STAND for the gospel 2010 this weekend

So in less than 12 hours our church is hosting the inaugural STAND for the Gospel bible conference. The keynote speaker is Conrad Mbewe from Zambia, and I just know it’s going to be a weekend of solid, convicting, gospel-centred preaching as well as a great opportunity to meet and fellowship with like-minded Christians from all over NZ.

I’m serving as one of the worship leaders during the weekend along with the rest of the immensely committed music, sound and tech teams. From the music side at least, I know we’ll be  singing a mix of enduring hymns of the faith, together with some of our newer  Christ-exalting favourites. By God’s grace all the elements will come together; it will be an honour and a joy to bring Him glory this weekend!

If you’re interested come on down this weekend and check out one of the sessions for yourself (the schedule is here). Particularly on Saturday, there’s a full day of sessions, workshops and a panel discussion. In addition, Denys from Gracebooks NZ in Hastings is bringing his bookshop up to Auckland (well, the books in his bookshop at least!).

With all this on offer, hopefully I’ll see some of you this weekend! I will be tweeting (at using the hashtag #STAND4tg2010.

Soli deo gloria!


Broken to be made holy

This morning I woke up freshly irritated by a couple of sins I’d already committed in the first few seconds of consciousness. As God would have it, this occurred around 4:00 am. So, I had at least two hours before dawn, to stew on my/others’ shortcomings, which eventually boiled into those of the last few weeks as well, whether real or suspected. By the time William woke up, I was thoroughly resentful, belligerent, helpless and depressed, and apparently obsessed about all the ignorant, frustrating or hurtful behaviours of others and myself. I knew that this was a bad sign, and I knew that I had to repent and trust in Christ – but could not even stop thinking about all that weight of sin, could not even repent.

Although I couldn’t explain to him exactly what the problem was, William prayed with me anyway before he left for work. An hour or so later, after being roundly humbled, de-hysterics-ised and convicted by the first third of Proverbs – 2:3-5 “yes, if you call out for insight … then you will understand the fear of the LORD…”, 8:4 “O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense”, 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” – I managed to get on with the rest of my day, remembering that faith is for things you haven’t actually seen yet.

Later on in the day, my friend Dawn (GraceVisions) shared this excerpt from J. C. Philpot, “Spiritual Times and Seasons” (1841) on her dA journal:

As pride rises, it must be broken down.

As self-righteousness starts up, it must be brought low.

As the wisdom of the creature exalts itself against the wisdom of God, it must be laid prostrate.

The way in which the Spirit of God works is to lay the creature low, by bringing it into nothingness, and crushing it into self-abasement and self-loathing, so as to press out of it everything on which the creature can depend.

Like a surgeon, who will run his lancet into the abscess, and let out the gory matter, in order to effect a thorough cure; so the Spirit of the Lord thrusting His sharp sword into the heart, lets out the inward corruption, and never heals the wound until He has thoroughly probed it.

And when He has laid bare the heart, He heals it by pouring in the balmy blood of Jesus, as that which, by its application, cleanses from all sin.

In the common absence of really being confronted with my sin, I’ve often admired the spiritual greats and their humility and submission to His work in their lives, as with the passage Dawn shared with me. However, admiration of those who point to God is not actually the process of refining. For that, I need the Physician Himself.

Though only briefly, I thought I came to such a place this morning, when it felt like my sin was so great that I did not even have access to the throne. It was only later that I started to realise how deadly to faith is a skeptical or critical perspective on life, because it is rooted in pride – where I (subconsciously) must be in control, or bridge my salvation, or be able to somehow deserve this grace … and down the slippery slope it goes.

No, instead I must recall that the clay does not mold the jar, the rock does not sculpt the statue. Comfort comes only when we rest in God, knowing that ‘He who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’

And we must praise Him, for His Gospel is sure, and not mourn, for the victory is already won.

– Cheryl

Julie and Julia – happily ever after?

Julie and Julia

I watched a movie called “Julie and Julia” along with a group of friends last night. It’s a film about two women who find meaning and purpose through food. Julia Child goes to cooking school and writes a cookbook. A generation later, Julie Powell spends a year cooking through all the recipes in that (now famous) cookbook, and blogs about it.

Yet the most intriguing aspect of the film for me wasn’t the cooking. It was the portrayal of their marriages. Julia and Paul are firm in their marriage and throughout the film constantly support each other in their respective endeavours. They demonstrate, knowingly or unknowingly, some of the advice that another Paul (an apostle) gives:

“… let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph 5:33)

On the other hand, the movie portrays a sanitised view of Julie’s marriage with husband Eric – yet real life seems to be less rosy. It’s heartbreaking after watching the film to read that since finding fame and popularity with her blogging and writing, she’s gone on to be unfaithful to her husband and recently released a second book which details her newfound passion as a butcher alongside her numerous infidelities.

Here’s the backcover text to her second book (emphasis mine):

Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do–until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer’s, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs–tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world–from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

It’s painful to read her description of cheating on your spouse as merely “insane” and “irresistable”.

In many ways, I am encouraged and challenged not by the cooking prowess and know-how of Julie and Julia, but by their commitment to their respective marriages.


Worship Leader’s Redux: Easter Weekend 2010 Part 2

 colon+right.bracket @ Flickr

In my last post I covered some of the positives I drew from the services over Easter weekend. With time to reflect I’m sharing a few points that I could have done better on:

  • I didn’t write out all my chords for a new song we tried, “Completely Done“. This wasn’t too much of a problem in the end as our pianist carried the correct chords strongly for most of the song. But because I didn’t write the chords down, when I played I ended up confusing rather than leading the instrumental section which needed strong direction due to a trumpet solo line.
  • Quite a number of people noted that the same song was pitched a bit too high for the women in particular, and also featured quite a boring melody in the verse (mostly the same notes in each line). I should have clued in on this earlier as the female vocalists on team needed to drop down to a lower harmony part during the chorus – but maybe there was a bit of pride in not wanting to relent on a song we’d worked hard on. I need to be more flexible in this area and scrutinise new songs not just for its content (which was spot on), but whether the church can sing it!
  • With Ryan, a strong guitarist on team this weekend, I sensed that my own guitar playing was a bit redundant. There’s always a bit of a control (and perhaps pride) issue where one might sometimes feel more in charge, and less exposed, with an instrument strapped across the shoulder. But I know I should be learning how to better lead my team better without depending on guitar strums.
  • On Sunday I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to swap the song order, bringing “Thank You Jesus” further forward in the set list. However I didn’t give enough advance warning and launched straight into the song without checking that lyrics were onscreen, potentially disrupting and distracting the congregation needlessly. While I’m not advocating that worship leaders should never deviate from the script and forgo the prompting of the Holy Spirit, in this instance I could have given the projector operator better direction. Definitely something to work on in future.


Anyways, I think that’s enough navel-gazing for now. Good and bad points combined, I’m just grateful that God used the imperfect and broken to bring Him glory this weekend!


– William

Worship Leader’s Redux: Easter Weekend 2010 Part 1

I’m sitting at home enjoying a scoop of cookies and cream ice-cream. Easter Monday is a public holiday in NZ and so I’m savouring this time to unwind and catch up on errands and jobs around the house. But as I sit here I’m reflecting on the Easter Friday and Sunday’s services at Howick Baptist Church.

Here are a number of things that I felt, by God’s grace, went well:

  1. Double-dipped tunes. When choosing songs this Easter, I deliberately kept an eye out for songs that worked thematically on both Friday and Sunday services. We sung “Glories of Calvary” and “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” in this way: as we had the same music team covering both services, it was therefore easier on them to not have to rehearse two different songs instead. Two things we tried that helped to vary the two versions of each song included, firstly, using a different solo instrument on Sunday vs. Friday (in our case trumpet vs. violin); and secondly, emphasising different parts of a song on different days. For example, on Friday we ended “Glories of Calvary” slightly earlier in the song with the words: “… to sing of Jesus who died for me.” – while on Sunday we took the song to its high-octane, triumphant response of “Oh take me deeper into the glories of Calvary.” Even by varying bits and pieces like this we were able to use the same song but bring out different aspects for the congregation to consider.
  2. Early warning systems. Getting as much of the music out earlier than the Thursday night rehearsal was a definite advantage, especially considering that we tackled two new songs across the weekend. I’m grateful for the dedication of the musicians that made the effort to look at the music beforehand: as a result, the Gethsemane Hymn clicked together very quickly during practice. If there are new songs that I’m planning on using in future, I think it will be much more effective to distribute them (e.g. via email) earlier in the week so it’s not a sight-reading rehearsal come Thursday night, and there’s more time available for fine-tuning rather than learning a piece.
  3. The James 1:19 principle. During the Friday service, I was able to hold my tongue and let most of the songs speak for themselves, and interjecting at a bare minimum. It seemed to cause less distractions that way and the focus was drawn more to the lyrics, in particular for the new songs we tried. You can check out our team’s attempt with “To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemane Hymn)“, by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend in the Youtube video below (if you’re reading this in a feed click through to the site here).


In the next post I’ll expand on things that could have been improved on to help serve the church better.

– William