Parents, some food for thought...

Parents, 

Please take a moment to watch this interesting vlog by Tim Challies, "Why My Family Still Doesn't Do Sleepovers". 

“Why don’t you think about it?” Aileen and I, we’re Christians. We try to raise our children in accordance with the Bible. We believe that the Bible is God’s revelation to us. That it gives us wisdom. You can read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you won’t find the word sleepover. You won’t receive a clear command, you must or you must not allow your children to sleepover at someone else’s house.
But you will find the importance of raising your children in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord and protecting your children, taking good care of them, expressing your love for your child in protecting them. We felt, that as we prayed about it, as we thought about it, wisdom dictated we would not allow our children to participate in sleepovers. We had to heed our conscience there.
That’s all I say for you. Read God’s word. Think about it. Apply wisdom. Heed your conscience. Make a decision that’s good, that’s the best for your family, for your children. Hope you found this helpful. (Tim Challies) 

 

Preparing our hearts...

Hello Harvest Family,

I don’t know about you, but my life is busy. And one of the strange things about being a pastor is that these ‘holiday’ times (Christmas and Easter in particular) are even busier! There are extra sermons and services to prepare as well as family gatherings to plan for. It’s easy for the actual celebration of Easter to get lost in the chaos around it. But Easter, even more than Christmas, is an incredibly significant time in the life of the church, and should be a significant time in the life of our own souls. If we are going to give these special events the time for reflection and rejoicing that we ought to, we need to do battle with the busyness of our lives.

It is with that goal that I have been thinking about how to lead my own heart and my family through this week as we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Let me give you a couple suggestions you might want to consider. And allow me to suggest that if you don't typically do family devotions or read together with your spouse, this is a great opportunity to give it a try!

Maybe choose one of these options to do with the family, and another to do in your own private time.

1. "Love to the Uttermost" is a great little devotional put together by Desiring God. This is what my family is going through together. It takes less than five minutes to read through and pray together as the kids finish eating. It would be easily printed off, but I just downloaded it to my phone; no scrambling for where I left it, and no room for excuses! You can get it here: www.desiringgod.org/books/love-to- the-uttermost

2. Another option would be to get creative with reading the passion accounts from the different gospels. Choose one and read it over each day this week (You'll be amazed at what you begin to notice on the third, fourth, and fifth day that you simply read past on the first day!)

Try reading a different account each day (It's always interesting to see the differing perspectives between the gospels)

Or choose an account and break it down into sections and read a small portion slowly and thoughtfully each day. The options are endless. Obviously, you could lengthen or shorten any of these, but here are some suggestions:

Matthew 26:47-28:10
Mark 14:43-16:8
Luke 22:47-24:12
John 18:1-20:23

3. A third option would be to follow Jesus' life through each of the four gospels day by day. Below is a breakdown of the scriptures; reference to what Jesus and the disciples did each day of this week so many years ago. You can catch up as we are posting this late. 

Friday/Saturday
John 12:1-11

Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11
Mark 11:1-11
Luke 19:28-44
John 12:12-36

Monday
Matthew 21:18-19, 21:12-13 (Matthew does not record the events in chronological order)
Mark 11:12-19
Luke 19:45-46

Tuesday
Matthew 21:20-25:46
Mark 11:20-13:37
Luke 20:1-21:36

Wednesday
Matthew 26:3-5
Mark 14:1-2
Luke 21:37-22:2

Thursday
Matthew 26:17-46
Mark 14:12-42
Luke 22:7-46
John 13:1-17:26

Friday
Matthew 26:47-27:61
Mark 14:43-15:47
Luke 22:47-23:54
John 18:2-19:42

Saturday
No Scripture mentions Saturday. Meditate on the emptiness and fear the Disciples must have felt with the loss of their Lord. And/or read Sunday’s account so that you are prepared for Sunday morning worship together.

Sunday (Easter)
Matthew 28:1-20
Mark 16:1-20
Luke 24:1-53
John 20:1-21:25

Again, the options are endless. I hope you find some of these thoughts helpful. May the Lord bless you and reveal Himself to you in His Word as you see Him this Easter season.

Discernment

By Michael Hoch

God’s Word is clear: do not love the world (1 Jn 2:15), do not be conformed to the world (Rom 12:2), abstain from every form of evil (1 Th 5:22), depart from evil (Ps 34:14), impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you (Eph 5:3). On the contrary, we destroy opinions contrary to the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5), we boast only in the cross (Gal 6:14), we make it our aim to know Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2), we set our mind on Him (Col 3:1-4), and we strive for holiness (Heb 12:14). We do these things while living in a world that opposes Christ and is at enmity with God (Jn; 15:18-19; Jan 4:4). Jesus, therefore, prayed that even as we remain in the world, the Father would keep us from the evil one and sanctify us in the truth of His Word (Jn 17:16-17).

The everyday significance of these truths reminds us of our need for street level discernment. Spiritual discernment is the ability to think biblically about all areas of life so that you can distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong; it is keen perception and acute understanding that distinguishes, discriminates, and differentiates. Biblical discernment is godly wisdom applied in specific circumstances. It is the ability to choose holiness while living in a sinful world.

When our powers of discernment are trained by constant practice and we are able to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14), it dramatically affects our spiritual life. Biblical discernment guards us from being deceived and protects us from careless or harmful choices. It informs our Christian freedom so that we can distinguish between what is helpful and what is unnecessary, and so we recognize that the exercise of freedom is not essential for the enjoyment of it. Biblical discernment also promotes spiritual maturity.  It encourages sound judgment, sober-mindedness, and wisdom.

The psalmist understood the value of discernment when he prayed, Teach me good judgment and knowledge (Ps 119:66). The word translated “judgment” can mean “taste”. In other words, we want to distinguish between the different “flavors” of the world and choose only those things that nourish a healthy spiritual life.

One practical application is using discernment with media choices. There is a lot of irreverent material to sort through when accessing the Internet, watching films, or listening to music. A recent example is the extremely popular novel and movie The Shack. Biblical discernment warrants careful consideration of the dangers involved with popular movies. The elders recommend the following two articles:

In a confused and sin-cursed world, let's each pray, “I am your servant; give me discernment” (Ps. 119:125, NIV).

A Boy with a Withered Arm, the Blessing Amidst the Curse

39 years ago Doctor Dixon walked tearfully into my mother’s hospital room as she awoke from surgery giving birth to twin boys. The doc was beside himself and upset to tell her that although her babies were doing well, baby “B” was born missing most of his left arm.

I OFTEN FORGET I'M MISSING MY LEFT ARM!

Now it may be hard for you to believe, but I honestly often forget that I’m missing most of my left arm. In fact, I even get a little startled into reality when I see myself in pictures or video. My lack of awareness most likely comes from the fact that having one arm hasn’t really slowed me down much in life. As a child, I was never teased too much and If someone was overly curious I always had two protective brothers at my side ready to pounce. I grew up doing the normal things boys loved to do like riding bikes, building forts, playing baseball, hunting and working construction with my dad. When it came time for driving I didn’t think twice about purchasing an ‘84 Jetta diesel with a stick shift. I approached the one-arm life as a challenge and thank my parents for never coddling me or holding me back from pursuing the harder things.

I’m not saying I haven’t had difficult times or struggles with my “short arm”, I have. I remember being bothered sometimes by curious pointing or stares from others, especially adults. I also remember being somewhat self-conscious as a teenager and wondering if it would be a deterrent to my pursuit of a future wife. (For those who know my beautiful wife Kim, she’s completely blown that theory right out of the water!). As an emerging adult, I remember potential employers looking twice at me wondering if I would be more of a liability than help. However, by God’s grace, I learned that my disability has been more of a blessing than a curse.

WHY ARE WE IMPERFECT?

The biblical reason anyone is born or receives any kind of abnormality or imperfection in this world is because of one thing, the ongoing curse due to sin. As Adam and Eve committed cosmic treason in the garden, God being holy and just, banished humanity from his very presence and brought forth the curse of death, pain, suffering and toil (Gen 3:14-19). God had every right to destroy humanity forever, but in his infinite mercy allowed mankind to continue living, while subjecting us to a broken and dying world. My physical disability is a direct result of the sin of our first parents Adam & Eve, but we must also remember that if you or I were in their place, we would have done the exact same thing. Missing a portion of my arm is a very slight affliction compared to much more serious difficulties inherent to our fallen world, and one has to ask what purpose God has in allowing these things to happen?

Romans 8:18-20 says “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope”.
The resulting repercussions of our sin are easily witnessed wherever you turn, from physical abnormalities, disease, and death, to broken relationships, social strife and moral decay. Our futile universe presents a grievous reminder that God takes sin seriously.

EXAMINE YOURSELF

In light of God’s judgement for sin and the subjection of his creation to futility, ask yourself these questions of examination:

How does my propensity and perspective towards indwelling sin align with God’s holy character and righteous judgments?
Do I think far too lightly about my ongoing transgressions?
When I find myself in that certain sin again, do I languish in fear and lose all sense of hope?
Let us never forget the seriousness of our sin in light of our Holy God, but be careful to notice that the purpose of God’s judgement is not for the sake of justice alone. Paul says that God “subjected it, in hope”, therefore the ultimate goal of God’s subjection of creation to hardship is to point sinful humanity to a greater hope. This hope is that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). As a person repents of sin and trusts in Christ for salvation they are adopted as a child of God and are set free from the bondage of sin to an everlasting hope.  

RECALIBRATE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Have you ever thought of looking at the fallen world around you with all its struggles, pain and imperfections and instead of wallowing in crippling despair, consider God’s ultimate purpose of hope?
Have you ever looked at your own physical or emotional struggles and embraced them as an act of divine mercy and grace to point you yet again to your need for Christ?
Do you think you should recalibrate your perspective of our fallen world and see God’s ultimate purpose of hope found only in Christ and the restoration of all things? (Acts 3:21).
Scripture tells us that there will be a day when Christ will create a new heaven and a new earth and God will dwell once again with man for all eternity.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
BLESSING AMIDST THE CURSE

The tears shed by Doctor Dixon and my parents were true and valid because they echoed the pain of the fall of humanity, but the blessing amidst the curse far outweighs the anguish of this temporary life. As I think about living without a limb and the small challenges I’ve faced, my heart goes to those enduring much greater afflictions. I don’t equate what I’ve gone through as anything even close to those suffering much more severe effects of our fallen creation. Nonetheless, wherever we are and whatever we're facing, trust the Lord and wait with eager longing for that day when we will be glorified and in the very presence of our Saviour.  As we wait, let us never forget to mine the treasures of hope that God is revealing amidst our afflictions and pain.

In Christ

Quentin Whitford

Teach Your Children (and Yourself) Not to Trust Their Heart

 

By Jon Anderson

 

My Son, Do Not Follow your Heart

            I could see it in his eyes. A battle was raging between his little mind and heart. He knew he should obey. He knew there would be discipline if he did not obey. But he sincerely believed with all of his heart that I was just plain wrong, and he was right. I actually felt bad for him; that’s a horrible situation to be in. But it is a very valuable situation for me as a parent.  Our kids are told relentlessly by our culture and even by many well-meaning Christians,  "follow your heart, believe in yourself, be true to yourself, trust your feelings Luke (Sorry… Star Wars is a big deal in our house right now)". But we need to be intentionally and explicitly teaching our kids NOT to trust their heart.

            I know you know this. We’ve all heard it before. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Our hearts are sick, they are twisted by sin and they deceive us and betray us. Our hearts love the things that will destroy us and balk at the one thing that will bring our greatest joy, obedience to God’s heart. Even as regenerate believers, we know this struggle well. And our children, by and large, are not saved; they experience this even more fully. But what could possibly be more counter-intuitive (by definition!) than to counter one's own heart? To go against what you really believe to be best, true, right?  But one of the greatest gifts you could give your child through parenting is teaching them to see that struggle clearly, identify when their desires and their heart run contrary to God’s will, and be accustomed to saying “no” to their heart, and yes to God.

           

Obey your Parents IN THE LORD

            Ephesians 6:1-3 is one of the first passages of Scripture that our kids memorize. And for good reason. It’s not just self-serving as a parent to have your children repeating the words “children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and you may live long in the land.” There are certainly benefits as a parent, priming your child for quick obedience. But the greater benefit is in the heart of your child.  As I watched my son battle between following his heart and obeying my instructions I found a particularly poignant opportunity to teach my son what it means to “obey your parents IN THE LORD”. As fathers and mothers, we act as God’s representatives in our children’s lives; our authority over them is one expression of God’s authority. God is still the ultimate authority; our authority ends where it crosses God’s will. But a child submitting to his father is a child submitting to God.

         Teach your children this explicitly. They need to get used to saying no to their heart and trusting you in obedience because that will prepare them for a life of saying no to their heart and trusting God. When they grow up and step out from under your direct authority, it’s not as though they then become their own authority. They merely step out from being under the umbrella of your mediated authority and into their own responsibility under the direct authority of God. We need to prepare them for that.  Christianity is a lifelong battle against the sinful heart.

 

Be Imitators of Me, as I am of Christ,

            We joke about it often. But the last thing we want to communicate to our children is “do as I say, not as I do”. Especially in this we want to be able to say to our children “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Even the sinless Jesus Himself said “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38). Can you say that? How often do you feel the temptation to sin or to neglect obedience (which is also sin) in your heart, and decide to follow your Lord instead of your heart? Do you read God’s Word and trust it implicitly, even joyfully, adjusting your heart to match God’s Word, rather than vice versa? Watch for that battle. If you are looking for it you will see it clearly. Learn to say no to your own heart quickly, frequently and even joyfully, and teach your children to do the same.  

Advent Fixes What is Broken

By Paul Tripp | www.PaulTripp.com

Could you get any more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these?

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5, ESV).

It's clear from Genesis 6:5, and it's clear if you watch the news today, that something is deeply broken with the human race. Even people who don't believe in the Bible would agree that something is wrong, and that people need help.

But what's the problem? And how do we fix it?

There are two commons lies that we all believe. The first is this: "I'm one of the good guys."

It's easy to read Genesis 6:5, and it's easy to watch the news, and remove ourselves from the problem. "I'm not as wicked as those other people. Look at my track record - I have a long list of helping people and doing good!"

For the Christian, there is some truth to that logic. Because of the sacrifice of Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of sin in our life has been broken.

That means we now have the ability to reject wickedness. We do have pure thoughts, pure motives, and pure intentions. In some ways, we are exempt from the diagnosis of Genesis 6:5.

But at the same time, we must always remember that our purity is the result of grace, not the natural condition of our own heart. We must also remember that while the power of sin has been broken, the presence of sin remains.

And so, while we are positionally righteous before God, our corrupt hearts still commit sinful deeds, and our intentions are certainly not pure all the time.

We still are part of the problem.

There's a second lie we believe: behaviour reform will fix what is broken.

We tend to think that all our world needs is a harsher justice system, a little faster police response, and a new election to replace corrupt politicians.

Yes, God established law and order for the benefit of society, but the Bible never once proposes that the lasting solution for the human condition is more law.

On the contrary, the Bible teaches that what humanity needs is radical heart change.

Genesis 6:5 and the rest of Scripture teaches that "the heart" is inherently evil and needs replacing. You and I can't change our own heart, nor can any law or institution put in place by man.

The only way you and I will be rescued is by a transformed heart, created in us by God (Psalm 51:10).

This is why we celebrate Advent. Jesus Christ came to earth to fix what is broken: the human heart.

This December, celebrate the work of the Messiah and the new heart you have because of his birth, death, and resurrection.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

1.   How have you been tempted recently to see yourself as a good person?
2.  Why is this inaccurate view of yourself spiritually dangerous? Be specific.
3.  Where have you given evidence this week that your heart is still corrupt?

A Model to Follow

by Trevor Peacock

We are through our first two weeks of a five weeks series in our study of the second missionary journey in the book of Acts. This last week we witnessed how Paul and Silas handled incredible difficulties. They had been faithfully serving the Lord when they were put before the magistrates on a mock trial and beaten with rods and tossed into prison on false charges.

Our normal tendency would be to complain about our fate. We would question the fairness of how we have been treated. We did nothing wrong! Why is this happening to us? To sum it up, our focus would be on ourselves. This is not the focus of Paul and Silas. They model to us what needs to be done when the trials of life come our way.

They display three responses that should be followed by all believers when trials come their way.

When we come to Acts 16:25 we find that Paul and Silas are praying. This is the first thing that we ought to do when trials come. We need to cast our anxieties on the Lord knowing that He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) We need to put our trust in the Lord and be reminded that whatever we are encountering in our life is not a surprise to God. He is asking us to put our trust in Him. When you enter a time of trial…pray.

Not only do we see them praying as they sat in the dark prison, we also see them praising God. 

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…

As we get our eyes on the Lord in prayer, it will result in praise. When we begin to get our eyes off of our trial and onto the King of Kings and Lord of Lords the size of our trials begin to look different in light of His strength, might and power. We remember that He is God and we are not. We see this modeled over and over again in the Psalms. Many times we will see the writer of the Psalm begin with questions as he seeks the Lord and by the time the writer is done he is praising the Lord. This will be the case with you as well if you spend time meditating on the One you are seeking in prayer. He is a great and awesome God and worthy of our praise.

Lastly, as we look at verses 26-34 we see Paul and Silas proclaiming the Gospel. When we are in trials we need to continually remember the hope of the Gospel. We need to proclaim the Gospel to ourselves and we need to proclaim the hope of the Gospel to those around us. No matter what our trials, if we have put our hope in Jesus Christ then we have a hope that never fades. No one and nothing can take away our hope that is found only in the Gospel. In fact it is in our hour of trial that we may have the greatest opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.

1 Peter 3:14,15 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Pray, praise and proclaim when you are in your hour of  trial. So thankful for men like Paul and Silas who modeled for you and I how we ought to walk in whatever trials we find ourselves in.

A World Without the Cross

 

By Jon Anderson

Having kids is a great way to be forced to think about things that we might not normally consider, and to see the world from a bit of a different angle. I was driving along the other day, minding my own business when my oldest son asked me “Dad, what would the world be like if Jesus had not died on the cross?” I let him flounder with his own speculations for a little while; partly to see where he would go with it and partly buying time to gather my own thoughts and try to formulate an answer. He flexed and stretched his 9-year-old-mind wondering if we would still worship God, if there would be any way to get to heaven and how short the Bible would be with no New Testament and no prophesies about Jesus. My mind went to the fall and Genesis 3:15, wondering if man would ever have lived to see a second generation or life outside the Garden of Eden. And then it donned on me: if Jesus had not died on the cross, our world would be more than just different… it would be non-existent.

Even as Christians, we tend to think of our world and of humanity as almost self-existent entities. We think of sin as something that broke into our world as an unwelcome and unforeseen intruder, and of Christ and the cross as God’s plan to rescue a project that was spiralling out of a control and away from what He intended. Because we are finite and limited creatures, this is how our lives and plans tend to play out, and so the world makes sense to us through that grid. And along those lines, it makes sense to ask “what if something were different? What if there had been no sin? What if there had been no cross?”

But God is not like us. He is not limited in His knowledge and foresight like we are. And He is not limited in His ability to carry out His plans perfectly like we are. As a result, our world is a much more unified and seamless existence than we naturally consider it to be. And right at the heart of that unified plan that is our world, right at the core of its meaning and purpose, is the cross of Jesus Christ. So much so that I think we can say with confidence that without a cross, there would have been no creation. 

We could approach this looking at God’s absolute sovereignty from verses like Isaiah 46:9-10 where God essentially hangs His own divinity on this attribute saying “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” But I want to stay close to the issue at hand, the cross of Christ specifically. Let’s go back to what got me on this train of thought in the first place, Genesis 3. Adam and Eve had rebelled against God and plunged all of humanity under the curse of sin and death. At this early moment in history, God would have been absolutely justified in simply destroying the world and scrapping the project altogether. In fact, He would have been obligated by His own unchangeable justice to do so, were there not a plan in place whereby the penalty of sin could be paid. Humanity, at that moment, deserved no good thing and the fact that Adam and Eve were allowed to breath another breath is evidence that the work of the Cross was already in play. And it shows up in Genesis 3:15 where the Lord gives a promise to Adam and Eve by way of a curse on the serpent; a promise that is the acorn which holds all the DNA and will one day grow into the fullness of the gospel. The Lord says “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Sin and Satan would one day be fully conquered and destroyed by one who would come as the son of the Woman, one who would be bruised by sin and Satan, but would have ultimate victory over them. That plan shows up as integral for the continuation of the world, right from the beginning.

Humanity could not have continued into even it’s second generation without the cross. But the plan of the cross reaches back to even before Adam’s sin and will resonate long past the existence of our world. Revelation 13:8 looks forward to the last days of the great tribulation.  And it tells of the vast allegiance that the world will have to the Antichrist saying “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Look at what is said about Christ and the cross and those whom He will save. This plan of salvation was fully formed and as good as done, names written in the book and the Jesus as ‘the Lamb who was slain,” all “before the foundation of the World”. That goes back before Genesis 3:15. That goes back before Genesis 1:1! The salvation of individuals by the cross of Christ was God’s plan from before He even began the work of creation. It is no wonder that when Jesus Himself in His humanness pleads with God saying “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” the answer is clearly “it is not possible. You must face the cross.” The cross is an unalterable part of the seamless fabric of creation.

            But it’s more than even just that. It’s not just an indispensable piece of creation, but the cross is at the very core of the purpose of creation. God’s ultimate goal in all that He does is the display of His glory. That’s why He created the world (Psalm 19:1) and that’s why He saves sinners (Ephesians 1:4-6). He does all things so that it will be evident that “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). God’s highest Goal, His ultimate goal, is the display of His glory. And the cross is the most complex, full and magnificent display of the many facets of the glory of God. Look at Romans 3:23-26

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Verse 23-25a shows that salvation is by the grace of God in His undeserved kindness to us. Jesus is our propitiation to be freely received by nothing but faith alone. And Verse 25b-26 outlines how all of this was to display, or glorify, the righteousness and justice of God in dealing with sin.  The death of Christ on the cross is the apex of the display of God’s glory, the highpoint of everything from creation to second coming and into eternity.

 

            If there was no Jesus dying on the cross, there would be no world. The importance and centrality of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross simply cannot be overstated.  

New Songs to Sing

By Joel Dipert

Psalm 96 tells us:
"Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day."

Unfortunately, there are only so many new songs we (the worship team) can introduce to our congregation in the course of a year. There are so many amazing songs being written and recorded for the Church that we honestly won't get to sing them all together in the couple hours we have on a Sunday morning. But "day to day" there are opportunities to "sing to the Lord a new song" in churches, stadiums, coffee shops, offices, cars, and showers at every moment. 

I thought I would share some recent album releases that have helped guide my own personal times of worship lately. As I've written before, every song that we introduce to our congregation is looked at very closely to ensure the lyrics are true to scripture, edifying to the church, and glorifying to God. Even the sources of the songs are often considered in order to ensure that we don't point our congregation to unhealthy doctrinal movements or controversial subjects. The following list of albums is not exclusively made up of these thoroughly vetted songs and thus we would not consider singing every song on each album in our church. Nor should this be considered an endorsement of every doctrinal belief of the artists who wrote or recorded them. My intention is simply to share with you some new Christian/worship music to help you put a new song of praise on your lips as you prepare dinner, drive to and from work, or as you sit down with a good book on a Sunday afternoon :)

1. 'A Mirror Dimly' by Citizens and Saints

Citizens and Saints bring their signature indy rock sound to this their latest album, but this time they've traded their synthy hooks for blood, sweat, and tears in the crafting of the lyrics. Yes, it's still catchy and even a bit dancey here and there, but there is a depth and rawness to the laments on this record that I don't think they've reached before now. Listen to 'Relent' and 'Doubting Doubts' and you'll know what I mean.

Citizens and Saints bring their signature indy rock sound to this their latest album, but this time they've traded their synthy hooks for blood, sweat, and tears in the crafting of the lyrics. Yes, it's still catchy and even a bit dancey here and there, but there is a depth and rawness to the laments on this record that I don't think they've reached before now. Listen to 'Relent' and 'Doubting Doubts' and you'll know what I mean.

If you're a fan of Norah Jones's earlier albums, you might want to check this one out. Sandra McCracken seems to consistently turn out modern hymns and songs that you'd swear you've heard before, but you couldn't possibly have. It may be the constant use of scripture pulled word for word from the pages of the Bible. Or maybe it's the combination of Sandra's dedication to the craft of intentional songwriting and the fabulous Nashville professionals back her. Whatever the case, these are some special songs.

If you're a fan of Norah Jones's earlier albums, you might want to check this one out. Sandra McCracken seems to consistently turn out modern hymns and songs that you'd swear you've heard before, but you couldn't possibly have. It may be the constant use of scripture pulled word for word from the pages of the Bible. Or maybe it's the combination of Sandra's dedication to the craft of intentional songwriting and the fabulous Nashville professionals back her. Whatever the case, these are some special songs.

We've been singing 'Exalted Over All' and 'A Thousand Tongues' for the past couple months now, but this album is still relatively new. In a way, this is kind of our music as it's out of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. Now's your chance to learn the rest of the album because we will definitely be singing more of these songs together.

We've been singing 'Exalted Over All' and 'A Thousand Tongues' for the past couple months now, but this album is still relatively new. In a way, this is kind of our music as it's out of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. Now's your chance to learn the rest of the album because we will definitely be singing more of these songs together.

Paul Baloche is such an inspiration. Not because there are so many flashy, dazzling things on this album, but precisely because there aren't! Paul has such a huge heart for the local church and equipping local worship leaders for the ministry of leading their congregation in worship. I've read several articles and interviews with Paul and his humility outshines his incredible skill as a musician every time. Look for some of these songs coming to a church near you soon ;)

Paul Baloche is such an inspiration. Not because there are so many flashy, dazzling things on this album, but precisely because there aren't! Paul has such a huge heart for the local church and equipping local worship leaders for the ministry of leading their congregation in worship. I've read several articles and interviews with Paul and his humility outshines his incredible skill as a musician every time. Look for some of these songs coming to a church near you soon ;)

This album is really my first foray into the music of 'All Sons and Daughters' and I've been pleasantly surprised. The songwriting to production on this album is top notch. The themes of some of the songs are not often sung about, but once you hear it you think, "why aren't we singing about that?"

This album is really my first foray into the music of 'All Sons and Daughters' and I've been pleasantly surprised. The songwriting to production on this album is top notch. The themes of some of the songs are not often sung about, but once you hear it you think, "why aren't we singing about that?"

I'd love to hear what you think about these picks and if you have any recent releases that you'd recommend listening to. Leave a comment below.

Leading Kids to Christ

Regardless of whether or not you have kids at home, if you’re at Harvest Bible Chapel you're often around children. The following is a helpful article written by Jason K. Allen. ~ Michael

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If you are seeking to influence little ones toward Christ, you might find these ten tips helpful:

1. Remember, children do not have to become like adults to be saved; adults have to become like children. When Jesus made this point in Matt. 18, he was not referring to spiritual innocence. Rather, he commended a spirit of humility, dependence, and deference—virtues which are common in children and essential for whoever would follow Christ.

2. Remember, you are responsible for your child’s spiritual formation, not your church, your pastor, or your children’s minister. Be faithful to teach them the Word, to shape their hearts, and, yes, to indoctrinate them. Even if your church is healthy enough to outsource your kid’s spiritual formation, do not do it. It is unbiblical, and it robs you of some of life’s greatest joys.

3. Remember what conversion is. Conversion is more than intellectual. We are looking for more than our children’s ascent to biblical facts about Jesus. My children have known the broad contours of the gospel since preschool, but that is not enough to save them. Be looking for the affective as well as the intellectual. Have an ear for confession, repentance, faith, and submission to Jesus as Lord. Ask yourself, has Jesus changed their life?

4. Share your testimony with your children. Do your kids know how much Jesus means to you; how he changed your life; and when and how you became a Christian? Sharing your testimony with your children provides a natural context to discuss what God is doing in their lives too.

5. Share the gospel with your children. Do not assume they have heard it at church, and do not leave it to them to connect the dots from Sunday School lessons and sermons. Share the gospel with your children plainly, passionately, and frequently.

6. Share the gospel in front of your children. As you do, your children can overhear the gospel in a less intimidating, more natural context. Moreover, they will sense how important the gospel is to you, that it applies to all people, and that you value the gospel and people enough to acquaint the two.

7. Provide natural contexts for spiritual conversations. In our house, we strive for spiritual conversations to be as natural as talking about school, activities, sports, or any other aspect of our lives. For us, this most naturally takes place during family worship. The key is not the context but the consistency. Infrequently talking about the things of God ups the awkwardness for your children. Frequency makes it more natural.

8. Encourage steps toward Jesus. A. Criswell, the famed pastor of First Baptist Dallas, coined this phrase. It is a helpful phrase—and a helpful concept. When your children express interest in following Christ, even if they are quite young or you have other reservations about their inquiry, you can still affirm them as they ask questions and “take steps toward Jesus.”

9. Talk to your pastor. Though you should not outsource your child’s spiritual formation, you should seek your pastor’s counsel. Do not ask him leading questions or make too many assumptions. Just let him visit with your child and join in shepherding them toward Christ. Sometimes the church assumes parents are leading their children to Christ while the parents are assuming the church’s ministers are doing the same. Assume nothing. Your child’s heart is too precious for ill-informed assumption. Partner with your church.

10. Be quick with the gospel, but slow with the baptistery. Just because your child expresses interest in following Christ—or even professes they are following Christ—does not mean you have to baptize them right away. Baptizing young children who are not yet genuinely converted confuses both the child and the congregation. Even worse, it may mislead the child into thinking they are converted while they yet remain outside of the Kingdom. Instead, be patient and trust the Lord. Let their desire for Christ ripen. Look for the fruits of conversion. Baptize them as you gain confidence they have truly met Christ.