Over these past few years, Easter has become more and more precious to me. I have come to see that while this is the most important holy day of the year, it is also the most important truth that I have on every other day, too. Simply put, Easter means that Jesus is not dead anymore.
Jesus is real.
Jesus is available.
Jesus is present.
Jesus is forgiving.
Jesus gives hope.
Jesus does not change.
Or grow tired of you.
Or forget your birthday.
Or move on to better people.
He does not freak out when you fall apart.
He does not move when you have.
He is not scared of wars or their rumors.
He does not hate the world even when we think he should.
Jesus is alive today. He is alive because death, hate, addiction, racism, abuse, war, oppression, and indifference at them all were not enough to kill him for long.
This is why today is Easter anew. He is still risen indeed.
This will be the last installment of my Easter playlist. I think there's no better way to finish out than to celebrate our risen savior by highlighting 4 songs with the same title: Christ Is Risen. Enjoy!
Christ Is Risen by:
We were excited to see an article by The Trentonian this week giving a great overview of the mission of the church and the Coughlins. We're excited to hear once again the call that Brennan and Kathleen have answered and to see the great work that is underway in Trenton, which they have joined.
So, read the article and let it encourage you to continue to pray both for the Coughlin family and for the church.
Read the article: http://www.trentonian.com/opinion/20160323/la-parker-church-shows-diversity-as-mission-makes-contribution-to-gospel-ministry
For the past 8 weeks there has been a lot of fun, excitement and activity at the church gym every Saturday as well as Monday and Tuesday nights. What's been going on? Our Salao Soccer League. Kids from age 7 to 18, both boys and girls take part in this exciting and fast paced indoor soccer. there are 5 different leagues for different ages and it is always fun to see the level of play increase with each league. League A starts with many beginners and is fun to help them learn to enjoy the game. League B (ages 9-10) have started getting some speed and ball control and a few goalies know what to do. League C (11-13 year old's) really pick up the pace and on Monday night and Tuesday night the high school boys and then the girls play a very fast and powerful game. The league ends in a popular and wild double elimination tournament. Crazy saves, insane overtimes and lots of joy and heartbreak. It's our very own version of March Madness and it's a great time.
We do all this because we love the game of soccer and use it as a way to reach out to the community. This year we had about 225 students playing and many of them came from outside of FCC. Each week they attend a short devotional where we talk about the Lord and have the chance to present Biblical truth. Down through the years there have been some boys and girls who have come to faith in Jesus through the Salao Soccer ministry.
Everything is staffed by people in the church who help coach, ref, run a snack shack and giver oversight as commissioners. Thanks to all of them who did so much and helped so much. Hopefully they can all really feel that this is not just an enjoyable game, it is a real chance to share the gospel and introduce children and their families to the life-changing power of Christ.
Once again I'm just sharing some of my favorites from my Easter Playlist on Spotify. It's an amazingly difficult process when there is so much great music out there, and it seems that Easter really brings out the best in artists. Anyway, enjoy these this week, I'll wrap up my Easter playlist posting next week. Once again, if you use Spotify, you can view the whole playlist here.
This Week's Songs:
When Death Dies - Gungor
Come Ye Sinners - Holy City Hymns
Who Will Roll Away the Stone? - Ordinary Time
Because He Lives - David Crowder
As a side note, if you're looking for a couple albums to focus on this week, I'd recommend Not A Word by Holy City Hymns and Cavetime: A Worship Experience by The Brilliance.
I recently read Randy Alcorn's Happiness. It's amazing that as I've read about the happiness of God in his book, the same thought was reinforced by J.I. Packer Your Father Loves You. In Happiness, Alcorn quotes Jonathan Edwards who believed in "temperance with what's secondary but not what's primary. God is primary. We can't get too much of God; therefore, we can't be too happy in God." Then he goes on to ask: "What does my suffering do for me? It makes me see how implausible it is that I can find true happiness outside of God. When what I once leaned on for happiness crumbles to dust, the way is cleared for me to see that God still stands and is the one solid foundation on which to build my life and happiness. When we meet Jesus face to face, behold his nail scarred hands reaching out to us, see the look in his eyes when he says, 'Enter into your Master's happiness,' we will gain a new perspective on this life: the benefits of following Jesus always far outweighed the costs - each and every time."
Then J.I. Packer in the September 7th reading says:
"By giving his love to us, God has voluntarily bound up his own final happiness with ours. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity his happiness shall be conditional on ours. Thus God saves not only for his glory but also for his gladness!"
It's an amazing thought to think about: how happy we'll be forever in heaven. Now our happiness is incomplete because we still suffer, but then it will be eternal and complete in the presence of Jesus. O Happy Day!
The Collingswood Campus introduced a new class on Wednesday nights this winter called... Winter Wednesdays (creative, right?). Listen to Pastor Ben as he talks about the experience, joy and hope of the gospel, which they have been able to present and unpack with a lot of people from their local community. This video was shared in the service at Mt. Laurel this past week, but it's worth revisiting so you can rejoice in what God is doing through the Collingswood campus and pray for the continuing conversations that will happen as a result of the relationships created from this class.
As we are rapidly approaching Easter, it is just becoming too difficult to pick just one song to share with you. I have a Spotify easter playlist that I'm constantly listening to throughout this time of year, so over the next few weeks I'll be sharing several songs off that playlist. If you use Spotify, you can view the whole playlist here.
Today, the song's I'm sharing:
Death in His Gave by John Mark McMillan
It is Finished by Dustin Censure
It is Finished by Matt Papa
Holy Communion by The Brilliance
In His first Commandment, God addresses the issue of idolatry in our lives. Finding gods to serve is natural to our humanness. We are, as John Calvin said, "idol factories". An idol is any "god" that I place at the center of my life. We can make idols out of our careers, our children, our significant other, our bodies, people's acceptance of us, our morality, our intelligence, etc, etc.
The Bible clearly shows us that we give certain things to our idol, and understanding this helps us identify our idols.
"Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty people, whose own strength is their god" (Habakuk 1:11).
We depend on ourselves, our personal abilities, resources and talents to get us by. When they do not serve us well, our discouragement, anger, despair, etc., let's us know they failed us. God reminds us that those very inadequacies are tip-offs that we are trusting in the wrong thing. In our "weakness" He shows Himself to be our strength (II Corinthians 12:9-10). God continually calls us to clear the stage of our lives by repenting of our idols and giving our love, service and trust to the living God.
I'm sure you've noticed a trend over the past several years of taking classic hymns and updating the melodies or adding in a chorus or bridge. I'm not sure what your musical tastes are but I, for one, enjoy a lot of what this trend has introduced. I think it is very much in-step with how the church has dealt with cultural shifts throughout history: "The medium may change, but the message stays the same".
There is a reason there are so many hymns that have proven timeless. Despite traditional hymnals gathering dust in many churches, many of the songs within have persisted in our contemporary language and psyche. I think one of the main reasons for this is that in general, hymns tend to tell the whole story. They start with our fallen state, and our need, then move into the redemptive story, and finally celebrate our promised eternity. Contrast that with many of today's worship songs that tend to focus on a single spiritual truth.
I think there are wonderful things about both techniques and I'm glad we sing both in our services. In an effort to bring these two worlds together in a cohesive worship experience, many of the old hymns have been updated, both musically (adding in some contemporary music sensibilities) and through adding choruses. This version of How Great Though Art by Ascend the Hill rearranges the text of the original hymn so there is a steady build throughout the whole song, culminating in the in the traditional chorus of the song:
"Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great You are!
How great You are!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great You are!
How great You are!"
I think I say this a lot, but this is one of my all time favorites that we play at the Collingswood campus.