Category Archives: Lent

At the Cross


At the cross, I weep
I cry
I know the reason why

At the cross, I confess
I distress
I feel blessed

At the cross, I stand
I demand
I finally understand

At the cross, I am free
on my knee
I finally see

At the cross, I cling
I bring
hangs my King

At the cross, I know
So long ago
Love did flow

At the cross, I pray
Today
Everyday

At the cross, Jesus pays
Mockers gaze
But oh, in three days

The cross, defeated
Satan cheated
Atonement completed

The cross is gone
Easter dawn
I am drawn

Sins waived
We are Saved
God forgave

Link to my book

The Golden Chain of Blessing


The Golden Chain of Blessings


Most churches in my denomination who follow the Lectionary will be listening to the reading of Romans 5:1-11 this Sunday as it is our Epistle reading for the day. I am giving permission for anyone who wants to reprint my poem based on Romans 5:3-4 in their bulletin or as an insert for your people to contemplate during the pre-service time. Pastors, also feel free to use this in your sermon if applicable.

“We glory in our sufferings, Because suffering produces perseverance; Perseverance, character; And character, hope.”  – Romans 5:3, 4

— 
We struggle through our sufferings, 
we drown in currents of woe, 
We all have stories of distress, 
whose origin we may not know. 

But determination will build slowly over time,
A glowing perseverance among our earthly grime. 
It builds to a point we really do not deserve, 
A city on a hill, a light, for all to observe. 

Then finally, a promise catches us by surprise, 
Blessings flow and gush right before our very eyes. 
It’s a golden chain of blessings after all, 
Suffering – perseverance – character – hope 
Designed by the Master to help us cope. 

It’s for our own good and in the end, 
it will be understood. 
Suffering was shared by Jesus, 
the One who also once withstood. 
So fear not, for the Holy Spirit is with you all the time, 
Hang onto the hope and use it to get through the daily grind. 


©2015, Steven Brown, Used with Permission

A Better Savior


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More Poetry from Steve Brown

A Better Savior
Inspired by the the book of Hebrews, by the Holy Spirit, and Pastor Michael Zarling

The best Savior, Jesus is He
The best Leader, The root of Jesse

The best covenant, His pact is key
The best tabernacle
Worshiping in spirit and truth; can we all agree?

The best mediator, The one appointee
The best focus, The man hung on the tree

The best access, Through the trinity three
The best sympathizer, For all sinners to see

The best resurrection, Now He is free
The best Savior, For you, for me.

A Confession of Sins Based on Psalm 51


A Confession of Sins Based on Psalm 51

King David was one horrific sinner. But wow did he know how to confess. What follows is a great Confession of Sins because it comes directly from God’s word (as written by David).

M: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
C: according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
M: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
C: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
M: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
C: Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
M: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
C: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
M: Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
C: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
M: Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
C: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
M: Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
C: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 

The Passion


The Passion

A review of the latest CD release by Contemporary Christian artist Michael SchroederM Schroeder
by Steve Brown

“The Passion” was released in time for Holy Week observations 2014. It is a compilation of Michael Schroeder’s best passion-filled songs together with a few new pieces.

Vinyl Records and a Trip Down Memory Lane
One thing that I enjoy about Michael’s CDs is that in one way, they remind me of vinyl album releases back when I was a teen. I remember the actual buying of an album to be such a fun experience because when you got home and opened it up, you were treated to an array of album artwork, printed lyrics – sometimes there were even messages from the artists; but the real treat was if a poster was also included.

More than an MP3 Download
Michael’s CDs, at least his last two, contain little gems that harken back to these fond memories of opening up a new album. His last CD, titled “Worship” contained two discs: (1) the music CD and (2) a bonus disc of backing tracks to be used in a corporate worship setting. The 2-CD package also included all the lyrics together with an exhaustive list of scripture references and an article on Michael’s thoughts relating to worship.

His new CD, “The Passion” contains a devotional booklet to be read for each day during Holy Week. It is this kind of stuff that is missing in today’s world of digital downloads. The eight devotional readings are paired with the first eight songs from the CD. It is worth the purchase of the CD just to experience the worship moment of reading through these devotions while listening to the selected song. Without giving too much away, in the devotions you will learn that the first song, the song that goes along with Palm Sunday – was written in a very inspirational and special place. As the saying goes, “sometimes we just need to strike while the iron is hot.”

The Song List
Here’s a quick rundown of the ten songs contained on the CD:

1. Jesus is Lord* – Palm Sunday (originally released on the Worship CD)

2. Handle with Prayer – Monday (originally released on A Witness)

3. The Greatest Gift – Tuesday (originally released on Fuel for the Soul)

4. The One – Wednesday (originally released on Fuel for the Soul)

5. Just as I Am* – Maundy Thursday (originally released on the Worship CD)

6. The Nails* – Good Friday (new)

7. Free – Saturday (originally released on A Witness)

8. Jesus Christ is Risen Today* – Easter Sunday (new)

9. Paradise* (originally released on A Witness)

10. Love Changes Everything* (originally released on the Worship CD)

The “*” next to some songs are what I would classify as “congregational friendly” – meaning these can be sung in corporate worship if you have a good enough worship team to pull-off the accompaniment. All of the songs are a pleasure to listen to and nicely produced.

The Poppy
Poppy
The CD cover art is a simple, delicate, pink poppy – a symbol of sleep (remember in the Wizard of Oz), peace, remembrance, life lost and the promise of resurrection after death – perfect for a Holy Week compilation! Do you see any other symbolism? There is one more important element. Look closely and open up your mind and think about Holy Week and your savior. It will come to you.

 

 

 

Song Reviews
Rather than provide a critical commentary on each song, I will concentrate on the two newbies – “The Nails” and the remake of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today“.

He Nailed It!
The Nails is obviously a passionate piece for Schroeder as it is sung with great feeling and emotion. I think this is so important in worship. Charlie Chaplin, was once quoted as saying: “we tend to think too much and feel too little.” I think he’s right. If us worshippers could harness this emotion in our corporate singing, God would be greatly glorified and we would also sound a whole lot better! Music is meant to be felt. We are not stones. Like Jesus, we are passionate people.

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” – Ivan Stravinsky

I am pleased that Schroeder sings with heart-felt emotions making these lyrics his personal testimony to his Savior. In the church, we call this “inwardly digesting the lyrics”. Lyrically, the song hits deep, as most of Schroeder’s songs do. It strikes a ringing minor chord in my heart. It is a perfect song for Good Friday as it captures the essence of this incredible substitutionary sacrifice – for You! And for me!

You can hear “The Nails” here:

He Makes All Things New!
The new arrangement for “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” to me, is only recognizable with the singing of the title line followed by Alleluia. There are plenty of new lyrics, new progressions, new instrumentation, a new groove, new, new, new… to make this a joyous pleasure to listen to. I guarantee that you will be smiling and tapping your foot within a few seconds of listening to this piece.

What’s really special to me is that I love the original hymn and when this is the case, I just don’t like it when people mess around with them. Leave them alone! They have survived a few centuries for a reason! What I do like, is when it is changed so much that it takes on a new life and this is exactly what happens with Schroeder’s arrangement of the classic hymn. It does have a new life and a new meaning. You will just have to hear it for yourself.

Link to listen to “Jesus ChristChrist is Risen Today”:

A Penultimate Thought
On a closing note, check out the pinnacle of the song titled “Paradise“. You will know the pinnacle moment by the pitch of one exemplary high note. I’m guessing it’s at least a very impressive high G note. It does it’s job. It draws attention to the lyrics and after all, our music is supposed to serve the word, right?

It strikes me that this CD would be a great confirmation gift or a good subject matter for a teen bible class!

You can read all the lyrics, watch a few videos, and purchase the Passion CD at michaelschroeder.com.

 

 

Contemporary Songs for Good Friday


Contemporary Songs for Good Friday

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  1. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty
  2. “By His Wounds” by Mac Powell (Third Day)
  3. “Once Again” by Matt Redman
  4. “Nothing but the Blood”, traditional; Andy Cherry arrangement with added chorus
  5. “Beautiful the Blood” by Steve Fee and Louie Giglio
  6. “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle
  7. “On My Cross” by Jeromy Deibler (FFH)
  8. “Amazing Love” by Graham Kendrick
  9. “At the Foot of the Cross” by Kathryn Scott
  10. “Majesty” by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard (Delirious)
  11. “Lamb of God” by Twila Paris
  12. “Lost in Wonder” by Martyn Layzell
  13. “The Power of the Cross” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty
  14. “Lead Me to Calvary” by Don Chapman
  15. “This Man” by Jeremy Camp
  16. “Before the Cross” by Jon Payne
  17. “Jesus, Paid it All”, traditional; Alex Nifong arrangement with added chorus
  18. “The Message of the Cross” by Martin Smith (Delirious)
  19. “Depth of Mercy”, traditional; arranged by Caedmon’s Call

A Better Savior


Lenten & Holy Week Resources from the book of HebrewsA Better Savior

By: Michael Zarling
with a few Contemporary song choices by Steve Brown (marked in red)

Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author uses the word “better” as he portrays Christianity as the one true religion, and Jesus Christ as the one true Savior from sin (Heb 6:9; 7:19; 7:22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:4; 11:16; 11:35; 11:40; 12:24). The author uses similar comparative words like “greater” (Heb 3:3; 6:13; 6:16; 7:7; 9:11; 11:26) and “superior” (Heb 1:4; 8:6) to demonstrate the supremacy of Christ to anything in the Old Testament.

The book of Hebrews is full of allusions to the Old Testament which will allow the preacher to explain some of the factors that were important to Old Testament believers, but may be relatively unknown to our people today (i.e., the tabernacle, the covenant, the sacrificial work of the priests, the work of mediating done by Moses and the priests, etc.). Preachers have the opportunity to take their people back in time so that they might learn to deeply appreciate the Old Testament. Then preachers can lead their people to reflect on the great changes Jesus brought about when He fulfilled the Old Testament laws and the promises of the old covenant.

The theme of A Better Savior allows the preacher to make a comparison each week to something special from the Old Testament that was a picture of forgiveness for God’s people. But God did not work forgiveness through these means, because it was impossible for animal blood or the observance of rules and regulations to remove the stain of sin from people (Heb 10:4). Rather, everything in the Old Testament pointed ahead to Christ whose perfect sacrifice would remove all sin. That’s because He is the better covenant, the better sacrifice, the better mediator, etc.

With this Lenten theme, it would be easy to overlap ideas in order to bring other pictures from Hebrews into the sermon. However, each sermon theme almost demands that the preacher stay focused on that specific theme and carry it throughout the sermon.

Each service resource contains a sermon theme, text, suggested Psalm, Psalm prayer, and suggested hymns (from “Christian Worship – A Lutheran Hymnal” and the “Christian Worship Supplement.”).

Sermon Themes

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Hebrews 7:27             A better sacrifice

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Hebrews 12:24           A better mediator

Hebrews 12:1-3          A better focus                         Palm Sunday

Hebrews 10:15-25      A better covenant                   Maundy Thursday

Hebrews 4:14-16        A better sympathizer              Good Friday

Hebrews 11:32-40      A better resurrection             Easter

Service Resources

Hebrews 3:3               A better leader

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may want to change the theme to “Better than Moses.” The writer to the Hebrews steadily makes the argument through his epistle that Jesus is superior to anyone and anything. He turns his attention to the Israelites’ leader, Moses. It would have been difficult for a Jew to think of anyone greater than Moses, their great leader who led their nation out of slavery in Egypt, who led the Israelites through 40 years of desert wandering, and who brought their nation to the edge of the Promised Land. Jesus’ superiority to Moses was not a matter of faithfulness, but position. Moses was only part of and servant to the house of Israel. Christ (the first time the author uses that title is in chapter 3) is greater because He is the “Son over God’s house.” He owns the house and rules over it – not in the distant past, but in the present reality and into the eternal future.

Supplement Psalm: 143

Contemporary Song: “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall

Psalm Prayer for 143:

Lord Jesus, you bring light to those who dwell in darkness and make your love known to them. Enter not into judgment with your servants, but strengthen us in the saving faith and guide us into the land of perfect peace where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever.

Supplement Psalm: 69

Psalm Prayer for 69:

O most merciful Lord, hear us in the truth of your salvation, that, delivered from the filth of sin, we may be written in the Book of Life by your heavenly finger; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 3:1-6

Hymns:

121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
123: “Lord Jesus Christ, You Set Us Free”

Contemporary Song: “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 5:5-10          A better high priest

Sermon thoughts: Though the phrase “a better high priest” is not specifically mentioned in Hebrews, throughout the book, the writer makes the comparison between Jesus and the high priest. He specifically makes a comparison between the mysterious Melchizedek and Jesus Christ. The preacher may even want to focus on that comparison with the theme of “Better than Melchizedek.” In Hebrews 5:6, the writer references Psalm 2. Jesus is a high priest who is far greater than Melchizedek or Aaron or any other high priest, for He was appointed forever. He combines both a king’s power and the priest’s sacrifice, just as Melchizedek did in the days of Abraham.

Psalm: 2

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 2:

Lord God, you anointed your Son to be king for the sake of your Church. Help us, as members of his kingdom, to serve him faithfully and to come to the full knowledge of his grace and glory, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 5:5-10 or 5:1-10

Hymns:

121: “Jesus, Grant that Balm and Healing”
713: “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”

Contemporary Song: “The Greatness of Our God” by Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan and Stu Garrard

Sermon Hymn:

126: “Lord Jesus, You Are Going Forth”

Service Resources

Hebrews 7:27                         A better sacrifice

Sermon thoughts: How inadequate the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was. No matter how much animals’ blood was spilt, it could not erase the sinner’s guilt. Only one perfect sacrifice could do that – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. This sacrifice was made once and for all. Christ was both the priest and the sacrifice. Here the preacher will want to focus on the sacrifice, since another preacher will focus on the priestly aspect of Christ. 

Psalm: 22

Supplement Psalm: 22

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 22:

Father, when your Son hung on the cross, he cried out to you in agony and grief. You gave him the strength to endure so that death might be destroyed and life restored. Have mercy on us all our days and preserve us in true faith unto life everlasting; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 7:27; 10:1-10

Hymns:

100: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”
101: “Behold the Lamb of God”
714: “The Lamb”

Contemporary Song: “Beautiful Sacrifice” by Tammi Rhoton and Elizabeth Foster”

Sermon Hymn:

128: “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Service Resources

Hebrews 8:6               A better covenant

Sermon thoughts: The preacher may also reference Hebrews 7:22. The old covenant was replaced, not because it was imperfect or flawed, but because it was inadequate and incomplete. God’s covenant through Moses was a two-sided covenant. God told the Israelites that if they obeyed Him, then certain blessings would follow. But the covenant did not give the people the power to keep God’s Laws. Jesus Christ came to fulfill and complete the old covenant when He pronounced from the cross, “It is finished!” Jesus then replaced the old, conditional covenant with a new, unconditional covenant.

Psalm: 118

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 118:

Lord Jesus, when you rose victorious from death, you gave us a day of great rejoicing. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone of our faith. Let cries of joy and exultation ring out to celebrate the good news of your resurrection, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Contemporary Song: “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 8:6-13

Hymns:

98: “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now”
99: “Oh, Come, My Soul”

Sermon Hymn:

106: “Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain”

Service Resources

Hebrews 9:11             A better tabernacle

Sermon thoughts: The preacher can demonstrate the sharp contrast between the superiority of the tabernacle in which Christ serves as high priest and the “man-made” tabernacle used by the Jews. Though the tabernacle was an inanimate object, God still considered it tainted by sin. Therefore the high priest had to sprinkle blood both on the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. Plus, the high priest had to enter the tabernacle every year. Christ came from a more superior tabernacle from heaven. Plus, he offered one sacrifice of His blood to purify everything.

Psalm: 84

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 84:

Almighty God, grant that during our earthly pilgrimage we may so treasure your Word and sacraments that being nourished in faith we may one day dwell in the courts of heaven to praise you forever; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Better is One Day” by Matt and Beth Redman

Supplement Psalm: 122

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 122:

Almighty God, bestow your peace on those who walk in the courts of your house, and pour out your blessing upon those who dwell in the house of the Lord; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 9:11-12, 21-28

Hymns:

112: “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
715: “What Grace is This”

Contemporary Song: “The Wonder of the Cross” by Vicky Beeching

Sermon Hymn:

114: “Christ, the Life of All the Living”

 Service Resources

Hebrews 12:24                       A better mediator

Sermon thoughts: The themes of covenant, priest, Moses and sacrifice are already covered by other preachers. The focus of this comparison is that Jesus is a better mediator. As the mediator, Christ was the go-between of two parties – the holy and righteous God and sinful mankind. Moses and the priests often acted as mediators between God and man. They would take the blood of the animals to bind the people to the regulations of the covenant. As mediators, Moses and the priests would ask God to soften His anger. They would also give God’s people the Lord’s message. Jesus is the perfect mediator of Hebrews 8:6, 9:15-22 and 12:24. He is the arbiter between us and God with His perfect sacrifice on the cross. He continues to intercede for us in heaven. He was once and always will be our advocate.

Psalm: 130

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 130

God of might and compassion, open your ears to the prayers of your people, who wait for you. Do not leave us in the depths of our sins, but listen to your Church pleading for the fullness of your redemption; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Contemporary Song: “Psalm 130” by Luke Dowler

Supplement Psalm: 116

Psalm Prayer for Psalm 116

God of mercy and might, through the resurrection of your Son you have freed us from the anguish of guilt and the bonds of death. Be with us on our pilgrimage and help us glorify you in the presence of all your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lesson: The Passion History according to Luke

Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:24; 9:15-22

Hymns:

115: “He Stood before the Court”
118: “O Dearest Lord, Thy Sacred Head”
129: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

Contemporary Song: “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin

Sermon Hymn:

116: “In the Hour of Trial”

 

Holy Week Resources for 2013

Palm Sunday – Hebrews 12:1-3 – A better focus

The Christian life is an endurance race. We run with continued preparation and proper focus. The saints who have gone before us and have already finished their race are an encouragement to us. But most of all, we look to Jesus and His cross. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. In Him, our race is already won. This lesson also helps us keep our focus as we anticipate the celebration of the Three Holy Days (the Triduum).

Contemporary Song: “O Church Arise” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

 

Maundy Thursday – Hebrews 10:15-25 – A better access

Under the old covenant, sinners dared not come through the curtain to enter into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. But Jesus has torn that curtain in two, thus giving us sinners access to God’s holy presence. This access comes not by blood sprinkled on a door – like the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the doorframes – but by Christ, the perfect Passover Lamb, sprinkling His blood on our hearts and sprinkling His baptismal waters on our bodies. All the barriers have been removed so that we may approach the God of the Covenant in the full confidence of forgiveness.

Contemporary Song: “The Power of the Cross” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

 

Good Friday – Hebrews 4:14-16 – A better sympathizer

The theme of the better high priest has already been proclaimed in the Lenten series from Hebrews 5:1-10. These three verses of Hebrews 4:14-16 give the preacher the opportunity to preach how Jesus Christ is not only true God, but also true man. Jesus knows what we face on a daily basis because He was repeatedly tempted, yet He remained without sin. From experience He knows what we are going through and we receive comfort from the fact that He is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. We also find our confidence in Him because He is not only able to sympathize with us, but He is also able to help us in every need.

Contemporary Song: “The Compassion Hymn” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend
– and  –
“Better than a Hallelujah” by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart (made popular by Amy Grant)

 

Easter – Hebrews 11:32-40 – A better resurrection

Women like the widow of Zarephath, the Shunamite woman and the widow of Nain, all received their children back from the dead. Lazarus, Eutychus and the daughter of Jairus all came back to life, but they were all subject to death. Christ promises a better resurrection. The list of martyrs in Hebrews 11 prized the resurrection to come as far greater in value than their earthly lives.

Contemporary Song: “By Faith” by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

I would like to thank Pastor Zarling for sharing his work. He truly has a generous servant’s heart.

Please leave a reply below if you would like to have an electronic copy of this program emailed to you (specify WORD or PDF):

The Palm of His Hands


Isaiah 49:16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

You get that? God has engraved you on the palms of his almighty hands!

Like a slave in the ancient world, God, who has no master, has chosen to brand himself, as if to signify his eternal bond with his beloved people, in this case – You!

But in Jesus the love shows differently in the palms of his sacred hands. His weren’t engraved, they were pierced! Pierced with nails!

God’s engraved hands; Jesus’ pierced hands – a sign that He will never forget you.

Doesn’t matter what situation you are in,
Doesn’t matter how much suffering you have to deal with,
Doesn’t matter how distant God might seem,
Doesn’t matter if you are a fempto-second from burnout,
He never forgets you, ever.
Not with those engravings,
Not with those nails,
Not with that amount of love,
“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 1:5)
Jesus was once forsaken.
But you?…
…Never.
Not by God.