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“Ministers are to cultivate gifts of preaching and prayer through study and diligence; they ought also to cultivate the capacity of composing spiritual songs and exercise it along with the other parts of the worship, preaching and prayer”.

So says the great hymn writer Isaac Watts.

I don’t really want to say much more than that, except that I’m going to try and write a lot more congregational songs in 2012 (keep up to date with them here). Will other gospel ministers join me?

It’s not complicated. If you’re daunted by the idea, find a familiar hymn tune, and a bible passage you’re going to be preaching on and start writing… Perhaps use your sermon points as themes for each verse, with a chorus that has the overall point as its content. If you want any help/input please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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This is taken from the Porterbrook module ‘Gospel Living’. Don’t know about you, but this warms my heart…

“Imagine the moment of your arrival in heaven. All the angels are lined up to welcome you, and all the saints who have gone before you are ready to cheer as you walk through the gates. Those who know you have got front-row seats, and you instantly recognise their faces, though they are all much more attractive than you remember. The noise is deafening and the sense of coming home is almost too much to bear. At first you think that they are there for you, and in a sense they are. However, then you realise that no one is patting you on the back and saying “Well done”. Not one word of congratulation is spoken. All the cheers are for God! All the praise is directed at him for his magnificent work of taking a broken specimen of humanity and transforming her into a stunning and breathtaking example of what grace can do. Just as no one stands in a gallery and praises the canvas or the paint and says, “What a fine work of art you are!”, so no-one in heaven will look at me and praise me for what a fine job I have made of my life. It is the artist who is applauded, as it is God who is praised.”

I’m just reading 1 Peter 3:1-7 for some work I’m doing on marriage prep material, and it really is striking and counter cultural.

Wives are called to be submissive, even to unbelieving husbands. I don’t know about you, but often the image of a submissive wife is one of a defeated, subjugated woman, rather than a strong woman. A strong woman stands up for herself, asserts her views and gets her way. However the wife presented in 1 Peter is one of quietness, reverence and purity, focusing more on the ‘inward beauty’ of gentleness. Not a great one for feminists of the 21st century… or is it?

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“the Gospel reminds us that nothing done to us, no matter how wicked, will ever surpass the wickedness done by us, to the holy Son of God.”

Humbling eh? I’ve just read that in ‘love that lasts: when marriage meets grace’, which I should add, is an excellent book.

It’s such a true and humbling statement, and yet we so often excuse sinful reaction (anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, withdrawal, indulgence) because of what people do to us.

But how does God respond when we have been far more wicked to him? ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us.’

His grace is sufficient.

The All-Good

Believing that God always has our best interests at heart is sometimes very difficult, especially in the midst of suffering that we do not understand and cannot see the end of. This prayer is not a glib poem about God always caring. Rather it is a heart decision to trust God no matter what happens, to ‘know’ that he is good and cares and to trust his provision. We can ask God for comfort and peace. But as the last line acknowledges, if that is not Gods good plan then we’re wise to trust what he does give us.

My God,
You have helped me to see,
that whatever good be in honour and celebrating,
it is the one who gives them and withdraws them that is good;
that blessedness does not lie so much
in receiving good from you, but
in being able to see your glory and virtue;
that it is an amazing thing
to see Deity in a creature, speaking, acting, filling, shining through it;
that nothing is good but you,
that I am near good when I am near you,
that to be like you is a glorious thing:
This is my magnet, my attraction.

You are all my good in times of peace,
my only support in days of trouble,
my one sufficiency when life shall end.
Help me to see how good your will is in everything,
and even when it doesn’t match with mine
teach me to be pleased with it.

Grant me to feel you in fire, and food and every provision,
and to see that your many gifts and creatures
are but your hands and fingers for taking hold of me.
You are a bottomless fountain of all good,
I give myself to you our of love,
for all I have or own is yours,
my goods, family, church, self,
to do with as you will,
to honour yourself in me, and by all that is mine.

If it be consistent with your eternal plans,
the purpose of your grace,
and the great ends of your glory,
then give me the blessings of being comforted by you;
If not, let me resign myself to the better plans you have for me.

I noticed in a school a plan for assemblies up on the wall. The theme for the half term was ‘perseverance’.

Great topic, and as I scanned down the titles it looked quite good – ‘Perseverance… with the truth’ (Jeremiah), ‘perseverance…to finish the job’ (Nehemiah).

And then I came to the last one: ‘perseverance…and self belief’. What Bible passage would they use for this? …’the hare and the tortoise’.

It was quite striking. It’s not surprising that they aren’t using a Bible text for this since the Bible never gives self-belief as a ground for perseverance.

In fact, quite the opposite. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul gives a surprising basis for perseverance – the resurrection. It’s the fact that we will be raised from the dead that we can keep going, even when that means dying every day as Paul says he does in the same chapter.

Self-belief? More like God-belief.

Michael Tinker is a professional musician and part of the Crowded House which is a church planting initiative in Sheffield and around the world. He's a follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, member of a Gospel Community, Musician and avid follower of fashion...

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