Worship, Music and Song

Nations Sing


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Have you ever been in the fray of a concert or propping the bar up at a gig and, without warning,  you have felt the hairs on the back of you neck stand tall? Something has happened in the music that has resonated with you deeply and that has caused a physiological response. Or it might be that a tear inexplicably wells up. Music does stuff. It effects us. It moves us.

But more than this, music and song moves the unseen spiritual realm as well as our bodies. In the Bible, David played the harp for his leader and King, and at the stroke of his hands evil spirits left Saul who was being tormented by selfishness and insecurity. Music brought Saul relief from evil. (1 Samuel 16:23)

This is an Old Testament picture of the way that in the 21st Century, in the New Testament blessing that we live in today, music is bringing relief and healing from evil. Music and song, but more specifically praise and worship rooted in love for Jesus, is bringing healing to the Nations and peoples of the world.

Psalm 96 is a prophetic cry for all of creation to sing new songs of praise to our God. Poetically, the psalmist pictures the fields, trees and forests rejoicing in response to the exceedingly eternal worth of Jesus. Prophetically, it is a call for the day when He will make all things new (Revelation 21) and creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay, being brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God, (Romans 8: 20-22).

In our day God is doing a precious and historic thing in worship, music and song within the Nations. There is a call of mission and justice coming from within the worship of the hour too. It is is the cry of the Father that all Nations would know Him as He is and that they would sing praise to Him, giving Him the honour due to Him….”Ascribe to Him…declare among the Nations”.

There is a turning in the songs of the hour that is healing people and the Nations of our world as Jesus is revealed through them.

 

Sing, O Nations!

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Christmas Cheers


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Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, as though he needed a ride, was actually a beautiful moment in Scripture when prophecy about the Christ was fulfilled. Isn’t it interesting that the Christ, the Saviour should enter the city to the mass hysteria of the people, sat on the back of a donkey – a common working animal. Perhaps a horse would have been more appropriate or a fleet of chariots, but Jesus came humbly whereupon he was met with the cheers and salutations of the crowds.

This Christmas, how do our lives reflect the King that came on a donkey? Do our lives crave the praises of men or fear the rejection of them? Jesus’ humility on a donkey was securely rooted in His felt sense of acceptance of the Father Yahweh, which is why he didn’t play to the crowd with chariots and why he didn’t run from the crowds days later when the shouted “crucify him! crucify him!”.  Let us explore and discover how truly loved and accepted we are by God this Christmas and revel in this as the real joy of Christmas present.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. He will be called wonderful, counsellor, prince of peace, everlasting Father!

The Prophet Isaiah

 

 

 

 

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Abundant Life Power


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My Senior Pastor, Paul Scanlon, did a recent preach about the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. It was a phenomenal preach dispelling the lie that we need to ‘park up’ at the cross before we can be in His Presence – before we can come before Him confidently in prayer and worship.

Jesus didn’t come to give us an alternative life-style to live He came to get His life into us, to replace our fallen, fractured life. 

“For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. This life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me”, says Paul in Gal.2:20. This is a phenomenal truth that we struggle to appropriate in our lives. Peterson’s Message version puts this into helpful language for us. (Have a look).

The devil has done a great job of getting Christians pre-occupied with the one thing that is done and dusted – i.e. forgiveness for sins and freedom from any condemnation. When Christ died for your sins, how many of them were future? All of them – that’s it, which is why we can be confident of the thoroughness of Christ’s sacrifice in dealing with all our fallenness. Jesus’ solution of the cross was like bringing someone back from the dead who had died of cancer. There would be no solution in just bringing the person back to life, the cancer would need to be cured also. Jesus did this. He gave us life and that life is free from condemnation and fear  –  it primarily features grace, mercy and love. This is our God!

In just the same way that an earthly father would give keys to their adult children to let them come round when they want to , to get past alarm codes etc, so we have that kind of access into our heavenly Father’s presence. We should stop knocking and just let ourselves in! How great is that?!

We should be concerned about our sin, yes, but we shouldn’t have an unhealthy sin consciousness. Yes we should blush at sin but we are not condemned when we struggle and fail. Yes we should be grateful for the cross and live in wonder of it but we should live beyond the cross in resurrection power, beyond the veil in the glorious presence of our Saviour.

The Holy Spirit convicts (convinces us of stuff) us but doesn’t condemn us – ever. Our prayer should be,  “make me more like  You, Jesus”. (See RPM’s latest album “Give My All”, track 9.

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John 17:26 – What Is This Love?


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26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
The Father's love
The Father's love

Jesus’ words in this section of scripture should be met with a hushed silence as we listen in on His intimate conversations with the Father.

Jesus requests that the love in the Father’s heart for Jesus, His Son, would be the same love that burns in our hearts for Jesus. This is a stunning thought.

I pray that we would come to know this love more and more and that it would be the treasure we cherish above all things. Father, help us to love as you love…not with sentiment or human efforts, but to love in the power of your Name. Amen.

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Mount God – part 3


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Gday,

So, distractions…..

I want to make this the last entry on Mount God becuase my intention is to encourage you to start ‘climbing’ in your walk with God with new intention, urgency and creativity and to leave you to explore the Holy Noth Face – in new ways!

I am learning that God is continually inviting me to climb higher that I ever have before. If you imagine God up ahead of you waving you through shouting “c’mon!…I can’t wait for you to see this…meet them…do that” – the Creator of the Universe, that we have the incomprehensible privilege of calling Dad, is an excited God. He is like a Child on Christmas eve, anticipating the gifts and treats and festive fun of the next day. And yet His excitement is not centred on Himself, it is centred on our exploration of unchartered territory in spiritual places.

Reading the beginning of Ephesians is like being told about all the Christmas presents that you have waiting for you…except that you already have them. Every spritual blessing is ours in Christ. We are heavenly billionaires with excess and yet we can become overwhelmed witht the prospect that many of the blessings can remain undiscovered – unrealised.

I remember one Christmas as a kid and I got everything I was hoping for. Everything. This included the Optimus Prime figure that I really, really wanted. And I can remember the strange feeling of wanting to give some stuff away because I felt like I had too much stuff to process at once. I needed things in smaller chunks. One present at a time – perhaps one a day for the next week or something. But the mound of presents that I had unwrapped and were sat neatly piled on the carpet in front of me was too much.

I think we read the fact in Ephesians 1 that we have “every spiritual blessing in Christ” and look at it like I looked at my Christmas Mount that day – we don’t know where to start.

God invites us to explore the spiritual realm. He invites us to be more supernatural. He invites us to exercise more spiritual authority and to take risks.

I have a conviction that holiness is the currency of this journey, this ride. Can you commit to the expedition of Mount God, of exploring prayer at new heights and worship as a lifestyle in new depths? Can you relax and allow God to guide you? Can you take steps away from distractions so deadly and yet so subtle?

Just as adverse weather fronts can make natural climbs impossible, so do the distractions of excessive leisure time. We’re obsessed with ‘chilling out’ and ‘relaxing’. Of course this is awesome in its place, but how about getting alone with God for 90 minutes instead of watching a dvd? How about coming before Him with a fresh sense of wonder and excitement and imagination?

Imagine what is up in front of you…imagine what sights…imagine what revelations.

God Himself longs for us to have a holy focus in that place – that’s why Jesus advised going into the secret place and closing the door. What do you and I need to close the door on? I know I need to close the door on voices, thoughts and other desires…maybe it’s ambition at work or perhaps apathy. We all need to close the door on apathy at times. But the reason Jesus advised closing the door and yourself into that place is because there is Someone waiting within.

I find it a stunning reality that every day I can wake up and wait on the One who created all things and yet I find it so difficult sometimes, just to wait patiently.

In climbing Mount God this is the biggest key…waiting on the voice of God…listening. John 15 describes it as ‘abiding’.

I could write on and on about this but perhaps I have been coherent enough to excite you and stir you into exploring this Place with God.

Be persistent at it…that is what I am learning.

Love ya all,

N

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Mount God – part 2


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Heya

Following on from where I left off earlier regarding Mount God…

The Mountainside was a place that Jesus Himself often frequented as part of His commitment to a spiritually diciplined life-style. You only ever see Jesus with company on a mountain on the occasion when He took Peter, James and John and was transfigured before them as He talked with Moses and Elijah. And on this occasion Jesus set the disciples up to hear the Father’s feelings on solitude, i.e. “This is my Son…listen to Him.” Arguably, listening to Jesus is easier when you’re on your own.

Normally Jesus would withdraw to ‘lonely places’, often in mountainous locations, to pray and be alone with the Father. This is significant. In these times I bet Jesus sang and laughed, cried and asked questions, but first and foremost He would worship. This tells me that I need to do the same – I need to get away from the crowd and be alone with God if I am to climb, as He did. Praying with others is good and important but there is no replacement for the ‘loneliness’ associated with the secret place which is 1:1 – you and God.

I see this 1:1 audience with God as a key to climbing the ‘Holy North Face’. A.W.Tozer writes about the “knowledge of the holy” and to be alone with the Father is the only place we will be empowered to climb Mount God, pursue peace and lives of Christ-exalting holiness.

What are the main distractions from our mountainsides?

We’ll look at this next time.

Think on dudes,

N

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The Permission to Love – can we have a paradigm change?


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Hey All

Picture the scene, (actually try to imagine and feel it): 

It is AD 111 in Antioch and a man is facing the prospect of a horrifying death at the hands of Emperor Trajan (and his lions) for being a follower of Christ. You can hear almost silent mumblings that, as you draw nearer, can be deciphered as prayers,

“O Lord, I thank You that You have guaranteed to honour me with a perfect love toward You…”

His fervent prayer provokes a sense of holy unworthiness in you and of respect and admiration as you reflect on this man’s dying request: there is no mention of some kind of supernatural anaesthesia to numb the pain, or of an other-worldly way of escape to be granted; rather, the prayer is for an increase in his capacity to love his God.

I find this prayer fascinating and sobering because Ignatius clearly esteemed the permission to love God as an honour, indeed to the extreme of the giving of his life. It is humbling that a man on death row would use his ‘one call’, as it were, to further explore what it means to love God, recognising that only God Himself can grant the permission to be more abandoned to Him.

It is a much undiscovered mystery within Christendom that to love God is the greatest pleasure possible – the greatest. Ignatius understood and lived this out in reality as it spilled out of him in prayer as he contemplated being eaten alive by wild beasts.

The Challenge

My desire as a follower of Christ is to love Him as I should – i.e. perfectly but my understanding of the Bible is that I will never be at this stage this side of eternity. However,  I do want to be as far along the journey as possible before I die or Jesus splits the sky.

This supernatural relationship with God is a pursuit. A.W.Tozer talks about seeking God with ‘urgency’ and ‘creativity’ and these are two keys in moving towards loving God more perfectly. Tozer’s ‘prevenient drawing’, that, briefly stated, says that there has to have been a supernatural work in our hearts (by God) before we could show even the faintest interest in Him (We love Him because He first loved us), has to be understood in this context. This should propel us into the fascination that Ignatius was bound by.

Loving God is not about sentiment or goose bumps even, it is about the giving of everything as an expression of preferring God above all things, even life itself. Paul boldly proclaimed to the church in Philippi: “For, to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). I can imagine Ignatius declaring these words too. Are they a true reality in your life or are they the lyrics in a song, perhaps? A neat idea? A post-modern paradigm?

Let us pursue the love of God in prayer, in worship and in life that He might allow us to fall more in love with Him. Let our love for Jesus take us to new places, to new people and to new burdens. Let our love for God swell into a crescendo to replace every proud ambition or selfish desire and that we might have our eyes opened to His fantastic love for us.

Let us esteem the honour of being enabled to love Him as the greatest reward possible.

Amen

Nick

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Mount God – part 1


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In Ps.24:3, King David throws out the question, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who may stand in that holy place…?”. Personally, I love the way that Peterson renders it in the Message, using the phrase Mount God instead of Holy Hill. The reason I love this is because I feel it better conjures an image of an Everestesque mountain rather than a recreational tor on Dartmoor.

A life of purity and holiness rarely feels like a walk in the park or an amble up Hay Tor. In reality it is never a walk in the park. The pursuit of God and His holiness is a pursuit that requires God Himself to push us up when we lose our footing or the finger-numbing frost-bite means we can’t hold on. God is always at our side as we negotiate sheer faces and crumbling foot-holds.

Scaling Mount God is like committing to climb Everest in the knowledge that few make it and some don’t return at all. Just in the same way that it would be obscencely foolish to climb Everest without supplys of nourishment and oxygen, climbing Mount God without firm faith in God’s unfailing grace and commitment to us would also be futile.

You see, when the ferocious artic winds lash at our faces and when icey crevices seem to give way from underneath our feet, God is always there to push us up. He’s already there in the Holy Place (it is  a place, guys) also pulling us up: He cheer-leads; He forgives; He inspires and he promotes love-sickness for Him in our hearts. Love-sickness with Jesus is the purpose of the spiritual discilpines.

I want to be a God-seeker, a God-quester. The exploration of holiness is an obsession. This will also be your obsession if this resonates with you as God Himself forms His otherworldly character in our jars of clay.

We desire to be like God and gaze at Him in His Holy Place. We desire to witness an open heaven and the fruit of righteousness in our lives and others. We desire to see nations saved,  raised and reformed in rigteousness.

And so our prayer must be:  “Holy are You Lord, sanctify my heart”.

But make no mistake, we need to decide to climb. There are no short cuts or base camps but there is the prospect of standing in the Holy Place as Nathanael must have imagined as he reeled after Jesus had seen him under the fig tree. Nathanael was promised visions of angelic ascensions and descentions but Jesus had also shown us that there was nothing false in him…he was a genuine article. He was a God-seeker climbing Mount God but when Jesus called him he must have had a stumble. That was ok though – God was there to lift him up, spur him on and give him a commissioning that focused on the Kingdom that had come and was standing in front of him.

TBC

NPF

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IHOP


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Dear All

It seems ludicrous that it was well over 12 months ago since I last blogged – I agree, it is. But I guess that blogging can really come to the fore when you are travelling or have a particularly unusual event to write about….well, I currently have both.

I am travelling around the USA with my bro, Steve, and having a quality time. The main purpose of our visit was to check out the International House of Prayer (IHOP) based in Kansas City, directed by Mike Bickle and over 3000 voluntary missionary staff.

It is fair to say that this place is a phenomenon. Perhaps this is a shame because it would be awesome if there were more Houses of Prayer around the world, led with such excellence and verve.

What is the ‘Prayer Room’ all about, I hear you ask. Well, in 1999 a team of worshippers, prayers and intercessors started a 24/7 prayer and worship gatehring. Nothing unusual about that, granted, except this hasn’t ceased since that date! The ‘Harp and Bowl’ style of prayer and worship includes musicians, singers, intercessors and I guess you could call them ‘readers’ who speak Scripture over the music. Sometimes the music will direct the prayers and sometimes the prayers will direct the music. These guys know how to flow.

I’ve heard a couple of inspiring songs since I’ve been here, some thought-provoking lyrics but quite a lot of the melodies are quite non-descript. This isn’t an entirely bad thing though because it means anyone can pick the song up quickly and enter into the spirit of what is happening. I like that. But i would like to hear some more dynamic melodies that compliment the awesome lyrics a bit better.

Above all, I love the way the musos and BVs flow. I am sure part of this is human genius, but more so I am aware of God’s hand in and amongst it all. The primary goal is to glorify God, to love Him as we should. John Piper says that ‘God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him’ and this Christian hedonism certainly is Biblical. Where this may be theoretically exemplified in Minneapolis it is fleshed out in radical abandon here in Missouri, (I say that having never visited Bethlehem Baptist Church, but I will do one day – to learn from them too).

I must go as I have been on for longer than my permitted 10minutes, but suffice to say the culture here is breath-taking. It inspires me to write more songs and spend longer crafting them. I am challenged to improve as a musician and to be all I can be for God and His beloved. And on that note, the language is rich here. It’s not ‘seeker sensitive’ but it is dynamic and full of prophetic meaning.

I must go, i have had about 11 minutes.

Love

Nick

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Inauguration


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Dear Reader

“With Him all things are possible”

Ten months ago, the term “Blogging” meant about as much to me as complex world of mathematics, or the equally bizarre world of abstract art. It was the kind of thing that I would have heard about briefly in a commercial break, or possibly overheard being discussed in a telephone conversation between two people I didn’t know, and weren’t likely to know because they weren’t my ‘kind’ of people.

But this electronic world of journalling on the Net was opened to me by a modern-day legend called Rob Waller. I say “legend” because with friends you can always over-exaggerate, and he is a good friend – a very good friend. I would like to briefly say a little about him here as without his influence on my life I would still think that a “Blog” is a Star Trek term used to denote a specific alien life-form from a so-called planet.

Rob is the founder and director of Mind and Soul, a Christian organisation committed to bridging the historic gulf between mental illness and Christianity. These subject areas of mental wholeness and Christianity will no doubt form part of the content of my blog as the connection between Rob and I goes beyond being merely ‘Chrstian brothers’. (It is always noteworthy when two human lives have a sharpening effect on each other). Without wanting to give inaccurate information, it will suffice to say that looking at http://www.mindandsoul.info will provide the best over-view of Rob’s heart. So I will endeavour to relate some of what I write to Mind and Soul, its creators, its partners but also to the wider array of what ‘makes me, me’.

I will chat about Jesus Christ a heck of a lot – He is the true author of life and the reason I live, and that you do too, for that matter. The Word of God and worship of Him will also be areas that I will write about, as will football (that is soccer to you ‘non-Brit’s’), the world of fitness and health, sports injuries – things like that.

I want to also formulate some of my thoughts about the issues of sexual purity and Christian leadership. Your thoughts about this specific area are welcomed, guys.

So, it is my pleasure to warmly invite you to sit back, read, think, write, comment and contribute to this Blog that, for the time being, will be called Firebrand. Maybe, like everything else in life, it should be sub-titled, “Under Construction”.

C ya

Nick reading at Beulah
Nick reading at Beulah

Nick Franks