love have interests that we don’t have. But nothing shows love to another like spending time doing what the other wants to do.

It is a skill long lost.

It is a passion that needs to be revived.

At first, it is discipline.

In the long run, it is an act of love.

How can you love what someone else loves today to show them you care?

Your joyful presence will say more than many words.

September 26, 2016 Posted by | gospel, love others, mission, missional, the ly life | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Nothing Goes Right in Worship

This is our second post of worship observations. You can find our first here. This week, we talk about when things don’t go well – a common challenge for young churches.

At Evident Grace, we have been meeting for a year and a half. For church planters and church plants, a year and a half feels like five regular years. Each Sunday, you feel like you are taking giant leaps forward as you become more efficient in everything from setup/takedown, greeting, music, children’s ministry, etc.

And then there are the Sundays where you feel like you take giant steps back. It feels like you have never met for worship before.   No one seems to get anything right.

Here is my encouragement, fellow planters and young churches:  While each good Sunday feels like five years ahead, an off Sunday is not a five year setback. Let me give a painful example.

This past Sunday, we were launching a new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”. Excitement built fairly well, and several folks joined in to help with a decent amount of web/social media promotion. While I am given to hyperbole like many church planters, I could realistically say that folks were pretty excited.

But things didn’t go as planned.

For some reason, from the onset, I stumbled over my words. Apparently, I said that, “Christ was circumcised for our sins.” While true in one sense that was far away from my wanting to say that He was crucified for our sins.

I was leading our music as well. Leading a crowd in singing is something that I have comfortably done for over 25 years now, but apparently, comfortable was not yesterday. I couldn’t get into a groove no matter what. In fact, the team finally stopped one song and just began again.

My sermon was never was comfortable either. I felt rushed. I felt the need to over-explain everything, and I continually lost the ability to pronounce most every world.

We made plans to take the Lord’s Supper, but our elder wasn’t able to make it, so the elements remained lonely on the table – something we had to explain to our congregations and visitors.

I left assured that no one was ever going to show up ever again.

But here is the encouragement to my heart and to yours, young planter and young congregation. Our worship is not about professionalism and perfection. While starting songs together and ending them together is preferable, while a commanding sermon delivery is helpful, neither of those are necessary for worship. Worship must always be about grace. Worship must always be about the lifting up of Christ. Grace and Christ equal worship. Preciseness is a bonus.

Yes, you seek to improve in every area. You learn from things that go both well and poorly. You practice and study more. You offer areas that continue to struggle to God in prayer. And then you give thanks for what happens.

So, this week, we will work towards getting the songs right and pronouncing the words correctly knowing that Christ will once again meet us on Sunday. If we make mistakes, we haven’t stepped back five years.

Christ will be lifted up, Christ will be honored, and we will be transformed. We will wait for eternity for mistake free worship.


September 8, 2014 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, gospel, men, missional, publishing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letter on Expectation, Worship, & Faithfulness

Hey Gang,

You know there are certain elements in the week that give me a sense of what the service might be like and what God might do with us.  It might be the point in my sermon writing where I begin to see the connection between the passage of scripture and the circumstances of our lives.  It can be when I’m picking out our music or even when the rocking SK Music Team is practicing a portion of a song for the 5th time.  However and whenever I get that sense, my enthusiasm for worship, the service, you guys, and SK’s mission jumps up a notch.  The expectation that God might do something grand among us is motivating.

I want us all to live with that expectation.  Twice this week, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with folks about Haggai 2 where God tells the people about the rebuilding of the temple and makes many promises that ultimately only Christ would fulfill.  The children of Israel were still a stubborn, unrepentant lot, and God says, “Hey I remember my covenants.  I will work with you because my Spirit remains with you.”  In recounting that story, I am encouraged to know that God does keep His promises, His Spirit is alive among us and He works despite the fact that we are sinful and at times unrepentant.

Please make every effort to make it on Sunday, and make every effort to bring folks with you.  Let’s pray with great expectation and hope that God is going to do great things with us.

If you want to worship with us at SK, we meet each Sunday at 1030am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.


March 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Helpful Resource For Planning Worship Services

One of the resources I often use for worship service planning is the Worship Sourcebook. In it, there are a ton of great resources for planning and leading people in worship.  At the very beginning, there is a great article entitled “The Practice of Christian Worship” – I liked it so much I’ve included below for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy…

1. Christian worship should be biblical. The Bible is the source of our knowledge
of God and of the world’s redemption in Christ. Worship should include prominent readings of Scripture. It should present and depict God’s being, character, and actions in ways that are consistent with scriptural teaching. It should obey explicit biblical commands about worship practices, and it should heed scriptural warnings about false and improper worship. Worship should focus its primary attention where the Bible does: on the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of all creation and the founder and harbinger of the kingdom of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. Christian worship should be dialogic. In worship, God speaks and God listens. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God challenges us, comforts us, and awakens us. And by the prompting of the Holy Spirit we listen and then respond with praise, confession, petition, testimony, and dedication.  Scripture constantly depicts God as initiating and participating in ongoing relationships with people. A healthy life with God maintains a balance of attentive listening and honest speech. So does healthy worship. This is why our words matter in worship: they are used by God to speak to us, and they carry our praise and prayer to God.

3. Christian worship should be covenantal. In worship, God’s gracious and new covenant with us in Christ is renewed, affirmed, and sealed. The relationship that God welcomes us into is not a contractual relationship of obligations but a promise-based or covenantal relationship of self-giving love. It is more like a marriage than a legal contract. Worship rehearses God’s promises to us and allows for us to recommit ourselves to this covenantal relationship. One question to ask of any worship service is whether it has enabled us to speak to God as faithful and committed covenant partners.

4. Christian worship should be trinitarian. In worship we address the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God in three persons, the God of holiness, love, beauty, and power. God is the One who graciously invites our worship and then hears our response. God is the One who perfects and mediates our praise and petitions. God is also the One who helps us comprehend what we hear and prompts us to respond. In worship, then, we are drawn into relationship with God (the Father) through God (the Son) and by God (the Holy Spirit). Worship is an arena in which the triune God is active in drawing us closer, using tangible, physical things like water, bread, and wine; melodies, rhythms, and harmonies; gestures, smiles, and handshakes to nurture and challenge us. In worship we focus our attention on this self-giving God. This God-centered focus also keeps us from the temptation to worship worship itself.

5. Christian worship should be communal. The gospel of Christ draws us into communal life with other people. Worship is one setting in which we see the church in action and we attempt to demonstrate and deepen the unity, holiness, and witness of the church. Worship is a first-person-plural activity. It is extremely significant in worship that otherwise remarkably different people nevertheless offer praise together, pray together, listen together, and make promises together.

6. Christian worship should be hospitable, caring, and welcoming. Christian worship must never be self-centered. In worship we pray for the world and offer hospitality to all who live in fear, despair, and loneliness. Public worship sends us out for worshipful lives of service and witness. Worship not only comforts us with the promises of the gospel but also disturbs us (in the best sense) as we realize the significance of fear and brokenness in our world and the world’s desperate need for a Savior. Worship stokes the gratitude of our hearts that leads naturally to serving the needs of our broken world.

7. Christian worship should be “in but not of” the world.  Christian worship always reflects the culture out of which it is offered. Patterns of speech, styles of dress, senses of time, rhythms and harmonies of music, and styles of visual symbols vary widely depending on cultural contexts. At the same time, worship must not be enslaved to culture. It must remain prophetic, challenging any dimension of local culture that is at odds with the gospel of Christ.

8. Christian worship should be a generous and excellent outpouring of ourselves before God.  Worship should not be stingy. Like the perfume that anointed Jesus’ feet, our worship should be a lavish outpouring of our love and praise to the God who has created and redeemed us. Worship calls for our best offerings. When we practice music, prepare words to speak, set aside gifts of money and time to offer, and ensure that we are rested and ready to give our undivided attention, we are practicing the kind of excellence worthy of our great and gracious God.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Advance the Church – Tim Smith Worship Resource Recommendations

Tim Smith Book/Resource Recommendations

Unceasing Worship – Harold M Best

Worship Matters – Bob Kauflin

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Bruce Ware

When I Don’t Desire God – John Piper

Religious Affections- Jonathan Edwards

Convergence – Sam Storms

Culture Making – Andy Crouch



The Psalms

The Prayerbook of the Bible – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Treasury of David – Charles Spurgeon

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Worshiping With Your Hands Full

hands_fullI know some of you get around to reading emails and blogs on Sunday morning while some of you eschew them for the day.  Either way, if you are preparing to walk out the door or reading this at some later time, let me encourage you with the following words.  Let them be either prep for your worship today or an encouragement to return to community worship on some other.  They are taking from Jonathan Dodson and his work on Fight Clubs:

The Gospel demands faith and fruit, but supplies what it demands through the promises of God made good by the power of the Spirit.  The Father, Son and Spirit are collaborating for joy-filled, gospel-centered discipleship.  Oh, that we would adorn the Gospel of Christ with our obedience and with our motivations.  God is calling us to confess our failures and hope in the grace of repentance and faith.  With commands in one hand and promises in the other, we need just one more thing – the Church.  Disciples of Jesus are part of a community that fights the fight of faith.  What we need are small fighting communities that are committed to gospel-centered discipleship.

Approach worship with God’s commands in one hand and His promises in the other.  Arrive in this wonderful gift of God’s community, the Church, with great expectation that God is going to equip you to that which He has called.  If you are a part of Sovereign King Church, take advantage of Fight Clubs, Project Runways, and CE Groups to build you up for the fight.  If you are at another church, take advantage of the opportunities for smaller community efforts like small groups so that you might be encouraged to live out a gospel-centered discipleship.

Thanking God for all His gifts; worship Him today.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Compost Pile – The Best Frappuccino Ever

skd288686sdcI was hot and in desperate need of caffeine with just enough time on my hands to swing through the drive thru at Starbucks. I ordered a coffee/vanilla frappuccino and pulled up to the window. The young employee reached out to take my money and asked, “Are you ready for the best frappuccino ever?” I thought, “Wow, yeah I am.”

Now by asking that question, the employee definitely raised my expectations, but he obviously felt confident enough in his product that it would deliver on his promises. The effective marketer working for Starbucks took me by surprise. I loved his confidence and his willingness to put himself on the line. It of course caused me to think about…worship.

What are our expectations when we come to worship our God? Are we there out of guilt? Are we there with our list of complaints about the service? Are we there casually indifferent or even just casually? I asked that question to Sovereign King Church at the beginning of our service once. I asked them, “Are you ready for the best frappuccino ever?” The story got a chuckle from the congregation, but we eventually began to explore the line of thought.

We considered just why we were here together. Did we come to worship the most beautiful one, Jesus? Did we arrive with the expectation that we would interact with our Savior in a way that we hadn’t all week? Did we come with the hopeful expectation that God would be active and alive among us? Essentially, we short change the character of our God if we come any other way.

But the Gospel is always prevalent even in our shortcomings and even in our worship. We may not always come with the highest of expectations when we worship (we may even come with doubt or hate), but in worship, we meet our most beautiful Savior. Jesus instructs, rebukes, calls, changes, transforms, convicts, teaches, leads, and moves us in worship. So, with the knowledge and experience of that, my prayer for my church and for you is that we would arrive to worship our God (heck, wake up each morning) with the expectation of the best frappuccino ever.

A form of this post originally appeared on August of 2007.

September 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Romans 8:12-17 – Sermon Notes

The audio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

I am my father’s son and am proud of it.  For example, my father, affectionately called Sam, is a musician, and I am a musician.  He found the love of his life and married her as soon as he could.  I did the same, and though my 13 years of marriage don’t match his 54, I am well on my way to being happily married for the rest of my life.  My father worked 2-3 jobs to get through seminary, and so did I.  Sam happily became a pastor and found great joy in seeing people come to know Christ.  I am happily a pastor after declaring that I would never be one, but I have come to find the same joy that my Father had.

Now I also inherited some of my dad’s shortcomings as well, but out of respect to him, I’ll just own them instead of detailing them for you.  Any of my sinful proclivities are mine without much blame to him, and most of you know my shortcomings without me having to go through them one by one.

But in most ways, I am my father’s son and am proud to be so.

In the big picture, I don’t have any grand complaints about my dad, and I know that I am blessed in that.  Not everybody, in fact very few people, can say that they are thankfully just like their father.  Graciously, as we grow older, it is wiser to consider the strengths and talents of our Dads praying that God equip us with them.  As we consider their weaknesses, we pray that God would redeem them to obedience and strengths in our lives.

Either way, we are our fathers’ sons and daughters.  For some, that is a hopeful prospect and for others, it is a dreadful one.  But here is the good news:  when we place our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, a wonderful re-parenting takes place.  Our Heavenly Father is our Father.  He is not weak as earthly fathers are, and He is stronger and more pure than any earthly father could hope to be.  The wonderful promise of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17 comes to life in our lives because Jesus prayed, “Father, loved them as you have loved me.”  We experience the love and affection of God the Father to Jesus the Son in our lives.  He calls us His, and we call Him ours.

So, just as we reflect our earthly fathers, we are to reflect our Heavenly Father by imitating our brother, Jesus.  Jesus Himself declared this in John 8:42:  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

Living as the Father calls us to live and loving the Father as He has called us to love is done by imitating the true Son, Jesus Christ.  Understanding this is what we hope to accomplish at Sovereign King this Sunday, so in light of that, we are going to ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  Who does God call His children to be and how does God equip us to be what He has called us?

Last week, in Romans 8, we looked at the challenging truths that you and I live in either one or two ways.  We either are controlled by the flesh and live sensual sinful lives, ore we are controlled by the Spirit and walk in obedience.   These things don’t make us what we are; they are reflections of who we are.

This of course does not mean that the believer in Christ obeys perfectly or gets anywhere close.  But it does mean that awareness of sin should lead to repentance and asking for God’s enabling power to help us obey.  If awareness of sin leads to guilt with no change, it is further evidence of not knowing God.  The section of Romans 8 that we looked at last week ended with this wonderful promise:   11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in each and every believer.  That Holy Spirit gives each person with faith in Jesus life and the worship enabling ability to overcome sin.  Being called the Children of God, we are expected to live as those children by the power of the Holy Spirit.  With that in mind, let’s continue in our study of Romans 8 seeking to understand in greater detail what God has called us to be.

Last week, in Romans 8, we looked at the challenging truths that you and I live in either one of two ways.  We either are controlled by the flesh and live sensual sinful lives, ore we are controlled by the Spirit and walk in obedience.   These things don’t make us what we are; they are reflections of who we are.  This of course does not mean that the believer in Christ obeys perfectly or gets anywhere close.  But it does mean that awareness of sin should lead to repentance and asking for God’s enabling power to help us obey.  If awareness of sin leads to guilt with no change, it is further evidence of not knowing God.

The section of Romans 8 that we looked at last week ended with this wonderful promise:

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

The resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in each and every believer.  That Holy Spirit gives each person with faith in Jesus life and the worship enabling ability to overcome sin.  Being called the Children of God, we are expected to live as those children by the power of the Holy Spirit.  With that in mind, let’s continue in our study of Romans 8 seeking to understand in greater detail what God has called us to be.

8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

Let me remind us how we arrived at Paul’s declaration in verse 12.  Paul is returning to an earlier theme in verse 12 showing us that the empowering Holy Spirit is key.  A few Sundays ago we heard Paul saying that we are no longer slaves to sin but now we are wonderfully free to be a slave to righteousness.  You have been redeemed from far more than just torment in Hell.  You are redeemed to live obediently and righteously.

Another theme he is highlighting here is that there is now no condemnation for sin.  There is no guilt for the sin for which you have been forgiven.  Since there is no need for guilt because all of the debt for your sin has been paid, you are no longer in debt to your sin.  There is no single thing you owe to God because of your prior sin.  One practical takeaway from that if you do feel guilty, you should stop serving your old sin by wasting time feeling guilty over it.  Every second you embrace guilt or sit suffering from guilt over past sins means that you are living as if you are still in debt to your old way of life.

Paul saying that you are not a debtor to the flesh is the same thing as His saying there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  Let me see if I can frame this for you.  Have you ever had a massive bill to pay off and sweated the details until it was paid?  Perhaps it was a power bill or a mortgage payment that you just didn’t know where the money was going come from?  Maybe it was a series of payments and you just couldn’t wait to pay that last stinking bill.  Many times you have stressed and worried about the bill.  Maybe even you regretted purchasing whatever it was that you were paying off.  Then finally, the day comes where you pay off the bill.  You work a little harder to get the money or someone gives you a gift of cash.  You work hard and make the last car payment.  Whatever the case is, you are thankful and gracious that the bill is paid.  Now, you might still have some regret looking back that you had that giant bill to pay, but one thing is for sure, no, you no longer sweat the payment because it has been paid in full.  You don’t make room for it in your budget because it is paid.  You don’t sit around worrying about making the next payment because it has been paid.

Take that analogy and apply it to your sin.  Before knowing Jesus Christ and being forgiven, you lived in the guilt of your sin, and you know what, your guilt was deserved.  You should feel guilty for abusing the graces of God and wantonly sinning and hurting those around you.  There was a debt to be paid and it was the debt of punishment you deserved.  But now that Christ has forgiven you, there is no debt to pay.  There is no guilt remaining.  The proper response now that guilt is removed is as Paul says in verse 12, “You don’t live according to the flesh,” which means you happily serve and obey God, not to pay a debt but to demonstrate your love and affection of God who has forgiven you.

To emphasize that, Paul gives us verse 13.  13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Your options are two fold.  If you live a life of unrepentant and sin, you will reap what you sow which is a literal, physical, torment in hell for all eternity which is what a just God does to His enemies – our loving, just God makes no excuses for what judgment He pronounces on His enemies.  If you live a life led by the Spirit, which is gifted to you by God when you have faith in Jesus Christ, then you will (not an option here), you will actively pursue sin in your life and put it to death and then spend eternity in Heaven with your Father God.

These two things are unchanging.  People who do not have faith in Jesus do three things:  they sin without repenting, they do not obey, and they will ultimately die and spend eternity in Hell.  People who do have faith in Jesus do three things as well:  they sin but repent, they definitively grow in obedience, and they will spend eternity with their Father in Heaven.  So this passage is both a warning and call to repentance for those who don’t have faith in Jesus and an exhortation and command to those who do have faith in Jesus.

If you are not a believer, you are going to see the life to which God calls His children.  If you do have faith in Jesus, you will see that your task is to put to death the sins of your body.

Think of it this way.  If you are someone who is a clean freak, you are to continually examine your heart and mind and life and seek for that unclean thing in your life and ask God to help you repent and walk in obedience.  Just as you cannot stand a sink full of dishes or clothes with a stain on it, so you are to get rid of your sin.   Just as you look for dirt when you are cleaning, you are to look in your heart and find sin to repent of.  Because you know, if you stop cleaning, your house will only get more dirty and more nasty.  If you need a soldier analogy, I’ll put it like this:  sin is your enemy and you are in a war.  You never get to rest.  You must constantly ask God to help see the sin in your life, and you must vigilantly put that sin to death every moment of every day.  You know that in war, if you quit paying attention, you’re going to get shot.  It is either you or your enemy.  As a good friend of mine said, “If you don’t think you are in a war, you have already lost.”

The question I ask is this, “What is preventing you from putting to death the sin in your body right now?  What sin do you love so much, no matter the consequences to you and your family that you will not ask God to help you with?  What good do you know to do that you are not doing?  What lie are you choosing to believe in your life right now?  Everyone of us in this room can think of some word, deed, thought that we should immediately beg our Father to enable us to put to death.  Right now, God calls you to repent of sin, cry out in faith, and ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to walk in new obedience.  Let’s pray.

How We are Equipped to Be What We are Called in Romans 8:14-17

I do not have any doubt that the Spirit of God can lead you to places you never even thought possible.  But so often, I think we are hoping the Spirit leads us to places and revelations that are far less important than where He intends to take us.  Let me explain.  Here are some things that Christians want the Holy Spirit to lead them in.

We say “Dear God, just speak out the sky and tell me what car to buy, what job to take, what person to marry,”  Instead of reading our Bible, we say, “Tell me what to do, give me insight, or teach me new things.”  Instead of demonstrating faith, we say, “Remove all obstacles, make my paths straight, and most of the time, all the things we ask the Holy Spirit to do could be summed up in one word, “Abracadabra.”  Because what we really want is for God to pull rabbits out of His hat just to make us happy instead of living the life of faith.

Now, I can tell from what we are getting to see in this passage exactly what the Holy Spirit wants to tell you.  You want to know what it is?  Listen carefully.  Don’t miss it.  What the Holy Spirit really wants to tell you is… “You are mine.”

Let’s see why that is so much more important than God telling you pretty much anything else.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

You can see Paul here continuing the line of thought from the passage last week.  Last week Paul said that if you are a child of God, you have the Spirit of God, the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, and the Spirit leads you.  Now we mentioned in the introduction that there are all types of things that people want the Spirit of God to lead them in:  decisions, removal of obstacles, etc, and many of them are legitimate requests and prayers.

But for us to understand where this passage is taking us, we need to understand what the word lead or to be lead means in this context.  The word “lead” here in the Greek is the word Ag-o which works in this way.  It is the idea of an animal who had been tamed, who is being led by His master or owner.  So often, people think of the leading of the Spirit as the Spirit’s writing words in the sky which leads to some pretty wonky interpretations of every day events.

Now God can do what He wants, but the Spirit’s leading here is the taking along of His child, His child who has submitted their life to Jesus’ lordship, and guiding them.  Now we need to consider that aspect of the Spirit’s leading in light of the past few chapters.  The Spirit leads those who willfully follow the Spirit or those who submit to the Spirit’s leading.

Does that mean that the Spirit can’t or doesn’t lead those who are following Christ weakly?  No, the Spirit is like the wind and blows where it will, but the promise here is that Spirit leads those who have submitted themselves to Christ.   That’s the push of the Greek word leading and it is consistent with the exhortations of Paul from the past few chapters.  Just last week, Paul says that those who have the Spirit are the Sons of God.  The sons of God Are led by the Spirit of God who leads us to life, obedience and righteousness.  So, those who are led by the Spirit are growing in their conformity to the image of Jesus.

And where do the scriptures say the Spirit leads us in that way?  Well there are several scriptures that speak of the Spirit’s work, most noticeably John 16:13 that speaks of the Spirit of truth leading us in all truth.  2 Corinthians 3:18 – 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The Spirit leads us in truth and into the image of Jesus.  So yes, you can pray to God and trust His assurance as you make decisions, but the Spirit’s leading here is about understanding your Bible better and showing you ways in which you need to repent and be more like Jesus.   Maybe you hear that and you want that.  Maybe you want your view of the Spirit of God to be more than having your own person Jumanji or Magic 8 Ball.

I have people tell me all the time that God is leading them to do certain things, but these same people don’t ever seem to tell me about what they learned from reading their Bible recently.  I’m inclined to be a bit skeptical when folks ignore God’s 66 books of revealed will but feel like God tells them stuff all the time.  So I’m going to let you in on a secret or better yet, Paul is going to.  The Spirit’s leading you into all obedience, truth, righteousness, and conformity to Jesus derives from one place.  Look at verse 15.

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Wow, The Spirit of God does not lead you in the Spirit of slavery and to fear but into the Spirit of Adoption where your heart cries “Abba Father.”  Let’s try to unpack that first by looking at what a Spirit of Slavish Fear looks like.   Well a slave does what he does because He is fearful.  He fears punishment from his master.  The spirit of fear is the not the spirit of love and affection.  Paul has already told us that the spirit of slavery is to serve sin.  That is not the spirit that God has called you to.

No, the Holy Spirit wants to reaffirm in your heart that God loves you.  The Spirit wants affirm in your heart that God’s absolute, unwavering affection is poured out on you.  He calls it the Spirit of Adoption.  If you are a believer in Christ, you are adopted.  Prior to knowing Jesus, you were a son of Adam, a son of sin, given over to your own slavish passions.  But God adopts you.  He makes you His own through Jesus.  You become a son of God with Christ your brother.  And what the Spirit wants to tell you is this, “You are God’s beloved, and He is your Father.  Paul uses the Greek work Abba here which is the closest thing we can get to “daddy” in the Greek.  It is a word of intimate relationship.  This Spirit of adoption as contrasted with the Spirit of Slavery leads you to a passionate affection for Jesus for what He has done and God the Father for His adopting you.

How does this work?  Look at verse 16.

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

If you are a child of God, the Spirit bears witness on the witness stand of your heart to assure you and tell you that you are a child of God.  Not only have you gone from being a slave to a child, but you are also an heir with Jesus Christ.   You will stand in glory in Heaven because your brother Jesus has secured the unfailing love and affection of God the Father for you.

Folks, this is a treasure beyond measure.  This is so much more than God blessing you with cars, money, houses, health, or whatever else it is that you want the Spirit to tell you or God to give you.  He has given you more than you can imagine and definitively more than you deserve.  You are God’s child and an heir inheriting the blessing and love and affection of God.  Jesus prays, “Love them as you have loved me and He does.”

But here is the thing, if you want to be loved like Jesus, I mean really loved like Jesus, you are going to experience God’s love just as Jesus experienced it:  you will suffer.  Here is where the church is often ill-equipped in helping suffering people.  The Gospel is more than, “Have faith in Jesus, stop sinning, and you will go to Heaven and avoid Hell.”  That is part of the Gospel but there is so much more.  Applying the Gospel is the hard part  Of course people need to be called to faith in Jesus and if people know of sin in their lives then stop sinning, but there is more.  When we do have faith in Jesus and are actively trying to live the Christian life, how do we deal with suffering?  This passage says, “When you suffer, look in your heart for the resounding affectionate call of the Spirit that says, ‘you are loved by God with an undying love.”   That is real love.  That is real hope.  Unfortunately, because we are sinners, we often don’t hear that voice of adoption in our hearts until we suffer, until all else we depend on other than God has been driven out.

So much so does God love you like He loves Jesus, you too will suffer just like Jesus.  If you are God’s child you will suffer just like Jesus suffered, but if you suffer as Jesus suffered you will be glorified with Jesus which is practically unfathomable to think of.  This not only redeems suffering but also gives us a motivation to live as becomes a follower of Christ.  Suffering is inevitable and we need motivation to endure it.

Let me see if I can frame the big picture here.  There are basically 3 reasons why anyone does something.  Guilt , Conviction, and Passion.

When you do something out of guilt, it looks like this:  “Well this is what I’m supposed to do, and I don’t want disappoint anyone.”  Or, “They’ll all pretty much be mad at me if I don’t do what I said I would do.”  Now when that kind of attitude is applied to obeying God or the scriptures what happens is you are obeying on the outside but not in your heart.  Scripture says if our actions are not done out of faith, then they’re sin.  Personal obedience like this is not with a Spirit of Adoption.  It orphan talk not child of God talk.  Doing things out of guilt is spirit of slavery concerned about appearances and the outside result, not the Kingdom of God and the heart.  We won’t build much of anything here at Sovereign King if that is our motivation.  Folks following people who make them feel guilty just quit after a while.

When you do something out of conviction, it looks like this:  You are either tempted or given the opportunity to obey and you are reminded of a scriptural commandment and you think, “Yeah that is how God would have me to live.  That’s what God would have me to do.”  You know what the scriptures command you to do and not to do, and you live your life according to them.  You don’t do it out of guilt; you do it out of a belief that the commandments of scripture are right and you have a responsibility to live them out.  Living out of conviction is real obedience.  We can do a lot for the Kingdom of God here at Sovereign King if we were to be convicted by the truths of Scripture and allow them to direct what we do.

But what Paul is talking here in Romans 8 is being led by a passion for what Jesus had done for you.  It looks like this.  Because Jesus has lived for you, suffered for you, died for you, risen to new life for you, transformed you from a slave to a child of God and made you a co-heir, you want to passionately live out a life just like His.  And every bit of sin you kill in your life and every act of obedience to the scriptures is a resounding act of worship to God that cries Abba Father.  You do almost anything for the kingdom with this kind of passion.  I’ve seen it recently in the CE Groups.

Through the tireless efforts of Katie Tracy, Katie McKinney, and Ruth, they saw the women of the Hayes Place in Need, resonated with having their needs met through Jesus Christ and they have mobilized us to provide for the ladies there.  I’ve seen folks like the Steads who have so much to be thankful to the for, along with others of you serve the EMS and the GPD with the CE Groups providing meals and various other things.  I’ve seen folks open their homes to each other so people won’t be lonely and will have someone place to be cared for and fed or their children will have some place to play when Mom needs to go run errands.  I’ve seen those things done out of passionate conviction in reflection of Jesus’ work in their lives.

Folks, if you claim Jesus as your Savior, you don’t have the choice of saying, “Well, I know it’s the right the thing to do but since I’m not passionate about I won’t.”  No, if you articulate that, then you to need walk before God in obedience.  If you have convictions and live them out, praise God.  Ask that He will affirm your obedience as an act of love to Him so you will not grow weary in doing good.  But ultimately, we want to obey in worship and likeness of Jesus so that the Spirit of Adoption, the Holy Spirit, will cause your heart to cry “Abba Father.

So much of depression and struggle within the Christian life is either guilt ridden actions out of an orphan mentality or the Christian knowing what to do but not doing it.  When that happens, the Holy Spirit is in your heart is saying, “Hey you are God’s child.  You are called to more than this,” and if you don’t do it you are miserable.  We all must pray that God gives us the wonderful desire to be like Jesus as an act of worship and service that cause our heart to cry, “Abba, Father.”

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Training to Win

I’m gradually bringing the better posts from my old site over, so in reading through them, I decided to repost this one.  Originally entitled “Practical Worship Preparation for Church Service Leaders (and Everyone Else Too)” I’ve simplified it to “Training to Win.”  I hope it helps in your readiness for worship tomorrow.

Each and every believer should prepare themselves for worship.  Examining your heart prior to walking into a worship service enables you to worship more freely and authentically.  Yes, many worship services provide for plenty of opportunities for examination like a Call to Worship or a Time of Repentance, but those times are made more fruitful if your heart is already prepared by time in prayer and the word.  In worship, we are to present our entire self (doubts, hopes, sins, et al) to God for worship, and the preparation of our hearts enables us to glorify God to greater depths than otherwise would be possible.

God is gracious.  He cleans up our messes which means we can (and often) show up for worship without any preparation.  God still changes us, convicts us, and receives glory in the doing, but our goal should be to cast the utmost glory possible to our Heavenly Father.  Preparation helps us to do that.

The servants of a worship service (pastor, musician, etc) have even more responsibility to be prepared.  The skills of singing, playing, and preaching are the barest of requirements for leading God’s people.  Those that call people to worship should already be where they are asking others to go.  After 20 years of playing music and actively participating in worship services, I’ve learned a few things from my mistakes.  Let me share them with you.

Proper preparation begins even the day before worship.  Some of these things are obvious but are worth mentioning.  First and foremost, make sure that you are well rested physically.  This means for many folks, that the activities of Saturday night need to be examined or re-examined.  If you are going to be out or up late, that activity may not work well for worship preparation.  Beginning the process of inviting the Spirit to open your heart to worship and the leading of worship is crucial.  Engage in scripture study so your mind might be attuned to the words of God that are being proclaimed.  If you know the passage of scripture being preached on, or if there is a sermon preview, you should familiarize yourself with it so as to be praying through the themes of worship in the service.  Practically, doing things like picking out your clothes or your children’s clothes the night before helps to remove possible distraction.

If there is anything that you need to carry to worship (copies of music, musical equipment, etc), gather those together the night before and make sure they are in a condition that is worship ready.  I learned long ago to always have a backup guitar available in case I break a string or if there is some other equipment malfunction.  At the most minimum for the musician, they should have listened to the music that will be sung and be familiar and proficient with the parts that they will be playing and singing well before Sunday.  Unless there are no copies of music to familiarize yourself with, you should never be experiencing a song for the first time on a Sunday morning.

These things don’t qualify you to worship or worship better.  Only Christ’s redemptive work does that.  However, proper preparation, whether in a lead role or support, removes many of the distractions that keep your heart and others from properly worshiping God.


August 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment