Tag Archives: suffering

US Holiday/WG11 Conference – Covenant life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries

Our learning and growing didn’t stop after the conference. We attended one of Covenant Life’s morning services, had lunch with our UK friends, and checked out music instrument and guitar stores.

Covenant life


We learnt just as much on Sunday as any of our days at WorshipGod 11. Firstly, we got to obsere first-hand how their regular Sunday services were put together.

So what happens at a Covenant Life service? There are two meeting times, either at 9:00am or 11:30am. We attended the 9am and our experience was this:

  • Before the start of the service, one of the pastors (they have quite a few) led a pre-meeting prayer time. People are encouraged to come to the front of the auditorium, and pray together with the help of a particular passage of Scripture (this morning it was Phil 2). The pastor then opens the time in prayer.
  • Next, we sing two songs led by one of the church’s music teams, all contemporary bands. This morning it was led from the piano by Ken Boer (with guitars, bass, drums, synth and two vocalists).
  • One of the pastors come up to give any important notices (most were kept on noticeboards outside and on the website) and welcome any visitors. Each visitor was given a pen, a small bulletin-brochure with key church information and a guest card tear-off, and a CD with some essential Sovereign Grace songs. A very practical gift for first-timers.
  • The offering would be taken, at which there may be more singing before someone comes up to teach from Scripture.
  • Then there are one or two songs before the service concludes.

(A list of songs used on Sunday morning is made available on the Covenant Life Music and Worship blog.


While I learnt much about service structure etc, this was definitely not a normal Sunday morning. Some of you may know that Covenant Life Church is currently involved in a painful controversy that involves one of their founding pastors, CJ Mahaney, and the wider Sovereign Grace movement.

We were moved to tears as through the meeting the pastors devoted much time during the gathering to address these issues the church is going through.

(For those who need to know, it’s complicated and involves disagreements on the course of action taken by Covenant Life church’s eldership, and Sovereign Grace Ministries’ board of directors in response to allegations against CJ Mahaney’s leadership, character and purported sins. This Sunday morning Covenant Life announced that two of their pastors had resigned in protest at how this was being handled, and other issues. You can read more here.)

I cried as I thought of how in the midst of their troubles, they still gave to us so generously by hosting this conference, modeling our generous King. During the sermon, senior pastor Josh Harris taught from Colossians 3:9-15 and reminded us not to forget the big picture: our identities, and those of brothers and sisters we disagree with, are in Christ, not in the issues we disagree on.


Please keep Covenant Life Church in your prayers.

“When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine…”
How Firm A Foundation, closing song at Covenant Life Church, August 14

Crepes and goodbyes

After the morning meeting we said more goodbyes to people we’d met at Covenant Life, and then headed over to a a nearby suburb for some tasty crepes and ice creams with Fran and Matt Richley.

It’s been wonderful to meet these two blokes, and we wish we would be able to see them one day in the future. Cheryl loves many things Welsh so it’s a strong possibility we’ll plan to head there one day if the Lord wills.

Giant groceries


We spent a relaxing afternoon and evening buying requested items for friends, before exploring the local supermaket (this one was called Giant). There are so many weird things on sale that it was an experience in itself for us!

Next: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections

Update (26/08/2011): here’s the full series of our time in the USA.

Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections 


– William Chong

HBC service recap: 27 February 2011

(Here’s a recap of the service and the songs we chose this past weekend at Howick Baptist Church. You can find links to the set lists of this church and many other churches each week at theworshipcommunity.com. You can also read through previous HBC service recaps here.)


On Tuesday at 12:51 p.m., a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch:

At least 147 people have been confirmed dead and more than 200 people have been reported as missing as of 5:56pm local time, 27 February, making the earthquake one of the deadliest natural disasters in New Zealand’s recorded history. Prime Minister John Key stated that 22 February “may well be New Zealand’s darkest day”. Nationals from more than 20 countries are among those missing. The New Zealand Government declared a national state of emergency for the first time in New Zealand’s history. (via Wikipedia 28/2/2011)

How does the church then meet together in corporate worship in light of acute devastation and sorrow our whole country has been experiencing? With the earthquake weighing heavily on everyone’s minds, many of us (myself included) all needed to draw comfort from “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3-4). I think we all needed this reminder:

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…” (Heb 12:28)


Order of Service (27/2/2011 AM)

(worship leader: William Chong)

Prayer for Christchurch. Peter and Joe led the church in prayer for the city, for the people, for the nation.
Scripture Reading – Psalm 46, Revelation 21:1-5. The first passage talks of God our fortress in the midst of the earth giving way. The other describes the new city of God that followers of Christ can look forward to, where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.” What hope!

1. The Solid Rock – Edward Mote and William Bradbury. “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand!”
2. All I Have Is Christ – Jordan Kauflin. Someone commented that we should have done this song closer to the message, where a “gospel blockbuster” would usually be placed. However, given it was a busy service there was a possibility that a song would need to be cut, so we sang this earlier in the service to make sure it wouldn’t be this one!! Also it can be worthwhile shifting songs around a bit so the songs aren’t used in predictable, cookie-cutter ways (e.g., opening song with lights and big drums, always singing “Speak O Lord” before a message).
3. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (instrumental) – Helen Lemmel, Michael W Smith. We preceded this song with a moment of quiet prayer. It’s traditionally used as an invitation to respond to the gospel, but the words are equally apt to minister to weary saints.
4. There Is A Hope – Stuart Townend. There is not much more you need to say after singing:

“When sufferings cease and sorrows die and every longing satisfied then joy unspeakable will flood my soul for I am truly home.”

Sermon: John Lennox. We were privileged to have Professor Lennox (Oxford University) as the guest speaker. He spoke directly about the topic of the goodness of God in light of evil in this world. You can watch/listen to the message here.

5. It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford. After hearing how loud the church sang, I think the roof will definitely need fixing this year!


I’ll write more in a separate post about some big lessons I learnt from preparing for this week’s service (including specific questions about choosing songs in light of a tragic event). For now, it’s just great to have been a part of it all!

UPDATE: Click here to read some further lessons I’m still learning in light of leading worship after an earthquake.


– William

Impact session 11: Russell Hohneck – The highway of humility

If you’ll forgive the incomplete sentences, these are my hastily scribbled notes from the Impact conference session 11 by Russell Hohneck. As always with notes, an exactly accurate representation of the sermon isn’t always possible, so this may not summarise his entire message perfectly. I think the full sermons will be available eventually from Riverbend Bible where the conference was held – would have to check back on that.

(UPDATE: Download the messages from the conference here: Impact 2010 messages)

– Cheryl


Subject: Philippians 2:5-11

[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1. When we’re out in the world like dispirins in a glass of water, we get a bit theologically fuzzy around the edges – this conference has been great for hardening them again.
1.1. (Last night, I said that you don’t get credit for this conference. I take that back – because Jesus already gave you an A!) God’s taken all of our fail marks and put them on Jesus, and taken his pass mark and put it on all of us. And now the assignment is to live out what we’ve been made.
1.2. The author describes other sins beside sexual: matters of unity (ch1), of considering others before ourselves (ch2), and of specific people arguing in the church (ch4).
1.3. They are not “gross sins,” but they are still sinful.
1.4. Jesus steps down to the deepest depths of hell to cover even the smallest sins.
1.5. Paul wanted to attain (3:10) the actual resurrection body – he wanted to know Jesus so much that he wanted no sin.
1.6. An overview: Paul writes of the highway of humility. It’s the low way, but it leads to glory – how to walk with one another. This overview unfolds into everywhere in Scripture to give us an understanding of holiness.

2. Jesus stepped down from glory
2.1.1. Christ eternally existed in the form of God (form – morphe) – not external but the inner and essential nature of the being, ie, Christ’s preincarnate state, which was essentially God.
2.1.2. This is a statement about the divine nature of Christ. God exists in Christ. Christ is therefore God in the flesh.
2.2.1. However, he did not regard equality with God somethign to be held close.
2.2.2. Compare how Satan viewed the Godhead as a prize to be grasped and taken. In contrast, divinity already belonged to Jesus in the first place. In Satan there was no humility, but Jesus in his humility was willing to let it go.
2.3. Willing to step down that we might step up.
2.3.1 How? We should put aside security in the bank account, security in friends, security in power… Anything we hold higher than Christ, we should let go, and be humble.

3. He stepped into lowliness
3.1. He emptied himself of his existence in a manner-equal-to-God. He didn’t give up his divinity, but gave up his right to express himself in glory. He clothed himself in humanity.
3.2. Took on the form of a bond-slave. He didn’t take on a mask but had the inner nature of the bond-servant. No discrepancy between his external actions and internal heart attitudes.
3.3. “and being made in the likeness of man” – He takes on the outward appearance of man. Unesteemed.
3.4. Ps 22:6-8 – [iʃ] – man, meaning noble man. “I am not a [man]” – I am not a noble man. Despite that he is actually the highest of men, he becomes the lowest and worst of men. Christ was shamed that we might not be.
3.5. Ps 69:9

4. He stepped into death – the lowest death.
4.1. He suffered at the hand of men.
4.1.1. There is no greater pain we can face that Christ has not faced.
4.1.2. Accursed of God – sorrow upon sorrow. He was separated from God, on our behalf.
4.1.3. Ps 22 – “poured out like water” – this is referring to the Saviour.
4.2. He also suffered from the hordes of hell. We know this because Satan and his minions have a continuing & eternal hatred for God.
4.2.1. At Jesus’ crucifixion, his lowest point, even lower than his temptation in the desert, even more would he have been surrounded by all demonic powers.
4.2.2. Jesus did not summon angels to his aid.
4.2.3. In the upper room: “Where I am going, you cannot come”
4.3. He suffers at the hand of God
4.3.1. His father forsook him. Martin Luther exclaimed, “God has forsaken God!” Left him destitute in his hour of extreme need, that we might never be failed by God.
4.3.2. Because of this, He will never leave you nor forsake you.
4.3.3. Jesus became sin & thus had to be separated from God. He is the sin-bearer.

5. For this reason, God highly exalted him.
5.1. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

syndicated from www.chongsworship.com

Songs to suffer well

 cc:kevindooley on Flickr

Our home church has been going through a preaching series on suffering and the sovereignty of God. Before the series began, Pastor Peter and the rest of the worship leaders agreed that the congregational songs during this time needed to help the church to worship and praise God amidst trials and sufferings, in a practical and accessible way.

We’re thankful to a range of gifted songwriters and musicians over the ages who have crafted songs to help the gathered church suffer well. Here are a few we’ve used at HBC over the past few months:

All is Well (Robin Mark) – “He clothes us now then strips us, Yet with his Word equips us, whatever is His way all is well…” One of our worship leaders introduced this just yesterday, and the church picked it up straight away.

Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman) – A contemporary favourite. The bridge goes: “You give and take away | My heart will choose to say | Lord blessed be your name”.

Every Day (Sovereign Grace Music) – This one is from their “Come Weary Saints” CD. The chorus explicitly has the congregation sing out: “Thank you for the trials, for the fire, for the pain” – not a common feature in worship music today! For me this line is a great reminder of 1 Peter 1:6-7, where believers are encouraged to rejoice in their trials, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes through it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory an honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Great is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Chisholm) – It’s more stirring when you know the hymn takes its refrain from Lamentations 3:22-23, where the prophet Jeremiah expresses hope in God’s faithfulness amidst the immense anguish of seeing Jerusalem being invaded and conquered by the Babylonian armies (if you know your Bible, God proves His faithfulness and eventually does restore the nation of Israel).

It is Well with my Soul (Horatio Spafford) – Another great hymn that underscores our security in Christ. You can read about the writer’s life and trials here – I’ve also recorded an arrangement of it myself.


This is just a small sampling – other songs we haven’t tried yet that I can think of include “When Trials Come” (Getty/Townend), “Whatever My God Ordains Is Right” (Mark Altrogge), “I Need Thee Ev’ry Hour” (Annie Hawks), “Be Still My Soul” (Katharina von Schlegel), and so on.

Would you add any suggestions to this list? What psalms, hymns and spiritual songs have helped to sustain you during your trials?




Our church is currently going through a series on the theology of suffering (and, of course, the sovereignty of God). These lyrics from the sovereign grace CD Come Weary Saints, by Mark Altrogge, come to mind.

As Long As You Are Glorified

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine,
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty,
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest,
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?

Oh let Your will be done in me!
In Your love I will abide,
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified!

Are You good only when I prosper,
And true only when I'’m filled?
Are You King only when I'’m carefree,
And God only when I’'m well?
You are good when I’'m poor and needy,
You are true when I’'m parched and dry,
You still reign in the deepest valley,
You’'re still God in the darkest night!

So quiet my restless heart, quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart in You

Perhaps most poignant to me in suffering is a church sister, one of my closer friends, whom I think I mentioned before. Her very young daughter has a life-threatening heart condition, and the medical experts on her case a couple of weeks ago have finally said there is nothing more they can do. Can you watch your child die? Can you bury your own child, who is so vibrant and unique? What did she do to deserve this? God, why are we suffering?

While He creates calamity (Isaiah 45:7) and rains on both the righteous and unrighteous (Matt 5:45), our holy, just, merciful, patient, infinitely loving God does not author sin and suffering. We recall that He also allowed His own Son, whom He loved, to die. He was sinless and therefore least deserving of suffering, but Christ received the greatest suffering of all. So why injustice? Why must my child die? Because of God's purposes, which are higher than ours. In His loving, perfect, compassionate wisdom, He allowed it. Oh, God, you are a wonderful, glorious, mysterious God.

One day all tears will be wiped away, imperfect made perfect, death reversed, and You will be glorified as much as You finally deserve. Til then, we seek Your glory with every stumbling breath we breathe, our continual sins covered by Your blood, and even in the depths of our suffering, we know that You are still God, and You are still good.

soli Deo gloria
originally posted by Cheryl at soli-deo-gloria.deviantart.com, syndicated to chongsworship.com