Category Archives: Ministry

Spirit Of The Lord

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Terry MacAlmon worship song, so let’s put that right straight away, shall we?

Here’s a lovely number from Terry’s album ‘Visit Us‘. The song is called ‘Spirit Of The Lord’, and is very simple to sing. I’ll put the song up first and the lyrics, and then make a few observations on it.

Spirit of the Lord, fall on me
And fill me with Your glory
Spirit of the Lord, set me free
And fill me with Your glory

Terry MacAlmon is not only a talented and anointed worship leader, but he’s probably the best worship pianist I have ever heard. His style is flexible and varied, resembling a cross between a classical concert pianist style and a lounge music style. But the technical aspect which many will not notice – because he does it so masterfully – is the accompaniment style, which Terry’s songs work particularly well with. What do I mean by this? Well, if you listen closely, you’ll hear that when people are singing, he keeps the piano simple, but in between each line of the lyrics, he carries the music along and leads the congregation into the next line with a musical (piano) flourish, bridge or interlude – even though it’s only a couple of seconds long. So, for example, ‘Spirit of the Lord, set me free’ – (di-da-dumm – di di) – ‘and fill me with Your glory’. I hope that makes sense; if not, listen to it again and pay particular attention to the music when people are not singing the lyrics; where the lines of the lyrics are linked together by music. That’s what I’m talking about, and that’s showcasing the real talent of accompanying people in their singing – it’s providing a strong rhythm and key lead so that the people feel confident to sing out and that they won’t be left ‘hanging’ or – the opposite – come in too early. Worship leading is not just about hearing the Spirit directing what He wants you to play, say or do next – or indeed not play, say or do – but it’s about making sure that the people in the congregation feel as confident and secure as possible in their singing. Believe it or not, many people find it hard to sing in public, and having a skilled accompanist on the lead instrument makes a huge positive difference to their worship experience.

What I particularly love about this track is Terry’s imaginative use of the piano during the accompaniment ‘links’. The musical phrases he uses – yes, they really are called ‘phrases’! – are varied and uplifting, and in fact I think this is one of his best tracks yet for showcasing this talent that he has.

00

Understanding the Gospel

One of my favourite blogs is that of Mike Douglas, and it’s called Getting Back to my Future‘. Here’s his title:

I’ve posted quite a lot of Mike’s content recently, including the post before this present one. And recently, he posted a superbly simple presentation of the Gospel: a presentation that clearly shows the Gospel as being simple, uncomplicated, and just Good News, which is actually what the word ‘Gospel’ means. So many people try to add more tasks, principles and Rules to the simple fact of Jesus’s death and Resurrection, reconciling humanity to God – and it’s really not that complex! Jesus has done everything necessary to bring us into right relationship with God. He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness (2Pet1:3). What part of ‘It is finished!’ (Jn19:30) do these people not agree with?

Anyway, over to Mike. This is a really great piece:


“Often, the way the ‘Gospel’ has been presented today is, ‘Jesus paid the price, but it’s not the full price. And until you repent of everything you have ever done and then live up to some standard, God can’t work in your life and you are not really saved.’

We are adding our own goodness, holiness, and effort to what Jesus has already done. That’s the message most churches are preaching today. And it’s wrong.

 No doubt everyone of us have been exposed to this and are left with the feeling that we must do ‘things’ to earn God’s favour. Or worse, made to feel that we would never be able to measure up.

 That’s also wrong.

 Before I continue, in case anyone is wondering, the ‘Gospel’ is simply a term we use to explain the way to become right with God by accepting the gift provided by Jesus. Literally, the word is translated, ‘Good News’. And it is… when offered truthfully and without added conditions.

 Please hear me.

 You are accepted by God because of what Jesus did… plus NOTHING. All you must do is receive it by faith. If you are thinking, ‘Well, I know Jesus died for me and He did all that stuff for me, but I also must be holy’, you are undoing what Jesus has done. Although probably unintentionally, you are saying it wasn’t enough.

 Please don’t believe this lie that you have been subjected to. It’s Jesus… plus NOTHING.

 What the Bible Says

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

(Romans 11:6 KJV)

 That’s just old English for, ‘you are either saved by grace [Jesus paying for all your stuff because He loves you] or by earning it based on our own merit’. It’s one or the other, but never by a combination of the two. That is very important.

Either you are saved by the grace of God and all you must do is received it by believing it is true OR you must be saved by your own goodness and merit [which cannot be done because then the standard is perfection]. It’s not a combination of the two.

It’s not Jesus providing the minimum payment and then you adding to it to earn the rest. Jesus paid it all! It is simply a matter of you believing and receiving or doubting and doing without. That’s how it works. The Bible could not be clearer.

The Problem

 Even after everything I have just said, most of us have fallen for this idea that there is more we must due to gain God’s favour. There are a few reasons for this.

 First, we know ourselves. We know how we can be. We know how often we have messed up and how we will continue to mess up. Add to that we never get to see, in our world, the unconditional love that Father offers. In our world we always must give something to receive love. We have been taught if something sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t.

 Second, because we have never seen it, we can’t imagine what it is like, so we change it to make it make sense to us. By doing so, our understanding becomes our god. The Bible calls that idolatry. We are not saying, ‘God’s not like that’. We are saying, ‘if I were God I would not be like that.’ ‘I would not forgive, I would make them pay’. I am very thankful I’m not God!

 Third, you have been taught wrong. When Jesus came to the earth He presented His father [God] as someone totally different than people understood up to that time. Instead of a vengeful, fire-throwing God, that required total perfection, Jesus presented Him as a loving Father who welcomed His children home, offering forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

 Unfortunately, too many churches and Christians want to hang onto that old picture and insist that newcomers live up to sets of rules that they themselves could never attain. They want forgiveness for themselves but justice for others.

The Good News

The night before He died, Jesus met with His disciples. At that dinner, He introduced a new deal. He told them that the old way of ritual, sacrifices and being perfect was over. He said from here on there is a new way to be right with God. The new way was Him giving up His life for ours and by doing so paid for all our mistakes, wrongdoing and evil thoughts.

 To those churches and Christians who tell you are not welcome, not good enough or beyond God’s forgiveness or there is more you must do I want to say this, ‘YOU’RE NOT GOD’.

 Please don’t tie God’s goodness to your performance. It’s not how it works. He loves you, because you are you and you are His child. Period. Accept what Jesus did for you. And come home.

 It’s not, ‘too good to be true’. It’s ‘nearly too good to be true’!

And… it’s too good to pass up.

00

The Glory of Your Presence

We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.
Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. (Ps 132:7-8 KJV)

Here’s a gorgeous song by Steven Fry, performed here by the brilliant Terry MacAlmon –
‘O the Glory of Your Presence’.

In the presence of God, in the glory of His Presence, the very air buzzes and sparkles. For those who have the eyes to see, the radiance of God’s Presence is real and tangible. In that Presence there is healing; there is forgiveness; there is reconciliation; there is peace and there is Love. There is simply nothing like being in God’s Presence.

There’s a lot of fakery involved in some worship services. Some people actually try to ‘duplicate’ the Presence of God with things like quiet background music, lots of hype, whipping up the crowd, that sort of thing. But that’s not even a poor substitute. The Presence of God is unmistakable; once you have tasted of that Presence, nothing else will ever do; nothing can take its place.

Have a listen to this lovely song; ask God to make Himself tangible to you as you listen, and as you lift up your heart to Him. Bask in His Presence. Bask there long after the music has stopped! This is not hype; this is not me trying to ‘whip up’ enthusiasm. I have never once done that in all my years of worship leading, although I have seen it being done (and it has a certain emetic effect on me!) No, this is simply a ‘vehicle’; an ‘aid’, to help your spirit rise up in worship, and God will respond, because He loves it. He loves the song and He loves you; He loves your worship and He loves it when you enjoy it too:

O the glory of Your presence
We Your temple give You rev’rence
Come and rise from Your rest
And be blessed by our praise
As we glory in Your embrace
As Your presence now fills this place

Sadly, some people miss the point of the lyric, ‘So arise to Your rest’. Sometimes they even think that it can’t be written right, and they re-write the lyric from the third line as ‘Come and rise from your rest’ or similar, as if God has to get up off His behind and get into the music. But it’s not that at all. A simple examination of the context of the source verses in Psalm 132:7,8 shows that it’s about God coming into His resting place; His temple as it was back then, and along with His people. And [to] the ‘Ark of Thy Strength’; the Ark of the Covenant, which was supposed to represent God’s Presence. In other words, then, for God to come to the place where He belongs.

But in our time, we have the Holy Spirit within us; we are God’s Temple. We don’t need an Ark anymore. God’s resting place is with His people; (Ezek 37:27, Rev 21:3). Asking God to ‘arise to Your rest’ is simply asking Him to ‘inhabit the praises of His people’ (Ps 22:3 KJV); to come and take up His residence. Of course, He’s already there; the thing is that you become more aware of Him as you worship because you turn your spirit and your heart towards Him. And so we become aware of His power and His Presence. God is where He belongs; He has indeed come into His resting place.

Wow! What better reason to worship?

 

00

Exodus

I’ve always said that there’s no instrument quite like the piano. And it’s by far my favourite instrument to play.

And perhaps the most colossally brilliant pianist on the Christian scene at the moment is the amazing Terry MacAlmon. I love his style, I love his heart for worship, and I love his anointing and skill.

In this excellent demonstration of Terry’s ability, he plays the epic theme from the 1960 movie ‘Exodus’, original score by Ernest Gold. Note how he is offering what some would call a ‘secular’ score as an act of worship; some people wouldn’t be able to cope with that, but I personally have played secular pieces in worship; indeed I consider John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song‘ to be one of the finest worship songs ever written. Segueing then into his own song, ‘You Deserve the Glory‘, which I have shared on my blog before.

Let your spirit be lifted by this magnificent music – ‘secular’ or not – and enter into the worship that Terry takes you into so easily. I’ve put the lyrics to ‘You Deserve the Glory‘ below the video so you  can join in if you want to.

Enjoy!

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

00

The Power

One of my favourites of all of Don Francisco’s songs is ‘The Power‘. Telling the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it speaks of a massively supernatural experience for an un-named member of the group of Jesus’s friends who met together on that morning.

And something that always strikes me with this story is that those guys were just ordinary people, just like you and I. God was fulfilling His promise on that day, just as Peter said (Acts 2:17-21) when he quoted the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), “…I will pour out My Spirit on all people…”

All people. That includes you and me! There is only one Holy Spirit. He’s the same now as He was then. There’s no ‘junior’ or ‘budget model’ of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit that came on Pentecost is exactly the same One Who comes to us now; He’s the One Who lives in us and guarantees our inheritance as saints of God (Eph 1:13-14; 2Cor1:22). Now if that’s not completely awesome, then I don’t know what is. The indwelling, tangible Presence of God, living inside ordinary people like you and me. The incredible assurance of knowing that we belong to God – our inheritance as saints is guaranteed. It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it? But it’s true. I and many other believers can testify to that awesome Power living within us and giving Life to us in our mortal bodies, and giving us that assurance that we are indeed God’s children (Romans 8:16). Paul is not talking about some bookish theory or idea; he’s not talking about stuffy, dusty doctrine, he’s talking about a real, fizzing, bubbling, tangible reality for which all the doctrines in the world are simply no substitute. This is why nothing that anyone says to us can shake us from that knowledge – because it’s real. Some may say, ‘Ah, but the Bible says…’ or ‘Ah but in our church we don’t believe that…’ Well that doesn’t change what I know, and it does not change the believer’s assurance. It simply can’t.

So, have a listen to this song. Let it minister this fabulous truth to your spirit: If the Spirit of Him Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, then He Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit Who lives in you. (Romans 8:11) Let this truth minister to you in all its incredible reality and power.

This is real.

This is you

This is now

It was a crowd of mixed emotions
That walked back to the room
But steadfastly we set all our minds to prayer
Waiting together with His relatives and friends
Well above a hundred of us there
Some of us He’d healed; some He’d raised up from the dead
Some He’d called as He went walking past
We recounted all the stories, with no detail left unturned
Determined with a will to make it last

Outside in the street, the Feast’s cacophany began
As crowds from all across the world convened
Flowing upwards to the temple, with their firstfruits in their hands
Unaware of all that we had seen
Dawn turned into daylight, just like all the days before
And again we lifted hands to God in prayer
And though no-one had imagined what the morning held in store
Still all of us felt something in the air

Then faint at first, we heard a sound that slowly grew to more
Like a tempest far away upon the sea
Descending ’til it filled the house with an unabated roar
Like an army’s final shout of victory
And right there in the midst of us
From nothing burst a flame
And tongues of fire rose high into the air
Then separating, settled down on each of us the same
And at once the sounds of praise were everywhere

And the flood of joy inside me then was more than I could bear
Like peace and laughter joined into a whole
‘Cause the power that came from Jesus that we’d felt for all these years
Was flowing deep and wide within my soul

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

– Words and music by Don Francisco, used here with his kind permission

00

Fly to Jesus

This entry is part 19 of 27 in the series Fiona

Today it’s a year since I lost my wonderful wife, Fiona.

How does one mark a whole year since we lost such an incredible lady?

Well, I can think of no better way to honour her memory than to post a number sung by our beautiful and supremely talented daughter, Ellie Rosie (that’s her stage-name).

Here’s a picture of Ellie singing at Fiona’s and my ‘wedding’, in December 2014, when we renewed our vows:

Fiona had an astonishing singing voice, and Ellie’s is equally astonishing. Here Ellie covers a beautiful song – Come to Jesus, by Chris Rice – which Ellie discovered on Hillary Scott’s album ‘Love Remains‘. I think this song sums up Fiona’s life perfectly, from her initial salvation, through all she experienced in her life, and right up to where she is now – ‘On Glory’s Side’. Fiona has indeed flown to Jesus and rests in His arms. And she would have loved this song.

 

Take it away, Ellie:

 

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
Raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
 
Now your burden’s lifted
Carried far away
Precious blood has washed away the stain,
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
 
And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when we walk
Sometimes we fall, so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!
 
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and coursed with rain,
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!
 
When the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside,
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!
 
With your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side,
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

 

– ‘Come to Jesus’, by Chris Rice

 

Vocals, piano and keyboards by Ellie Rosie

 


Header picture is of Fiona in 1987, at the age of 23, not long after our first child, David, was born.
50

Are You About to Come Out to Your Christian Parents?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people, especially young people with Christian parents, I have so far looked at the matter from the point of view of the parents of the LGBTQ+ person.

Today, I want to share another piece by Susan Cottrell of ‘Freedhearts‘. Susan is a strong, loving and totally Christian advocate of LGBTQ+ people and especially of those who are young people still living with their Christian parents. In this piece, Susan shares practical advice and points out relevant considerations for young people who may well have to ‘come out’ some time in the near future. Click the graphic below to go to the article.

If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is considering ‘coming out’, then I would definitely suggest you read that article – it’s brilliant. Susan has a huge amount of experience in helping and standing alongside people in danger of rejection, either by parents or churches, for either ‘being gay’ or for affirming those who are. Personally, I don’t give two hoots what people think of me as an affirmer, but then I am not in a position where such people’s opinions make the slightest bit of difference to me. But I understand that for some people, the stakes are much higher, and this is why I have done this mini-series.

Be blessed. Grace and peace to you.

10

Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

10

Dwelling Places

This entry is part 18 of 27 in the series Fiona

The heart of worship is to draw near to God; to see more of Him; to desire strongly His Presence, to kneel (literally or figuratively) before Him and tell Him how much we love Him.

It’s eleven months since we lost my lovely wife Fiona. And Fiona’s heart was always that of a worshipper. Worship was our way of life, staying close to God and singing His praises whenever the opportunity presented itself 🙂 As I said here, basically if there was any excuse for us to break into song, we’d be singing and making music in our hearts to Jesus.

As I have already shared in that article above, Fiona gave me this lovely Scripture from her favourite Bible translation, The Message – because she said it reminded her of me!:

“Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20 (Message))

And I love that – ‘Any excuse for a song….’ and that’s just what we were like together.

Fiona is, of course, now in that place where she can worship with the full, yet still increasing, knowledge of what God is really like. She is in His Dwelling Place – the place where He is – and likely worshipping her heart out. It’s what she did, and I have no doubt that it’s what she does. Worship is not only what keeps me going, but it’s what I believe Fiona has gone to. Have you any idea what a tremendous comfort that is to me in my bereavement?

And so, once again, the brilliant Terry MacAlmon comes to my aid. As I listen to this beautiful worship song, Dwelling Places, once again I am transported into God’s Presence. How lovely indeed is His Dwelling, because that’s where He is. So in a very real sense, as my heart rises up in worship with this song, I am worshipping with the angels and with Fiona in the Throne Room of Heaven. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Sitting at Jesus’s feet and basking in His Presence.

So, here’s the lovely song ‘Dwelling Places’, by Miriam Webster, sung by Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson. Be blessed:

Lovely are Your dwelling places
Thirsty I come after You
Jesus, my joy, my reward
Your love’s restoring my soul
Now I’m Yours and You are mine
And from my heart a song will rise

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
And my heart will follow wholly after You

Jesus, there is none beside You
Righteous, ruler of the earth
Nations will come and bow down
Name over all names
I sing You praises
And all that I can say to You is

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You

And my heart will follow wholly after You

10

Praise Him!

I make no apology for including yet another Terry MacAlmon song on my blog, nor indeed for it being another number in which Shauna Chanda doubles the brilliance of the piece by leading with her amazing voice and obvious love for Jesus.

This one’s called ‘Praise Him‘, by Lynn DeShazo. As usual, let the song lift you as you agree with the singers (Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson) and, indeed, praise Jesus for all His goodness towards you.

Praise Him, Praise Him
Praise Him, Praise Him

We have assembled to praise the One we love
We join the chorus of the angels up above, oh yes…
They sing hosannas and praises to our King
So we lift our voices all together now and sing

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We are Your children, we’re here just to seek Your face
Lord we come boldly before Your throne of Grace
To love and worship You, and listen to Your voice
You are our Father, and how our hearts rejoice

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We love You, We love You
We love You, We love You

I love seeing the worship responses of the different people in the congregation. Some are actively singing with their hands lifted up. Some just standing and not singing, but just receiving. Some just sitting quietly listening, one couple sitting close together and just soaking in the worship. No self-consciousness at all, in fact; they are just concentrating on Jesus, each in their own way worshipping their Lord. This is simply beautiful, and it’s at times like that that I realise how much of an honour it is to have the privilege of leading precious people like these in their worship. This is beautiful worship, with beautiful music, to our beautiful Saviour.

00