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Five laments your church could sing this week

“What can miserable Christians sing?”

A couple of years ago, pastor and church historian Carl Trueman posed this question in an article. He was reflecting on contemporary worship music and its limited ability to lament. Cries of pain are largely absent from our gathered worship vocabulary, and so in the wake of a terror attack, or terminal cancer, or the loss of a child, we find ourselves mute.

Here’s five songs, written or arranged in the last decade or so, that could help you or your church to cry out in lament.

1. Though You Slay Me (Shane and Shane)

(Lyrics / Sheet Music)

I like this one because it’s raw and honest. For example:

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

The melody is easy to sing along with, and the chorus helps to turn our tears back to trust: “Though you slay me, yet I will trust you…”

2. Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul (Indelible Grace)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

This is one of our favourites from the folks at Indelible Grace. Anne Steele’s words give us permission to honestly say to God that sometimes, our hope is fainting, it’s hanging on by a thread. The guys at Capitol Hill Baptist use a different tune, though I prefer this one personally – there’s space to almost “sigh” after each line as we “breathe our sorrows” to the ear of sovereign grace.

3. Darkness – Psalm 88 (Matt Searles)

(LyricsSheet Music)

Matt Searles has been putting out some excellent settings of Psalms, and this is no exception. I like the easy to sing tune, and how it pretty much tracks with each line of Psalm 88.

4. Hide Away in the Love of Jesus (Sovereign Grace Music)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

We’ve sung this regularly at Howick Baptist. Each verse talks about a type of person that needs to hide away in the love of Jesus. The first verse in particular helps me put my tired and weak heart into the hands of Jesus:

Come, weary saints, though tired and weak
Hide away in the love of Jesus
Your strength will return by His quiet streams
Hide away in the love of Jesus

5. God Moves (William Cowper, arr. Bob Kauflin)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

Veteran worship leader and songwriter Bob Kauflin wrote this arrangement in response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Cowper’s words were written in the midst of terrible depression. The combination of text and tune has been good for our church to sing over the years:

So God we trust in You
O God we trust in You
When tears are great
And comforts few
We hope in mercies ever new
We trust in You

 


I’m really only scratching the surface here, so please feel free to suggest other laments. I’m particularly interested if you know of songs / psalm settings that are bold enough to stay with the singer in darkness (e.g. Psalm 88, which ends with “darkness my closest friend”).

Auckland Epilogue

Our home as children

Grass is greener on this side

The gospel moves us

 

 

Musick Point, Bucklands Beach


Cockle Bay, Auckland

Westhaven Drive, Auckland

Waitemata Harbour, Auckland

Haste thee on from grace to glory, 

Armed by faith, and winged by prayer. 

Heaven’s eternal days before thee, 

God’s own hand shall guide us there. 

Soon shall close thy earthly mission, 

Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days, 

Hope shall change to glad fruition, 

Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

– Henry Lyte, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”

Traditions and what we treasure

Christmas is an important time of year. As sinful and forgetful people, we often need the reminder of Christ’s incarnation amidst the sadness and brokenness in our own lives and the world we live in.

But the first year we were married, we sat in our hot, humid apartment unit, not quite knowing how to celebrate Christmas. Both of us grew up in homes with few traditions around Christmas – so this was a blank slate for our family.

We knew we didn’t really want to buy into the commercial and materialistic excesses of the year, but not much else. So that year we made a feeble (but delicious) attempt at some cross-shaped cookies, and resolved to be a bit more intentional next Christmas.

Story stones. Card-making and writing. Advent readings. Carol-singing. Each year brings new attempts, new refinements as we carve out our own family traditions, all in bursts of trial and error.

Admittedly in all of this it’s easy to get swept away in the traditions and miss the point of Christmas entirely. Which traditions are worth keeping? Which should be discarded?

I like Noel Piper’s clarity in her book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. In it she says that tradition is:

“…the handing down of information, beliefs, worldview from one generation to another by word of mouth and by regular repetition of example of ceremony of celebration.” (p.26)

In the same book, she writes this encouragement and challenge:

“Only God can bequeath God to our children (John 1:12)… Now although we cannot bequeath God to our children, we can help them know Him and understand Him in ways that prepare them to believe in His name. “Everyday” and “especially” traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world. Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what—Who—is most important to us…” (p.18)

So we press on with our faltering attempts to saturate our family patterns with signposts to Christ – showing Jesus, the child born a King, God with us, the Suffering Saviour, as most important to us. And whether you’re single or married, whatever your traditions look like, may God richly bless you too, as you lay up God’s words in your hearts and pass His words to the next generation.

 

“We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.”
(Psalm 78:4)

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God’s faithfulness in self-employment

2015-02-18 09.05.37Some of you know that last year, I (William) quit my comfortable, secure full-time job in order to take a risk at being a freelancer for our own business. It wasn’t a voice from God or a sense of “call” to become a freelancer. I prayed about it, asked my family and trusted friends for advice, then decided to hand in my resignation and start the ball rolling.

Today marks a year since we started this phase of life. Looking back, we’ve really seen God provide for everything our family needed. Sure, the money doesn’t come conveniently in regular payslips. But our bills are paid, the mortgage is shrinking, we have food on the table, and we can give what we have to others. God’s also helped me to be more thankful for what we are given, where in the past I would have taken our finances for granted.

A year of living from one invoice payment to the next also helps to bring into view some of the besetting idols I had. For example, when your incoming cash goes up and down week to week a big temptation is to think more or less of yourself and your worthiness. Is my worth in the numbers on my payslip? No – the gospel tells me that my worth is only found in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. His death and resurrection means life in Him is worth infinitely more than the riches of an attractive hourly rate or a lucrative contract. And when the bank balance dips, His love and care for me does not.

Here are some other thoughts I’ve had (in no particular order):

  • I’ve never worked harder in my life. I used to think that being busy writing for a few hours each day was “flat out”. The freelance lifestyle means not just writing, but also: juggling between clients, chasing new leads, calculating tax returns, generating invoices, keeping abreast of the latest developments in the areas I write in. All this makes for busy days. Add to the fact that during the week and some evenings, I’m serving in church ministries, helping to organise church and parachurch conferences, going on family trips and bike rides, and doing some DIY projects around the home… it’s been a busy but fruitful year.
  • I need to read. The temptation in freelance life is to be constantly thinking about work projects. The Bible and good books not only feed my soul, but give me a greater appreciation for good writing (Luke sure knew how to structure a compelling narrative history!) – which in turn helps me to think harder about how to structure what I’m writing.
  • I need to pray. I’ll freely confess that my prayer life has suffered this past year. It’s probably because I don’t schedule regular time to stop what I’m doing and pray, and buy the lie that “pray without ceasing” means I can just treat God as that ongoing Facebook chat window – ask something, come back later, ignore the pop-up, say something when it’s convenient to me. I want to do better in this, because my Father delights to hear from me, and to hear me share what I’m going through express my need for Him.
  • I need regular family time. I refer to them as ‘stakeholder meetings’ when declining meeting requests from clients. Without fixing dinner at certain times and trying to stick to some routines, it would have been more difficult for us to handle this lifestyle as a family. Even in the midst of a rush job, crazy deadlines and impossible requests, it’s so refreshing to be able to sit down with my family and eat, laugh, talk, pray and worship together.
  • Time tracking is a good habit to have. I only get paid for billable work, so I need to keep accurate timesheets. But you should try, it even if you work a salaried role. You may be surprised at how much time is spent on billable, productive work, and how much time isn’t. I use Toggl but there are lots of other good options.
  • I like the variety of freelancing. Last week I did work for five different clients. It was pretty crazy, but one thing it certainly did was make me work hard for each of them, knowing that my window of delivery for each one was small. The variety is great, and I learn lots from each different project.
  • Freelancing requires good organisation and time management, just as pastoral ministry does. One of my goals during the year was to get involved in more vocational ministry, if I could. That’s had some challenges and setbacks, but I’ve learned that those who serve in gospel ministry effectively are really good stewards of their time. It’s not wasted away commenting on blogs and debating with people. It’s prioritising on what’s important, not what’s urgent. It’s recognising that the “days are evil”, and using your time knowing that the King will return, soon and very soon.

So what does year 2 of full-time freelancing look like? Hopefully the same as last year – live for God. Obey His Word. Consider others more significant. Strive for holiness in humility. Love Jesus. And as I do these things, work with all my might at whatever is in front of me, for as long as God places it in front of me, for His glory and my joy.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:25-34

福音歌 (The Gospel Song)

So the second half of this video didn’t quite go to plan…

Thankful for a family that loves to sing!

福音歌 (The Gospel Song)

聖潔神以愛成為
完美人承擔我罪
十架上受苦犧牲
祂受死我得永生

Holy God in love became
Perfect man to bear my blame
On the cross he took my sin
By his death I live again

Credits:
Music by Bob Kauflin, words by Drew Jones. Translated by Joffrey Hsu, Wong Bo Sang and Andrew Jong-Shin Liau (廖忠信).
© 2002 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP). Used with permission.

Song info
Download the MP3
Chinese translation