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The Gospel in Worship: An Excerpt from ‘Rhythms of Grace’

Designed to help Christians think more theologically about the nature of true biblical worship, Rhythms of Grace shows how the gospel is all about worship and worship is all about the gospel. In his new book, worship and arts pastor Mike Cosper ultimately answers the question: What is worship?

Featured below is an excerpt from the book, including the Foreword by Bob Kauflin.


Download a PDF of the excerpt

What church leaders are saying about Rhythms of Grace:

“Mike has served the church well with Rhythms of Grace. I was both convicted and compelled as I read it.”
—Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas; author, The Explicit Gospel

“This is an important book for folks thinking about what it is to be a musician, a worship leader, and everything in between.”
—Sandra McCracken, singer-songwriter

“In this season of the Church, there is some confusion on why and what a worship leader is and does. This book brings great clarity to that confusion . . . an important piece in training new leaders, and a great reminder to more seasoned leaders, to sing the gospel and above all, highlight Jesus.”
—Charlie Hall, Worship and Arts Director, Frontline Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

April 6, 2013 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News & Announcements,The Grace of God,Worship | Author: Ted Cockle @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

A Challenge from John Piper in the New Year

“If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.” — John Piper, Risk is Right

Comfort is an oftentimes acceptable and encouraged idol, even in the lives of Christians.

While it is true that Jesus’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30), that does not mean that we’ve been promised our best life now. No, this is a life in which we have been promised difficulty if we choose to follow Christ (Luke 6:22-23; John 16:33; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-14). But this life is not without hope, and it is not without joy. Sometimes, we need a faithful brother or sister in Christ to remind us of the brevity and purpose of this life, calling us to something greater than the elusive American Dream. In Risk is Right, John Piper is that faithful brother.

If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t remember the last “courageous” thing you’ve done for Christ, or are in a season of life where everything seems uncertain, or just need a good kick-start to start living intentionally in 2013, Piper is writing to you:

“Are you caught in the enchantment of security, paralyzed from taking any risks for the cause of God? Or have you been freed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the mirage of. . . safety and comfort? Do you men ever say with Joab, ‘For the sake of the name, I’ll try it! And may the Lord do what seems good to him’? Do you women ever say with Esther, ‘For the sake of Christ, I’ll try it! And if I perish, I perish’? . . . .

“On the far side of every risk—even if it results in death—the love of God triumphs. This is the faith that frees us to risk for the cause of God. It is not heroism, or lust for adventure, or courageous self-reliance, or efforts to earn God’s favor. It is childlike faith in the triumph of God’s love—that on the other side of all our risks, for the sake of righteousness, God will still be holding us. We will be eternally satisfied in him. Nothing will have been wasted.”

 

Why Am I So Unhappy?

I Am My Worst Enemy

Why are so many people so unhappy in so many different circumstances? Why are so many Christians, who supposedly have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their hearts, so not joyful?

At first glance it would seem that circumstances are to blame. Can you blame a guy for being unhappy when he hasn’t had steady work for six months and he might lose his home? You wouldn’t think so, until you meet the six-figure Christian businessman who hates his job and is just hanging on until retirement. The twenty-something single woman doesn’t think she can be happy until she gets married and has children. But the thirty-something housewife with four kids can barely make it through the week without collapsing in a trembling heap of exhaustion. Circumstances aren’t to blame. There’s something much more sinister at work.

That something is my sinful, discontented heart. Jesus spelled it out in Mark 7:21–23 when he said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change.

First it’s marriage. We dream about meeting that perfect someone—a person who likes long walks and French poetry and is kind toward animals and strangers alike. Or at least someone who is decent looking and doesn’t have a criminal record. Finally, after years of yearning, the wedding day arrives. But the idol factory doesn’t shut down after the wedding day. As soon as the marriage god is appeased, the factory belches forth the idol of a new house. Then it’s a new car, an end-of-year bonus, and a sweet retirement package. There’s no downtime, no coffee break, no union strike in the factory of our hearts. They are constantly churning, constantly stirring up discontentment, constantly producing new idols.

Then “catastrophe” strikes. The dream promotion is handed to someone else. A relationship never materializes. Our desires are thwarted, and we don’t get what we want. When we don’t get what we so desperately want, we throw the adult version of a temper tantrum. Our passions rage within us. We become angry at God and discontent with life. We grumble and complain, and happiness appears to be out of reach. We become a casualty of war.

Shutting Down The Factory

So is there any hope for raging discontents like me? Can the circus of discontentment in my heart ever be stopped? Thankfully, it can. In Philippians 4:11–12 the apostle Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

These words should startle us and cause us to catch our breath. Paul says that he has learned to be content in every situation. Not just happy, comfortable, “why, yes, I will have another latte” situations. Every situation.

Paul could find contentment in any season and any circumstance. He knew how to be brought low, and few people were brought lower than Paul. He was thrown into filthy prisons, savagely beaten with rods, stoned within a breath of death, whipped until his back was a bloody, dripping mess, driven out of cities, betrayed by friends, and shipwrecked on multiple occasions. In the midst of all this, Paul found contentment. The difficulties faced by Paul make my life look like a Boy Scout campout.

Paul also knew how to be content in the midst of prosperity. Prosperity and contentment don’t always go together. In fact, they rarely do. Rich people are unhappy just like everyone else. Members of the yacht club need to learn contentment too.

In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul says of contentment, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” False teachers were invading Timothy’s church and telling people that if they were godly they would also be rich, that if they followed Jesus, they would get their Lexus chariot or Rolex sundial or whatever it was they wanted. But Paul won’t have any of that nonsense. He says that following Jesus isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. If you follow Jesus, you will have every spiritual need met. Forgiveness, adoption, spiritual strength, everything. And if we have all our spiritual needs met and are content with what we have, that is great gain. If we have every spiritual need met and are content with what we have, what more could we want? We have everything we need for joy. Following a Jesus genie who gives us whatever we want is not great gain. Contentment is great gain.

If you need any further motivation to pursue contentment, there you have it. Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain. I’m into gain. And when God himself, speaking through the Scriptures, says that something is great gain, we need to pay close attention.

Adapted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, by Stephen Altrogge

November 29, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Gratitude,Idolatry,Joy,Life & Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,Worship | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:00 am | 1 Comment »

Video: John Piper on Poetry, Music, and Affections

How does poetry fit into the Christian life? John Piper defines poetry as an effort to awaken or intensify (and usually to share) a moving experience by using language that’s chosen and structured differently than ordinary prose. In the video below, Piper encourages the Crossway staff (and you) to cherish language as the sacred gift that it is.

A few highlights:

  • 4:30 Why does poetry hold such a prominent place in John Piper’s life?
  • 6:28 How has Piper’s bent toward poetry given a rise to his theology of Christian hedonism?
  • 9:00 Musicians and worship leaders tune in here. Why do we sing?
  • 16:40: Humans have the privilege of putting words to God’s beauty…to be “the secretary of God’s praise.”
  • 20:45: Piper reads a recent poem he wrote called “Slow Dying.”

Check out some of Piper’s poetry, published by Crossway:

November 15, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Arts & Literature,Life & Doctrine,The Arts,The Christian Life,Video,Worship | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 9:00 am | 0 Comments »

10 Helpful Books for Church Leaders

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we think the following 10 books would be valuable for every church leader to read and have in their library. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know which books you would add to the list—we’d love to hear your recommendations.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Everyone’s idea of discipleship is different. Some people emphasize evangelism—sharing their faith. Still others promote a hierarchical system for spiritual growth, a way for older Christians to pass on best practices to younger believers. Yet, both ideas are incomplete. Real discipleship is so much more.

Avoiding extremes and evaluating motives, Jonathan Dodson insists on a way of following Jesus that re-centers discipleship on the gospel.

This book helps us understand and experience the fullness of discipleship as God intended. It combines the mess and the weight, the imperfection and transformation, the honesty and wonder of being a disciple who revolves around Jesus. Here is a practical guide to discipleship that is Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, field-tested, and easily implemented.

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

Nothing is more essential than knowing how to worship the God who created us. This book focuses readers on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author, a pastor and noted songwriter, skillfully instructs pastors, musicians, and church leaders so that they can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles, not divisive cultural trends. Bob Kauflin covers a variety of topics such as the devastating effects of worshiping the wrong things, how to base our worship on God’s self-revelation rather than our assumptions, the fuel of worship, the community of worship, and the ways that eternity’s worship should affect our earthly worship.

Appropriate for Christians from varied backgrounds and for various denominations, this book will bring a vital perspective to what readers think they understand about praising God.

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

“Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter,” write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. “It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become ‘total church.’” With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.

In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children’s work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson’s father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor-except that he ministered during the decades that brought French Canada from the brutal challenges of persecution and imprisonment for Baptist ministers to spectacular growth and revival in the 1970s.

It is a story, and an era, that few in the English-speaking world know anything about. But through Tom Carson’s journals and written prayers, and the narrative and historical background supplied by his son, readers will be given a firsthand account of not only this trying time in North American church history, but of one pastor’s life and times, dreams and disappointments. With words that will ring true for every person who has devoted themselves to the Lord’s work, this unique book serves to remind readers that though the sacrifices of serving God are great, the sweetness of living a faithful, obedient life is greater still.

Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey

Many men have the skills to lead a church, but only some are called. Dave Harvey helps men considering pastoral ministry to see God’s active role in the process of discerning their calling.

God’s Word offers a clear framework for evaluating one’s call, especially within the context of community. Harvey offers six diagnostic questions to help prospective pastors process their calling, and what they should be doing now if they aren’t sure. Illustrated with personal and historical stories, Harvey explores biblical and practical principles for determining the pastoral call.

Over the past twenty-four years of ministry, Harvey has enjoyed assisting many men in discerning whether they are called into ministry. This book will guide you through that all-important process with wisdom and confidence in God’s faithfulness in your life.

Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson

Given the evermore apparent failure of modern psychotherapies and a growing discomfort with pharmacological strategies, many churches are reaffirming the sufficiency and power of the Scriptures to change lives.

To aid churches in ministering to broken and hurting people, the authors of Counsel from the Cross present a counseling model based on Scripture and powered by the work of the wonderful counselor, Jesus Christ. Through careful exegesis and helpful case studies, they demonstrate how to provide consistently biblical, gospel-centered counseling and explain why it is important to do so.

The authors’ combined backgrounds—one, a woman trained in biblical counseling and the other, a male professor of practical theology—bring balance to this work, making it relevant for those who counsel as part of pastoral ministry and for all involved in mentoring or discipleship.

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

If the Christian life is like a race, we must admit that too many Christian leaders stumble, burn out, or veer off the track. Clearly it is not automatic that a leader will finish well.

Based on Dave Kraft’s thirty-five years of leading, teaching leadership, and coaching dozens of Christian leaders, Leaders Who Last moves through three stages of leadership: foundations, formation, and fruitfulness. Concise, anecdotal, and packed with wisdom, this book will help you aim your ambitions, refine your character, and position yourself to be an effective leader who endures.

Kraft’s brief, down-to-earth guide to Christian leadership will inspire readers to finish the race well-to hit the tape in full stride with an energetic burst of speed and receive their commendation from God.

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Every church leader knows the qualifications for elders and deacons that are spelled out in the Bible, but actually finding other leaders who fulfill the biblical qualifications can be difficult.

Thabiti Anyabwile writes from his expertise as a pastor and elder, showing how to identify and reproduce legitimate leaders and willing servants throughout the ranks of the local church. Balancing thoughtful analysis of pertinent passages with thorough application for practical use in a contemporary context, Anyabwile answers the questions, “Who should we look for to lead and serve in the church?” and “What should they do to fulfill their calling?”


Economy Bible

With the ESV Economy Bible it’s easier than ever to impact lives through the distribution of the Bible. The most affordable Bible on the market, the ESV Economy Bible features the clear English Standard Version text, making it compelling and readable to those receiving a Bible for the first time.

This paperback edition of the full ESV Bible is ideal for bulk distribution. The ESV Economy Bible has a suggested retail price of $2.99, but is available for only $1 per copy when ordered in a minimum of five cases of 48 copies each. The ESV Economy Bible features not only the full text of the ESV Bible, but also an article on What the Bible Is All About, a reading plan, and a plan of salvation. Highly affordable and designed especially for outreach, the ESV Economy Bible is a great resource for reaching the world with God’s Word.

Coming Soon from Crossway:

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp (Forthcoming – October 2012)

After traveling the world for many years and speaking at hundreds of churches of all kinds, Paul David Tripp is concerned about the state of pastoral culture. He is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but with the very people who train him, call him, relate to him, and restore him if necessary. Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the war that rages not only in the momentous moments of ministry, but also in the mundane day-by-day life of every pastor.

Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Forthcoming – September 2012)

Christia

ns are increasingly aware that we live in a post-Christian culture. We recognize the need to adapt, but are unsure of the way forward. This book offers practical ideas for engaging with secularized society and does so in a way that is enfranchising, helping churches rely on their members instead of one leader with a dynamic personality or specialist skills. Che

ster and Timmis contend that the solution is an “everyday church” doing everyday mission with no signage except our lives. They organize the book around a missional reading of 1 Peter, since Peter’s first-century readers faced a similar situation as aliens and strangers. Gifted communicators and experienced pastors, these authors have proven their ability to be winsome and enlightening, especially in view of their success with Total Church and You Can Change.

Which titles would you add?

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