Why do some of the songs we sing use archaic Shakespearian language that normal human beings living in San Diego do not use, like "thee" and "thou"? We use "up to date" Bible translations so why not the songs? These are good questions.
The answer is one that doesn't really fall within a category of right or wrong, but merely the stylistic approach of a church. But like everything we at The Resolved Church do, we have thought about it a little bit.
Our goal is, number one, to always follow Scripture. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to incorporate in our worship "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart." So that is why our music worship leader usually has a mix of a Psalm reading, singing of hymns, and praise choruses.
It is hymns that have the old "thee" and "thou" language in them. It is part of what makes them a hymn, a traditional song of the faith. So, if we were to take them out and change all "thee" and "thou" occurrences to "you" and "your", then the hymns would sort of lose some of their identity. We are a church that greatly treasures our history and looks back upon our Christian heritage with great respect and gratitude. We take pride that we are part of the orthodox Christian faith handed down to us by those who have gone before us (Heb 13:7). So we are always trying to mix the new with the old. We are young traditionalists pursuing the ancient future!
A second reason we like to sing hymns is that usually, hymns have more doctrine in them then choruses. Choruses tend to focus on one repetitive phrase where hymns have several verses, which dig at the core of what we believe. We are not against songs of petition and repetition, but believe the core of worship is a response to who God is and what he has done. We love because he first loved us and that's why we sing. We sing in attitude of response and thanks.
Lastly, there is something about "thee" and "thou" which carries with it this sense of the otherness, the holiness, or the transcendence of God. Martin Buber, the Jewish existential philosopher wrote a little book he is famous for called "I and Thou." Buber is best known for his revival of Hasidic Judaism...for all you Matisyahu fans, that's what he is. Buber actually argued that God himself is too other, holy, mystical, and eternal for humans to authentically interact with him and so the answer is to treat each other as "thou" and through that connect to the divine. His philosophy makes sense since he didn't know Jesus who enables us to boldly go before God's throne.
But he touches on the distinct and vast difference of God and us. It's what you feel if you walk into a Cathedral and see the high ceilings and big stained glass windows. It's what you feel if you look out across the ocean or up into the stars in the sky and feel how small you are. God is "thou" totally and completely other and different and holy. That's good for us to remember and somehow "you" just doesn't do that.
May you be humbled this week as you worship our great and awe striking God.
1. Everything is about Jesus. Mt. 5:17; Lk 24:27
Of course there is a right way and a wrong way to understanding how everything is related to Jesus. For example... My computer right now is sitting on a table while I write. Jesus was a carpenter. So my typing is related to Jesus because he made tables. WRONG WAY! :) I am typing right now. Typing is the communicating of thoughts. I am unable to think right because of sin. But Jesus died for me so that I might be freed from sin and begin to think clearly. Thank you Jesus for not sinning, for thinking clearly, and dying for my sin so that I might think like you. Thank you for giving me a Bible which tells me how you think. RIGHT WAY! :)
2. I like the way it sounds. Mt 1:21
Jesus is yeshua in Hebrew which means "the LORD saves." When I say Jesus I think, the LORD saves...he saves me...and somehow the sound of the syllables makes a sweet sound in my ear. Jesus is not just a name like my name, "Duane." Jesus name carries with it a monumental significance pertaining to who he is. He is Jesus, the one who can and does save me.
3. Jesus is God. Jn 1:1,14
You can talk about God to a lot of people and that is kosher, it is cool, it is acceptable. Why? Because, God is ambiguous. In many ways the word "God" has turned into one of the blank spaces of a mad libs book and you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean. But when you say "Jesus" that is something different. That is something very specific. That is a certain God. I say Jesus because I am amazed, confounded, humbled, and struck into worship for all that he is. The God of the universe...who took on the nature of pitiful humanity and in large veiled his deity until he died for us and rose again in order to save us. Glory be to Jesus who will one day soon return in all his full power and glory. Really...I really believe this and I am not a crazy person. It is the most sincere and logical belief one can hold.
This is probably a weird first of the new year blog. That's fine. I want this year to be a year that as far as I am concerned...Jesus gets a lot of credit both from what I say and what I do. If you get sick of hearing me say "Jesus" then too bad. Get on board. He is it. Just start saying it a lot too and you'll feel better. Jesus is our only hope, our only peace, our only joy, and our only truth. Glory to his name!
Audio & Manuscripts Below
Listen Read The Hope of Jesus- Galatians 4:4-5
Listen Read The Humility of Jesus- Philippians 2:6-11
Listen Read The Joy of Jesus- Luke 2:8-20
Listen Read The Peace of Jesus- Luke 2:8-20
Last Sunday as one of my application points I said, "This Christmas in every gift that is given and opened think of Jesus the greatest gift of all." My wife and I spent Christmas Eve at her sister's house. After dinner her sister's little girl who is 2 and a half went upstairs to take a bath and put on her pajamas so she could come back downstairs and open a few presents. She came down those stairs so excited. Jumping up and down she exclaimed, "Now can I open one of my presents!?" Her dad said yes and as I was standing there holding my little daughter in my arms watching my little niece open up her first Christmas present I was overcome with emotion. My words from the day before came to mind, Jesus the greatest gift of all. Jesus, God himself, a little baby like my little baby...come into this world to die for my sin and save me...what a great gift or God. I had to fight back the tears.
After my niece opened her present I told her I had a question. I said, "Hey Brooklyn, why do we give presents?" She looked at me with a big smile, clapped her hands together, and said in a joyous squeal, "Je-s-us!!!" Her parents have taught her well.
- Pastor Duane
I was surprised to find they actually have a song titled "joy." I was even more surprised when I read the lyrics. Here's a piece "...in passing I am asked 'Do you believe in a God?, I shrug off the answer, continue to get high in this terror of no explanation. I am looking for a faith. My panic is an only reason. There's a joy, a joy in all I can see. A joy, in every possibility."
Interesting words. An sober admission of fear, longing, and need for an answer and yet seeing none and resolving to find joy in simply the question or the possibility. What does this have to say about who we are as humans and does it have anything to say about the gospel of Jesus?
We experience fear when it comes to God for sure. But I think fear isn't so much just a fear of whether he exists or not but a fear of what that means if he does. Because if God exists then I am not God and I am responsible for my actions and I ought to worship him and what does it mean if I don't? That is scary for sure.
What about the longing? The feeling of searching or wanting or feeling lost or estranged are surely common among us all. The sense that things are right and that something is missing. We are looking for faith. We know there is something wrong with us that needs to get fixed. It just seems we prefer to keep looking sometimes because we know that if we embrace Christ then we will have to repent of some things and the way of our life will have to change.
The most striking thing about this song is the conclusion...joy in possibility. Can there really be joy in possibility or is this just an excuse like saying, "well since I can figure it out I guess I'll just keep on doing whatever I want and having fun." If so, then the issues of the heart just never get dealt with.
This is Christmas. When Jesus was born the angels of heaven announced it and said that his birth was the birth of the gospel of great joy for all peoples. This Christmas know that the answer for all our fears and longings is Jesus. His is the only true anchor for joy because he was born perfect and stayed perfect. Jesus never messed up his heart his whole life and gave his life on the cross for all who would embrace him and receive his life in exchange for their fear condemned broken and hurting heart. In Jesus we have a savior...one who saves us from ourselves and gives us his eternal joy.
For those who only listen to classical music, Kanye is one of the most popular and successful rap artists today. If you turn on the radio, there's like 90% chance you'll be listening to one of his songs. "Th-th-that that don't kill me, can only make me stronger" off his latest album reverberates out of the speakers of every other car driving down the road right now.
In 2006 the cover of Rolling Stone magazine had a picture of Kanye as Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns. He said in an interview at the time if a Bible were written in the present day, he is famous and important enough to be included in it. This year, he was nominated for 5 of the MTV music awards and when he didn't win any he was upset after the show and said he'd never come to the ceremony again. Here's a hilarious SNL skit about the humility of Kanye: Click Here.
Somehow I imagine that Kanye West will not quite have the impact that Jesus did. Perhaps it was because of the unsurpassing humility of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was God. Jesus was thereâ€¦in the beginningâ€¦when God said, "Let there be light and there was light." Jesus was there. When God made the animals and the plantsâ€¦Jesus was there. And when God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him making him a living beingâ€¦Jesus was there. This is the deal, this is what makes the Christmas story so huge and significant, that Jesus was God, very God, the one wonderful, powerful, beautfiful, glorious, Creator of the universeâ€¦and he became a man. If Jesus were just another person who was born and who did some good things in his life, it would not be as big of deal, he would merely be on par with some other people who did some good things. But if God, God himself, Jesus, became a manâ€¦that is a big deal.
Jesus becomes man. How does God do that? I don't know. How to you create or cause things to exist before there is anything? I don't know. I suppose when your God and you make the rules and the laws of gravity, you have more resources at your fingertips. But it is clear. God becomes a man. God, the God who always has been and was never born, undergoes the experience of being born as a man.
Jesus becoming a man is humiliting. Not for us, for him. If you are the God of the universeâ€¦how humbling is it to become a man, born as a little baby. Think about it. That is crazy. Jesus shows us true humility. If anyone has any right not be humble it's God. If you're the most powerful being everâ€¦and you know everything there is to knowâ€¦there's nothing to be humble about. It's just fact. Your it God! But God is not just an awesome God because of his power and knowledge but because of his charater. His character is one of compassion and humility shown in Jesus, God himself, becoming a man.
Neitzsche says humility is weakness. Buddhism says humility is deatching yourself from suffering by realizing you are one with the world. God says humility is grace of God shown in the face of Jesus Christ, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Our greatest need this Christmas Advent season is the gospel. The gospel is: Jesus died so that the root of my sin problem can get dealt withâ€¦so I don't have to keep trying not to be prideful but so true humility is born in my heart. Then I will naturally be humble like Jesus and lower myself out of compassion for others even when I don't need to. Then I will naturally live a life of thanks and worship rather than petition, demand, and disappointment. That's what I need. That is what we all need. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change" by Paul David Trip
I'm just about done with this one. It is a great book which really works through how the gospel takes deeper and deeper root in our hearts and how we as individuals can really help each other grow. There is not an issue in one's life that this book doesn't deal with. It is the next book I am taking our leaders through in our leadership meetings and I would encourage everyone in the church to give this book a read.
"The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright" by John Piper
I'm about half-way through this book right now. It is a scholarly work written to address a theological movement called "The New Perspective of Paul" and one of its primary spokesman. If you don't know Greek and are unfamiliar with scholar level theological terminology it may be a difficult book for you to read, though not impossible. For a broken down version of what the New Perspective is and what is at stake, you can read a response I personally wrote here: A Response to the New Perspective of Paul.
"The Hard Work of Rest" by The Editors of Life@Work
This is a little book I've been reading a chapter or two of on my day off (Monday). I just have two chapters left and it's been an immensly helpful little jewel with a lot of good practical insights and tools. I usually read it in my backyard sitting on a lawnchair with a vodka & tonic or a jack & coke in hand.
"Heaven" by Randy Alcorn
This is the most recent book I started reading and am loving it. It is serious theological work (over 500 pages long and footnoted well) but is also surprisingly readable (anyone could really read it). In theological scholarship there has been a major neglect of the in-depth study of heaven. This book seeks to overturn that tide and Randy Alcorn so far has been doing a great job and making me super excited about what Jesus has ahead for his followers. Randy Alcorn has probably written the best thing out there having to do with money as well. I'd encourage you to also check out that book, "Money, Possessions, and Eternity."
"A God Entranced View of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards" by 11 Different Authors
I try to always be reading something either by Jonathan Edwards or about Jonathan Edwards. I was first turned on to Jonathan Edwards when I began to sense God's call on my life to be an Evangelist (a few years before I discovered Piper for those of you who thought I was just copying him!). Jonathan Edwards is one of the best known and most impactful Evangelists who has ever lived and of all the Evangelists I have studied, none has caught my affection more than Edwards. Which is one of the reasons why we named our church plant, "The Resolved Church" because Jonathan Edwards was famous for his 70 Resolutions.
"Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts" by Harold M. Best
This is book I haven't got too far in reading yet. I heard Harold speak when I was last up in Seattle. He is an old white haired man which makes me really listen and respect him. He can say the word, "God" and you get chills. Harold's book sort of reads that way too and provides a sound perspective for an approach to art and the glory of God.
Recently completed books: Five Views on Apologetics, The Graymatter, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, Lead Like Jesus, Jesus Driven Ministry and Reforming Male Sexuality.
My friend Ed Stetzer who works for the North American Missions board recently put out a report studying 1,000 church plants from the year 2000 to 2005 to try and determine how many church plants survive and why. Statistics can always be tricky, it is commonly said that only 20% of church plants survive. Ed's findings are interesting, I encourage you to check out the report here.
The four main factors of the report were: 1. Having realistic expectations (Openness and honesty about the plant and having a plan). 2. Church leadership development. 3. Church planter peer group (Being connected to a denomination or network with support for the church planting pastor). 4. Stewardship plan (Church membership committment including financial accountability). I found this report very interesting in light of many of the things we are currently doing and have made plans to do that have mostly grown out of learning the hard way in the last two years of what not to do.
How do we add up? Having realistic expectations has personally been one of the most freeing things for me. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I truly thought we did not need a plan and that because of my superb preaching :) we would be nearly in the thousands within the first year. If you haven't noticed were not that big. :) Realizing that putting on a good performance in our service isn't the heart of our church plant, it is the people. People who are individually growing in Christ, being pastored, using their gifts and partnering together in community.
Leadership within The Resolved Church has radically changed within the last year. In January when my co-planter Justin Bragg left, it really challenged me to rise up and be the leader God called me to be. Since then I have been doing my best to establish myself as the Pastor of The Resolved Church. And by establish I mean show and demonstrate to you all that I will lead you and care for you because a title means nothing if you are not actively showing that. In May I began regularly meeting with those leading in different ways in the church. Last month, Aaron Braun, Michael Trujillo, and John Bale just finished reading and going through the book "Lead Like Jesus" with me. This month we are stepping up our meetings to every other week and are about to tackle a new book. In addition, I have been working with Josh Carstensen over the phone, who lives in Newport Beach and drives down with his wife Meagan every week to oversee our set-up and tear-down and to oversee our Sunday service publically.
As far as a church planter peer group. Not only do I function with four "virtual elders" who I talk to about things on a regular basis, but The Resolved Church is part of the Acts 29 network. Besides bi-yearly conferences, I have a monthly meeting with 6 other Acts 29 pastors for discussion and prayer about our church plant. These support systems are invaluable and I know I could not continue to be your Pastor without them.
Lastly, regarding a stewardship plan. One of the best things we have done in the last year is start membership. Tonight will be the completion of our second round of church membership class, an 8 week course where I teach about the theology and mission of The Resolved Church. The course ends with the signing of a Covenant Membership which includes a promise for regular financial giving.
In additon to these things, it occured to me a couple months ago that there are two main areas within our church that need some more focus to make us strong and able to receive those we reach out to within the city of San Diego and that is developing our community sense of planting together and developing the manhood of the men in the church.
So, on the evening of December 9th at 7pm we will have our first monthly "Church Plant Meeting." We will meet at our building, sit in a circle, have a few dicussion items about how we are doing as a plant, and pray together for the plant. These meetings will be designed to build our community in our attempt to plant a church together. They will be short (less than an hour) and will be a good chance to get to know people in the church better.
For the men, The Biblical Manhood Group with Pastor Duane will begin December 4th. The group will meet every other Tuesday night at Frank Johnson's house. There will be three parts, each week a look at one of the Biblical qualifications of manhood, we will discuss our personal lives in being men, and review a chapter from Douglas Wilson's book "Future Men."
On another note, a big thanks to everyone for giving Amy and I some time and space during the first two weeks after Adina was born. It was a great time to just focus on our family. But now we're back from hibernation and you guys are welcome to stop by and meet Adina, just give us a call.
Much love to you all,
We'd like to announce the birth of our new daughter, Adina Rain Smets!
So many of you have sent congratulations in the form of texts messages, voice mails, emails, cards, presents, food and everything else. Thank you so much! You are all amazing and we love you all a ton. Amy and I are super excited and enjoying being new parents and getting to know our daughter. It is a lot of work and lack of sleep but so worth it because Adina is freaking adorable.
During this special time while Amy is recovering from giving birth and together we are figuring out life with Adina, Duane is taking two weeks off work both from the group home he works and from pastoring the church. In six weeks Amy plans to return to work and do hair a couple days a week. We have been flooded with so many calls, the best way to get ahold of us right now is through email or text message.. Eventually we'll get back to all of you and start having people over to come meet Adina.
Above is a collage of pictures. If the file didn't come through or is too small for you to see, go to www.duanesmets.com/pics/adina.jpg and you will be able to see it there.
We love you all,
Duane, Amy and Adina