A triumph

12191760_10100314652716422_2135461927559375350_n

Here’s another post, five years later. A personal blog / website kind of needs a reason to be, and this space hasn’t had that for awhile. All I can promise about what follows this sentence is that it’ll be earnest. Planned or well-put-together would be pushing it after all this time.

It’s funny now to think back to a decade ago, starting to blog when the blogging craze hit full steam, feeling a sense of purpose in doing it even though readership was probably like four people. Nowadays blogging can be lucrative business, but 99% of blogs likely go totally unread. Content drives readership, though, and so if you want eyeballs and mindshare you actually need to say something – preferably something challenging, helpful, thematically-tied, and so on.

Growing up I always looked forward to this time of life – young family, young kids, working hard all day and enjoying quality time with wife and fam-jam in the evenings. In retrospect, I’m kinda glad I did – meant I made some choices then that better prepared me for now. Some things can’t be prepared for, like how all-consuming having little ones can be.

Now, some of this is neglect on my part, but some of it is just reality for those who pour into their own – I’ve finished like 4 books in the last five years (since kid one came along), written just a handful of posts here, and for all intents and purposes whatever hobbies I had before have been left shelved during this season too.

It’s been worth it. Totally. But as worth it as it’s been… it’s been really, really nice lately to revisit old friends like the guitar, the written word, and (as of this post) putting thoughts to words.

I learned to play guitar ten or twelve years ago, mostly hoping it would impress the ladies (spoiler: it didn’t, not really anyway – though it may have had to do with my poor song choices… a little Dashboard Confessional heavy). Circling back to it now that there’s time to invest a little has been like rediscovering a lost limb. It was missing, it was needed, I survived without it, but it’s really, really nice to have it back and functioning. Helps that I’m not as bound-and-determined to try and learn metal songs on an acoustic guitar now, too.

I do quite a bit of written words and other creative outlets at work. That’s really sated my most urgent need for such, and I’m thankful for it. It’s been actually really fun to re-discover and re-develop dormant skills in graphic design, photography and videography… not to mention brainstorm concise, clear terminology (technical or otherwise) to help people understand core concepts of what we do. Challenges abound, but the fun kind – the kind you get energized by. Having been at MSC now for over three years, one of the best things about it by far has been the front-row seat to seeing an historic institution (75 years this year!) successfully navigate the massive undertaking of adapting to modern methods without sacrificing core identity components. The determination to not just survive but thrive is an important thing – anything can survive a long time in cruise control, but to risk and push and strive for excellence is in another echelon of living and being. I’m glad to serve in a place where thriving matters.

Isn’t it funny just how true all the cliches about time going by so quickly are? It’s Christmas again, we’re already fifteen years into the “new millenium” and we now carry supercomputers in our pocketses. We call them phones, but if you’re like me, it’s much more a pocket computer than a phone. Phone calls are so last millenium!

Newfangled

Currently listening to: “Hills Humbled, Mountains Made Low” by So Long Forgotten
So Long Forgotten is my favourite band at the moment. You can download their incredible album “Things We Can See And Things We Cannot” for FREE from THEM at COME&LIVE. The album’s title is a nod to the so-called ‘already/not yet’ elements of Salvation. Here’s a choice line from the record: “And I pray you have remained a Carpenter, sanding down my edges ‘til I am full of grace.” Check them out, now. Thank you.

I got a “real” job.

(!!!)

It’s one of those jobs that didn’t exist three years ago… you know, those ones that nobody’s been to school for because no school has managed to monetize the field by offering it as a degree track in order to give various and sundry individuals some kind of arbitrary certification that says “I can do this stuff”. Yeah, one of those jobs where the stuff I’m doing and the devices/tech/media I’m doing it on didn’t exist five or six years back. I hear they’re all the rage or something. All I know is, though, that it’s been a dream. We’re doing our best to thank God every day for His provision. The commute is quite good considering what part of the country we’re in, I can provide for my family, the work is fun (!!!) and enjoyable, and I get to keep learning new stuff every day (as well as mastering all that old stuff).

It’s been about six weeks now, and I’ve already (essentially) forgotten what it was like to be on the job hunt. Or perhaps I’ve banished it from my mind.

I graduated from Trent a year and a half ago (May/June of 2009). It was a long year and a half of hunting. There’s a lot of story in that time, but the primary story is that God used the time to increase our dependence on Him. In the same period of time, our church went from an idea to a plan to a reality – by God’s grace. Although it is now ten weeks old, being a part of the plant has been spiritually intense and stretching in the best way… again, it too has increased our dependence on Him. Also during the same period of time, our daughter, Audrey Renata, went from (pardon the expression!) an idea to a plan to a reality – by God’s grace. Again, increasing our dependence on Him.

Needless to say, it was an intense season. Since graduation, I’ve become a father, celebrated my second wedding anniversary with my wife, started seminary, watched God provide for us in incredible ways (physically and spiritually), and spent a mind-numbing amount of time on Workopolis, Monster, Craigslist, Canada job bank, and all other kinds of job sites. I’ve been at various times depressed, melancholy, happy, sad, excited, elated, grumpy, and all shades in between. I’ve watched one of my best friends’ life implode. My trust in God has been at turns both strong and completely pitiful – meanwhile He has simply continued to prove and re-prove his trustworthiness in every way. I’ve had good friends along the way to talk it all through with, to be encouraged by (and to encourage, at times). At times, I’ve followed Jesus well. At other times, I’ve dishonoured Him greatly. Sometimes I’ve been gracious and compassionate, abounding in love. Other times I’ve been little more than contentious and pretentious. I’ve been irritable at times, lonely at times, confused at times, frustrated at times. I’ve been hopeful, healthy, joyful in God. I’ve been generous and also incredibly selfish. I’ve avoided God and I’ve prayed. There’s war in here, and I pray it’s a sign of life.

Through it all, my wife has resolutely and consistently dismantled my defeatist arguments and depressive musings (her methods of dismantling are second to none). She has loved and cared for me, and for our daughter, so well. Through the highs and lows of looking for a way to provide for my family, she doggedly affirmed, encouraged, exhorted, rebuked, reproved, and loved me. Without her help, the season would have probably crushed me entirely. She’s not a perfect woman by any means, but she belongs to a perfect God, and sometimes by His grace, she looks a lot like He does. I’m so thankful for you, Stephie.

Through it all, our church has supported us in ways uncountable, being the body of Jesus Christ so tangibly and so practically. Example: We didn’t have to buy a single meal for a month after Audrey was born. People regularly prayed for us (and with us) through it all. I don’t really have words to do thanks justice. Even beyond the limits of “our church”, we’ve seen the Church on a larger scale support us as well, and we’re amazed at the beauty of Jesus’ bride at times like this. I have greater hope for the church than I think I ever have – God is powerfully at work in His people.

Through it all, His faithfulness has remained a constant rock to ground ourselves on. Unchanging, Immortal, Eternal.

I’m thankful to have a job. It’s really a better job than I could have designed for myself.

I’m even more thankful for the year and a half of hunting. God’s grace abounds in weakness and need.

Psalm 28:7 says:

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

I Won A Book

Jacob, over at The Strasbourg Inn, recently did a giveaway contest for the newly released book by Darrin Patrick entitled Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission.

Needless to say, I’m posting about it here because I won the book. I didn’t come here to brag (there’s nothing to brag about, I was randomly selected!), but rather to suggest you watch the trailer for the book here. It’s pretty much the best trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen too many.

I’m also posting about it here because Jacob had me share a little bit about the church plant that I’m involved with here in the Durham Region (Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering) – just east of Toronto. Here’s the blurb I sent him:

Harvest Bible Chapel Durham is a new plant (starting in 3 days!) in the Durham Region of Ontario, Canada. Every Harvest Bible Chapel is a part of Harvest Bible Fellowship, which is a fellowship of like-minded churches that share virtually identical doctrine and philosophy of ministry. The first Harvest Bible Chapel was launched in 1988 by Pastor James MacDonald and 18 others in Rolling Meadows, IL (near Chicago). After experiencing tremendous growth and blessing in their church, they began a church planting venture in 2000 which, to date, has seen over 60 churches planted in the 10 years since. Harvest Durham will be the first great-granddaughter church in the movement, as we are being planted by Harvest York Region (located in Markham, Ontario – a northeastern suburb of Toronto) who in turn were planted in 2006 by Harvest Oakville (a city southwest of Toronto) who were planted by Harvest in Chicago back in 2001. So, we’re a part of a church planting movement in a very real sense. It’s a blessing to be a part of something like this and to be able to draw from the collective experience of many church plants.

What I would add here is that WE LAUNCH THIS SUNDAY. Please pray for us. We have a quick way of summarizing our goal as a church:

Lost people saved. Saved people matured. Mature people multiplied. All to the glory of God.

Like Newborn Infants

Currently listening to: “The Invasion (Hero)” by Trip Lee featuring Jai
Trip Lee’s new record “Between Two Worlds” is out, and it’s exceedingly good. Make sure you give it a listen if you’re into Christ-exalting and Gospel-centric hip hop.

A lot has happened since I last posted anything, and that’s why I haven’t been posting. Makes sense, I trust!

Needless to say, Audrey Renata Bolton was born at 11:33pm on June 11th, 2010 – much to the delight of her auntie Eileen, and Great Uncle Lance who share her birthday. Audrey clocked in at 10lb, 4oz and 22 inches in length (in other words, almost TWO FEET). As you have likely surmised by now, she was two weeks overdue and has a rather tall father.

I’ve had a short post sitting as a draft that I wrote during Audrey’s second week of life. It says the following:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”
1 Peter 2:2 ESV

For those who don’t know, infants are all about REGULAR INTAKE with intervals measured in hours (not days!), they’re all about getting a FULL FEEDING whenever possible, and if it’s time to feed, soothers don’t soothe… infants are all about the REAL DEAL.

For those who are good at missing the point, let’s spell it out. Our longing for the Scriptures (aka the “pure spiritual milk”) should be, in a sense, infantile. We should seek regular intake, full feedings, and vitally – the real deal. May it be so.

Sorry for all the dead air. I think I’m back now. Oh, I also started my Master of Divinity at Southern Seminary while I was gone. Long story with a great ending.

Grace.

The Renaissance of Holy Hip Hop

Currently listening to: “It Is Not Death To Die” by Sovereign Grace Music
Total disconnect from the content of the post you’re about to read, but SGM makes some amazing worship music (better yet, they write thick, deeply theological lyrics for that music). Definitely a go-to group of musicians in the Bolton residence.

Let’s start with the obvious: I’m white. I’m middle class. Suburban. Only gun I’ve ever shot was my dad’s hunting rifle at target practice out in the woods at grandma’s. I draw graffiti on paper, not illegally on walls. I’m anything but “rough rugged”. Certainly not a “Playa” of any significant Game. I have soft spots in my heart for indie rock and uptempo metal (not that I should call any metal “uptempo”, doing that’s not very metal of me). Oh, and for folk, electronic, and (recently) jazz.

Apparently, that makes me a prime candidate for loving hip hop music. And I do. Boy do I love me some deep bass, a sharp snare, and clever instrumentation all slathered together into tasty beats. I have no affection for a lot of the ‘culture’ that usually gets packaged with it (after all, hip hop is not on the radio) – the bling and sexploitation and violence and whatnot. But I have a great deal of affection for the sounds of hip hop.

Let’s make matters worse: I’m an English and Philosophy major with a background in Biblical Studies. I LOVE words. My brain plays with words. Sentences are like playgrounds to me – places to frolic and laugh exuberantly and enjoy life. I’ve always been enamored with communication and the means by which we accomplish it. Most of all, I’m dumbfounded by how God has chosen to communicate Himself to me (and the rest of you humans) through words – recorded in text, preserved through aeons of history, study-able, deep deep depths of words. As I’ve been reminded much lately – God wrote a book. It is written – “it” being the communication of God to man, the holy Scriptures. Inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, complete… profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, exhortation… all of it communication from God, put in human words for humans to read, know, and understand. We serve a God who communicated his Word with perfection – we should strive for excellence in our communication. It should be our goal to grow in clarity, conciseness, robustness, ‘copiousness’ (depth and breadth), and total self-control.

A love for words makes me a prime candidate for loving hip hop music. See, rap is the music of words in a way unparalleled by other forms. Hip hop is the modern theater for poetry – it really is. I don’t read modern poets, I listen to them “spit rhymes” (read: recite) over beats. Through hip hop I am able to enjoy such (otherwise neglected) vocal magicks as cadence, flow, rhythm, meter – all the hallmarks of performed poetry. Through hip hop I am able to enjoy sonnets and rhyme schemes and rhyme forms of all kinds – polysyllabic, internal, complex, couplets – the list goes on. In terms of structure alone, rap is responsible for so much remarkable innovation in poetry. Besting that, hip hop provides the ideal theatre to showcase thoughts and treatises on subjects far more detailed and technical than most other forms of music. Long words aren’t frowned upon, but indeed are often celebrated (this is significant when we consider the potential for proper theological, philosophical, scientific, or linguistic use).

I love hip hop. Particularly, I am drawn to hip hop that honours and glorifies Christ Jesus the King of Kings. I was first introduced to what is sometimes called “Holy Hip Hop” back in the late 90’s when my bimonthly copy of now-defunct music mag 7ball arrived in the mail, sporting its usual compilation CD filled with usually unheard-of artists. Although the mag focused primarily on rock and alternative music, it sometimes ventured into the then-risque territory of hip hop. This particular issue featured a song on the pack-in compilation called “Cypha The Next Day” by The Cross Movement. I was hooked – great old-school beat, clever and talented emcees busting out wonderful God-honouring rhymes, and to top it off, theological depth. This wasn’t some campfire “sing-songs to Jesus” deal, this was a bunch of Pastor-Rappers roughing me up with biblical insight and not only dropping poetry, but sermonettes, expositions, and commentaries on biblical passages in their verses. Average people like me started calling it “holy hip-hop” (hereafter “HHH”) and the name stuck.

Here’s something that excites me greatly – there’s been a real renaissance of HHH over the course of the last decade. What began with artists like P.I.D., SFC, and Dynamic Twins in the 80’s and continued in the 90s with artists like The Cross Movement, Urban D, and Corey Red & Precise… has experienced a renewed fervency and urgency in the last five years in particular. Artists like Lecrae, Trip Lee, 116 Clique, Shai Linne, Sho Baraka, Flame, and Tedashii (not to mention solo efforts by Cross Movement members Ambassador, Phanatik, and Tonic) are quite literally tearing things up. The beats are amazing, the rhymes are full of bounty, and the biblio-theological depth, missional focus, and Christocentric emphasis is both refreshing and disarmingly confrontative.

So, this post (which has been on the backburner for two months) is just a simple expression of my thankfulness for how God is using men (and women) that he has greatly gifted in wordplay and music to glorify Himself through hip hop; to glorify Himself through the proclamation of his word and his Gospel through skillfully crafted poetry put to the kick and the snare.

Thank you, Lord:

  • for the gift of living at such a time as this
  • for the gift of ears to hear the kick, the snare, and the wordsmithery
  • for the gift of a mind to follow and comprehend what’s being said
  • for the gift of faith to believe in the biblical truths being expressed through your servants
  • for the gift of hip hop music, the gift of rap

James 1:16-17 ESV
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

I’ll close with a personal favourite. There’s this one guy named Shai Linne, and you won’t have to watch for long to see that God has given him a remarkable gift for compacting complex biblical truth into memorable, remarkable, mind-blowing rhyme schemes.

Check it.

Shai Linne with The Greatest Story Ever Told (live) from Grace EV Free on Vimeo.

Rejoice?

Currently listening to: “Circles” by Thrice
Thrice recently did a session at Daytrotter, and the results are stripped-down, sparse, largely acoustic, and predominantly wonderful. If you’ve ever wondered what a masterful rock band would sound like when given a room with a bunch of instruments in various states of being, this is a great example. You can listen/download the tracks here at Daytrotter.

I have a bundle of news for those who don’t know me personally – namely, a bundle of Bolton that is on the way! Yes, my lovely Steph and I are happy to announce that (with God’s help) we’re in the midst of welcoming a new human being into the world. It’s one of the reasons that I haven’t been able to devote the kind of time to writing that I usually like to. The other reason is that my rebellious heart prefers distraction, abstraction, and escape to reality. So, truth be told, I’ve been much in the habit of wasting time on things far less than eternal.

I like to call her "wee bee".

So, with that said, and with my apologies implied therein… I would like to share some of what God has been teaching me through his Word as He speaks to me in the midst of the constant swirl and ebb of the circumstances of my life.

For starters, it hasn’t escaped me that for 21 weeks now, I’ve been a father. Granted, I haven’t been conscious of that for all 21 of those weeks, but increasingly as our lives already feel the weight of changes and as my wife’s abdomen swells with new life… I’m conscious of the responsibilities I now carry before God. Being a father means that, in addition to my wife and I, there is now another person for whom I am very intimately responsible. Another person, one for whose training and fathering I will answer, for whose provision I will be held to account, and to whom I must strive to be an example of the gospel in action. My daughter (assuming that the Ultrasound Technician was right – and they’re not always) or son will look to me to be an example of pastoral, godly, disciplined righteousness.

I love my daughter deeply – more with every passing day as she grows and develops and learns and changes and as God shapes and knits her together. I love my daughter, young as she is. I love her, and so many questions fill my mind:

  • What if my daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly in the womb (as a couple we know of recently experienced)?
  • What if, in a few short years, my precious young daughter was killed in an accident in our driveway (as a musician many of us are familiar with experienced a couple years ago)?
  • What if my daughter grows up and rejects Jesus Christ?
  • What if she lives a long and unrepentant life of rebellion and immorality?
  • Someone mentioned to me today that, because of how I love her, she will always be “Daddy’s Little Girl”. My head reeled. Not because I don’t treasure the thought of taking care of this little girl, nor because I really hope she doesn’t stay little. Neither was it because my hope and prayer is that she grows into a godly woman who loves Jesus Christ. No, I reeled because the thing that immediately jumped into my head was a question:

    Is this Little Girl mine?

    Let me explain:

    How dangerous would it be to my soul if I thought she was MINE… of all things? If I believe that she is “mine” and I lose her in any of the above ways I might despair of life or betray God!

    Isn’t it true that so often the line between responsibility and idolatry is very thin?
    Or what about the line between love and idolatry?

    I am responsible for my daughter. I love my daughter.

    But she is not mine.

    At my church, we’re about to start into a series in the book of James. This week we’ll be delving into the first twelve verses, which (among other things) say the following:

    James 1:2-5 ESV
    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    If you’ve been a Christian for some time, you probably have encountered these kinds of ideas before. After all, from Genesis to Revelation, God makes incredible good come out of incomprehensible evils. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and ultimately Joseph saves them from a famine many years later. David is pursued all over Israel and the surrounding areas by Saul (who is rabidly trying to murder him), and becomes a “man after God’s own heart”. Jesus, God of very God, is betrayed, spat upon, brutally beaten, and crucified… takes upon himself sin – that which he justly and righteously hates, and experiences the full Wrath of God poured out against sin… and in submitting himself on the Cross in this way makes a way for sinners to be reconciled to God.

    If you’re like me, the principle makes sense: God allows and sometimes causes trials and suffering in our lives in order to refine and purify us, in order to transform us and conform us into the likeness of Jesus.

    But James didn’t just say “Accept it, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. He said to count it all joy. Joy. In other words, James is saying “rejoice when you suffer!” and “be delighted when you go through difficulty” and “chalk it up as a sweet thing when your circumstances are sour and bitter”.

    What? I understand accepting that, as Joseph said to his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20)… but to rejoice in suffering? How?

    Let me take a stab at it, with my thanks to preachers like John Piper and Matt Chandler for crystallizing this in my thoughts lately:

    Everything we have is loaned to us that we might point to and make much of Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ – they are all given to us or allowed to us so that in all of it we would rejoice in the Cross.

    The Cross?

    The Cross, through which our worst adversity becomes an instrument of God in subjecting our hearts more wholly to him!

    The Cross, through which everything that would seek to destroy us serves instead to strengthen us – conforming us more and more to the likeness of Jesus!

    The Cross, the greatest sin ever committed, but through which sinners are reconciled to God!

    How else can we move beyond merely accepting our circumstances (especially when they constitute trials and suffering) to REJOICING in them? How else but to see God’s grace and mercy overflowing as he works through our varied and frequently terrible circumstances to accomplish the transformation of our hearts and lives?

    We rejoice in adversity because the worst of circumstances is a gift from God. The worst of circumstances is the gift of a dark, painful, and evil place in which to say to a watching world (and to our rebellious hearts):

    “God is enough! He is all I need! He is my life and sustenance! There is no world, no meaning, and no hope without Jesus Christ!”

    I am responsible for my daughter and I love her… but she is not mine. (May God grant that I never see her as mine!) My daughter, much like every good thing that I have, is a gift from God, created and sustained by him for my joy and for His glory.

    God Is Enough

    Currently listening to: “The Best It’s Gonna Get” by Celldweller
    Chapter two of Wish Upon A Blackstar just dropped. It’s uhh… Celldweller at its best, basically.

    This is just a quick post to share this: .

    I have a lot of respect for Matt Chandler, and have benefited greatly from his preaching as well as other resources that The Village Church puts out online. Along with many others, I was shocked when he was hit by a pretty brutal seizure during American Thanksgiving and diagnosed with a brain tumor. In this video, Matt explains what happened, but also what it means.

    I entrust it to you with rejoicing. What an encouragement to hear where Matt’s heart is focused, with his life on the line.

    Remembering Grandpa

    Currently listening to: “Holy” by Brenton Brown
    Brenton is a favourite in these parts. We really appreciate his anything-but-showy approach to putting together worship songs. Also, he has a knack for penning meaningful lyrics (with very little “I” and “Me” in them).

    My wife’s grandfather passed away last Thursday – November 5th, 2009. I only had the pleasure of spending time with him once, at our wedding last year. We spent the first half of this week down in Kansas for the funeral – a journey that was full of stories in itself. We flew out of Rochester at 7am EST (which meant getting up around 2am to drive down), stopped over at O’Hare in Chicago, and landed in Kansas City around 11:30am CST. We then drove a couple hours west of KC to Abilene, Kansas – grandpa’s hometown.

    Throughout our time there, we enjoyed much time spent with family – mourning the loss of grandpa, but celebrating his life. There was a lot to celebrate. If you have a spare minute, please have a gander at his obituary. Grandpa was a missionary to the Philippines, a radio personality, a WW2 vet, a Moody grad, and perhaps most of all – a husband, father, and grandfather. He loved Jesus Christ and dedicated his life to serving him. He left a legacy of faithfulness that touches even me – his grandson-in-law.

    Wednesday, we made the trek home.

    Today is Friday, I’m thinking about the challenge of following (and some day leaving) a great legacy. Although I didn’t know Grandpa, I’ve spent much of this week mindful of the life he lived, and of the family he raised (which includes my mother-in-law, of whom I am rather fond). Certainly, I’ve inherited a different world than he did – but we serve the same King, and are called to the same faithfulness to that King.

    Feel free to check out Grandpa’s radio shows here, and other info here.

    The Primacy of Preaching in Worship

    Currently listening to: “Get Me Right” by Dashboard Confessional
    Chris Carrabba is a bit of a tough one to pin down. It’s difficult to know, in his songs, whose voice he speaks from – his own, or those of various characters he creates or whose stories he tells. The answer to that question would seriously uncomplicate the question of what precisely it is that he believes. What he believes is an interesting question because, before he was “The Famous Chris Carrabba – King of All Emo and the man behind Dashboard Confessional”, he was the unknown frontman of Further Seems Forever, an essentially Christian technical rock band. This song is remarkable because it’s the first one (as Dashboard) in which Chris talks in fairly straightforward terms about faith, Jesus, doubt, sin, depravity, and such things. I’m still processing what’s going on – there’s a lot of history to reckon with, and there’s a lot of voices on this record (and all his Dashboard records, for that matter).

    There are about 50 blogs on my feed reader. I read most of them in their entirety every day – it’s a part of my morning routine. One that I recently added was CJ Mahaney’s blog over at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Although I disagree with CJ on some points (and really, we could all say that about anybody if we’re being honest!) I’ve really appreciated his ministry – both in book form and in his preaching.

    I had the opportunity to attend CJ’s breakout session this past April at the Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference and it was, in many ways, a pivotal point for me. Through CJ’s message entitled “The Pastor’s Charge“, God sparked in my heart a desire for pastoral ministry. Does this mean I’m hoping to be a “Pastor” someday? God only knows. Right now, I’m just working through what it means to be pastoral in character and daily practice – both internally and externally. I firmly believe that all believing men are called to strive toward the standards required of all “overseers” as laid out in Titus and Timothy and such. So, in this season of life, one of my particular concerns is to nurture and develop in those areas – striving toward being (as Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 3) above reproach, faithful in monogamy, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an addict, gentle, not violent, not a money-lover, a good father and husband, dignified, mature in the faith and constantly pursuing humility.

    With that as background, you’ll understand my excitement over today’s post on CJ’s blog, made by his friend Jeff Purswell, entitled “Preaching vs. Worship?” (entitled so as to question the false dichotomy). I’d encourage you to read it. Here’s something that stood out to me:

    Why? Why so much preaching? Why all this talking? Because the primary way we encounter God in worship is through the preaching of the Word of God.

    Think about it this way. Normally, in what we call “worship,” we spend significant time—perhaps the whole time—addressing God, singing to him, praising him, extolling him, praying to him. Wonderful! But in preaching we are no longer addressing God; he is addressing us. Nothing is more important than this moment. And this is why the most important worship leader in your church is your pastor.

    That really gets to the heart of preaching. The Bible is not simply a book that we talk about. When God’s Word is faithfully preached, God is addressing us. God is speaking. We hear not merely a man’s voice. We hear the voice of God.

    And when God addresses us, what is the appropriate response? We respond with glad and reverent hearts, with voices that proclaim his praise, and with lives that increasingly reflect his character.

    God addresses us with a saving Word. We respond to him with faith, praise, and obedience. That is the rhythm of worship.

    This article caught me, striking me as both true and unnoticed. As I reflect on my week-to-week experience of preaching (thanks to my Pastor, for whom I am becoming more grateful constantly), I resonate with the above sentiments on a level I can’t really express at this point. Rare is the Sunday afternoon that I don’t feel at least a little weak at the knees because of the awareness that, despite all of the flawed humanity in the preacher, God spoke to me through the faithful preaching of his scriptures. Further, as I reflect on CJ’s message at the Gospel Coalition in April, I realize the same thing – God spoke through CJ’s exposition of scripture in preaching. He called me to greater faithfulness to Him and His truth. He called me to sacrificially serve and love His church. He called me to grow and mature in Christ. He called me to repent of myself. He called me to teach and learn, to suffer and wrestle, to counsel and to seek counsel. He called me to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Jesus – the author and finisher, the perfecter, the archetype, the God-man, the dread warrior, the Holy One. He called me to lay down my life.

    It’s not that He hadn’t said all of those things before – they’re all over Scripture. But, God spoke to me that day in a way I hardly understood at the time, and hardly do now. He spoke through the Bible. What an amazing gift!

    May those who preach do so faithfully, and may those of us who listen to their faithful preaching worship with our lives faithfully in response. Amen.