Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Bob Kauflin

Modern Hymns for the Church: From Age to Age by Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music has truly blessed the church. Here is an album of modern hymns that I am happy to wholeheartedly recommend. It is called From Age to Age.

Musically speaking, the album is more eclectic than we’re used to from Sovereign Grace. These songs sound distinct from each other and different than previous SGM releases. At first I wasn’t sure what that would mean, since I’ve enjoyed many of Sovereign Grace’s recent albums. But this one stands apart.

Lyrically, this album is rich. The songs glory in the dynamic interplay of God’s transcendence and immanence and the majesty of the eternal God who revealed himself in the suffering servant.

Spiritually and emotionally, this album is gripping and engaging without being cheesy. I am amazed at how well the individual songwriters did at matching the musical elements to the lyrics so that the climactic points of the music serve to make the words even more worship-compelling.

I want you to hear this album so badly I’m embedding it below so you don’t even have to leave the page to hear it.

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Why I’m Looking Forward to WorshipGod ’11!

I’m about 24 hours away from setting off on the day-long drive to the Washington, DC area (Gaithersburg, MD, to be exact) for the Worship God Conference. I’m really looking forward to it! Here are a few reasons why…

1. My Wife is Coming With Me!

As a side bonus (a sweet one!) this year, for the first time, Stacey will be able to join me on a trip to Covenant Life Church for a conference. I’m always so blessed by the conferences put on there by the folks at Sovereign Grace Ministries, I’m eager for her to be blessed too. And having her there without the kids for a few days? I’m stoked.

2. The Travelling Fellowship

Two other couples will be joining Stacey and me on our trip: Nick & Alicia and Josh & Amy. For all four of them it’ll be their first time down to an SGM conference as well, so I’m happy to bring them along. But what I’m really looking forward to about having them come is the sweet fellowship I know we’ll enjoy in the car both ways and during our time at the conference. Events like this are always more meaningful when experienced in groups.

3. The Preaching & the Seminars

Will the preaching be good? I have no doubt. I look forward to hearing Thabiti Anyabwile, Craig Cabaniss, and Bob Kauflin again and Bryan Chapell and Ray Ortlund for the first time. And the seminars should be great too: Pat Sczebel, Mark Altrogge, Don Whitney, Shai Linne, Steve & Vikki Cook… It will rock!

4. Engaging in Worship of the Living God

I know, I can do this anywhere. And I do it regularly where God intends for me to do it — in my local church, which I love. But there’s always something special about gathering thousands of worship leaders together to sing in one place. This will be a special time, a focused few days of doing not much apart from corporate worship and engaging our brains in knowing God better.

5. The Theme

The Gathering. I love it. Back in 2008 I wrote Stephen Altrogge an e-mail telling him that we should have more songs and more focus in corporate worship on the church as a whole rather than just individuals. He agreed with me. I like to think that Stephen and I are really the brains behind this whole thing. Bob just stole our idea.

6. Mark Altrogge

I hope he does some ridiculous antics. I just like it when he does that.

7. I Hope I’m an Encouragement

I know that they are having this conference to encourage us, but I hope that somehow our presence at the conference will be a small encouragement to Bob Kauflin and the rest of the leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries. It’s been a rough season for them, but I want them to know we love them and appreciate them and are thankful for all their labours for the gospel. My prayer is that for these few days ‘The Gathering’ of all these saints from all around North America would help us to fix our eyes on the one who never changes and never fails, so that in light of his unending love for his people at the cross, all are strengthened and encouraged.

8. There Are Lots More…

There are lots more reasons, but I’ll stop here. Anyone else out there going? What are you looking forward to?

Why Singing Music from Sovereign Grace is Better Than Singing Hymns

I also thought about titling this post: Why Stephen Altrogge is better than William Cowper. I decided against that one, though.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, both the title and that first sentence are said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But I will say, however, that I do agree with those statements, in a qualified sense. Let me try to defend that by way of example and comparison.

First, here is a classic hymn by Cowper–some have even suggested this is the greatest hymn of all-time!

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

I love this hymn. Especially in the context of Cowper’s life. It’s ministered to me huge at a number of points in my life.

That being said, I think the song could be improved. The reality is that the Bible tells us over and over (in narrative, in poetry, in apocalypse, everywhere!) that God moves in mysterious ways. But in Scripture, this always points us to the greatest mystery: the cross & resurrection of Jesus. The hymn never takes us there.

The ‘vindication’ of God’s wisdom and trustworthiness in the midst of what appears to be defeat is the cross. There should be another verse drawing us to the reality of God’s mysterious workings, as shown in the cross, the climax of all God’s revelation.

Now compare Cowper’s classic to a modern song by Sovereign Grace Music on the same theme, by Stephen Altrogge: (© 2002 Sovereign Grace Praise [BMI])

Who can comprehend
Your holy ways O Lord?
Your glorious power without end
From which the stars were born
How could we ever understand
The moving of Your hand?
How could we ever come to grasp
The One who never began?

Oh, what a glorious mystery You are
Oh, what a glorious mystery You are
Though we only see in part
You’ve completely won our hearts
Oh, what a glorious mystery You are

Who can comprehend
Your gracious mercy Lord
Great loving kindness that would send
A Saviour to be born?
Why would you, Jesus, die for us
Who cursed Your perfect name?
Why would You come to reconcile
Those who caused Your shame?

There are many similarities: both songs focus on the mysterious nature of God’s character and God’s works. Both songs glory in God’s sovereignty over all things.

But there are differences too. Frankly, I don’t think Altrogge could match Cowper’s poetic ability. Cowper’s turns of phrase and gripping metaphors are breath-taking and illuminating. But here’s why I’d rather sing Stephen’s song: He glories in the climax of Scripture and points us to the ultimate reason why we can trust a God who seems mysterious; he points us to the cross.

And which is more important? Where will a Christian find true comfort and solace in the midst of suffering or guilt or distraction or despair? In poetic imagery or in simply being reminded of God’s love for him displayed in the death of Jesus?

The reason why I continue to love Bob Kauflin, the Altrogges, and all the folks at Sovereign Grace Music is not because they are the best lyricists or musicians of all time. It is because they faithfully, time-after-time, give us song-after-song that points us to the revelation of God in the cross. And that’s what God loves! And that’s what Christians need.

All that to say, I am super-fantastically excited for the release of Risen coming up in a few days. If I’m certain of anything, it is this: Every song will make much of what God has done for us in Jesus.

And what could possibly be better to sing about?

Bob Kauflin on David Powlison on the Imprecatory Psalms

Bob Kauflin (lead worshiper at Covenant Life Church) has posted notes on what looks like it was an awesome session from the WorshipGod ’08 Conference. He’s also got a link to download the mp3 of the sermon.

Check it out: David Powlison on the Imprecatory Psalms

(Isn’t it interesting how much Powlison looks like he’s imprecating someone? You gotta love a preacher that gets into character.)

Thinking and Feeling with God

It seems that the Psalms are the centre of much attention in evangelicalism in North America these days. The Psalms is one of my favourite books, so this is exciting to me.

It has saddened me over the years to see how many Christians are somewhat unable to understand, identify with, and apply the Psalms to their own spiritual walk. This just makes me even more glad that great preachers are spending time there these days!

Here are some valuable resources:

  • John Piper has just finished up a six week study in the Psalms at Bethlehem Baptist. You can download those messages for free here. I recommend beginning with the first one because Dr Piper gives some insight into the Psalms in general before jumping into the text of Psalm 1.
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  • At Covenant Life Church, they’ve taken a team approach to teaching a series on the Psalms. Stacey and I were blessed by Greg Somerville’s message when we visited the church back in May. You can see a listing of the sermons available for free download or for streaming here.
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  • Bob Kauflin‘s ‘Worship God ’08’ conference that is coming up will focus on the Psalms as well. Perhaps the most fantastic thing about this is that they’ll be releasing a new CD in conjunction with this conference.

I’m hoping to post some more of my own thoughts on how the Psalms ought to be interpreted and applied to the hearts and lives of Christians in the next few days.

Random Thoughts on the Sign Gifts

Attending WorshipGod06 (run by Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Ministries) with Tim has given me lots to think about. Ever since Tim and I got back I’ve been mulling over the issues with regards to the ‘sign’ or ‘miraculous’ gifts. Here are some random thoughts I’ve been chewing on…

1. 1 Corinthians 13.8-13. This is not profound, but merely an acknowledgement of what the majority of evangelicalism has already said: these verses are not referring to the closing of the canon. Without this text, the intratextual evidence for any strong cessationist position is incredibly weak. To my knowledge this is the only text cessationists use to argue their position that Paul knew of the gifts coming to an end. Further, even if we could allow that this text is speaking of these gifts (tongues, prophecies, and knowledge), then why do we include things like the gift of healing in the list of gifts which have ceased?

2. Where do we draw the line? It seems to me that the categories of ‘miraculous’ or ‘sign’ gifts are somewhat artificially imposed on the New Testament text (like imposing the ‘moral / civil / ceremonial’ categories on the OT Law). Nowhere does it seem evident that such a distinction is made. Quite the contrary, in places like Romans 12.4-8 Paul lumps prophecy in with faith, service, teaching, exhortation, contributing, leading, acts of mercy, etc. What justification is there for picking and choosing which cease and which continue?

3. We need to know. The going line in our circles is that these are matters of secondary or tertiary importance to the gospel, and so we are united in our differences and able to fellowship with each other since we agree on the central issues. I agree with this. But I can’t help but wonder how consistent it is. If there are people prophesying by the Spirit and we are saying that they’re not, aren’t we closing our ears to God’s words to us? Aren’t we guilty of denying a genuine work of God? Or if the opposite is the case and they’re not really prophesying, but are saying they are, are they not false prophets? If they are putting false words in God’s mouth is that something we can afford to call ‘secondary’? I don’t see how. I’ve been reading through Jeremiah lately and finding that God has some very harsh declarations against those who prophesy falsely in his name…

4. ‘But they’re not the New Testament gifts…’. This was one of Tim’s (and mine as well) biggest complaints against the practising of the gifts that we saw at WorshipGod06. Simply put, what we saw did not line up with what we read in the New Testament. Now, as one who believes strongly in Sola Scriptura, I want to phrase very carefully what I say next, because I realize that variations of this thinking can be used to all kinds of nefarious ends. But as I think about the practising of the gifts described in Acts and then think about the gifts that I see today at Bible-centred places like Covenant Life Church, I have to ask, ‘so what if they’re different?’ Again, I don’t want to dismiss any biblical command or restrictions which are ongoing, but don’t we often argue that the book of Acts is more ‘descriptive’ rather than ‘prescriptive’? And if we’re honest with ourselves, how much of what takes place on a Sunday morning in our church buildings actually resembles what the first believers did as they met ‘day by day’ anyway? So why is it such a big deal with the gifts? It seems that the more important (if one can speak in such terms) place to look for guidance on the practice of the gifts would be the epistles written to post-Acts churches. These epistles contain many instructions on how to practice the gifts in an ongoing sense and nowhere seem to indicate that they will cease. Places like Covenant Life Church, leaders like Bob Kauflin, and organizations like Sovereign Grace Ministries do seem to follow those instructions quite well. Everything is done decently and in order (more ordered, in fact, than many cessationist churches I’ve been in where no one even has an order of service written up).

Again, these are all just random thoughts not leading to any conclusions. They’re just things I’m contemplating in the spare moments my brain manages to come across.

Any thoughts are more than welcome!

Bob Kauflin on How to Receive Compliments

Rainer pointed me to this post by Bob Kauflin, and so I pass it on to you. It is definitely worth the read!

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