Reflections from the Sing Conference Part 2

Dear LBCSJ,

When you sing, do you ever think about its profound effects on how we think and speak? If we are singing songs that are girded with heaven and eternity in mind, it enables us to lift our eyes to the one who is everlasting. 

On the first day of Sing! Conference 2019, John Lennox, a mathematician from Oxford University and Kristyn Getty’s uncle, came and spoke to us regarding “The Life of Christ: Incarnation” from John ‍1:1-5. Lennox explained that before the universe came to be, the Word was within God and in that, they have a relationship. Humans were created to be incorporated into this relationship. God was not lonely and the Trinity never needed mankind to have fellowship, yet in His grace, God spoke the universe into existence and all things came to be through Him.  

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  - Revelation 4:11

We exist because God wanted us TO BE and he knows us in intimate detail. Through his creation and works, we become part of His family.

At the conference, we had opportunities to attend break out sessions (topic-based equipping classes). One of the sessions I attended was “Crafting Timeless Lyrics” with singer/songwriter Stuart Townend. During the session, he taught us not only how to creatively write poetry and hymns, but also exhorted us to be mindful of the songs we choose/expose ourselves to. Every song we listen to should have theology because these songs help remind us and fill our thoughts with biblical truths. Keith Getty facilitated another break out session about worship in the home for families with children. He explained the importance of exposing hymns to children at an early age by meditating on and teaching the same song every night for a month. Each night, the Gettys try to set aside time to deconstruct the hymns with their girls so that their children can understand the theology of these hymns. This method ensures that our children will be equipped with strong theology and when they grow up, they will hold onto God’s word in their hearts. 

John Piper was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and gave a sermon exhorting us to respond like Paul and Silas (Acts 16:22-26). It was midnight, they had just been severely beaten with no chance of a trial, deep in the darkest part of jail, and feet fastened in stocks. Piper asked us, “What will enable us to sing while we are in suffering? Are our responses to suffering one of joy?” And he said, “We must have hope in the resurrection.” Through the suffering and afflictions, Paul and Silas sang hymns that they memorized by heart in order to give praise to the One that provides true peace and comfort. 

One of the highlights of the Sing! 2019 conference was attending Bridgestone Nashville Concert where Keith and Kristyn Getty led worship for over 13,000 attendees - the biggest concert they have ever hosted!! The closing song was “Holy, Holy, Holy” sung in acapella and all four parts of the harmony could be distinctly heard. It was so beautiful and the energy was palpable, giving us a glimpse of what heaven will be like when we finally meet our Heavenly Father face to face. 

Thank you so much for all your prayers. If you haven’t had a chance, make sure you also read Jonathan’s blog from Sing! 2019 Conference as well.  Lastly, I highly recommend this conference so please consider going next year! 

In His love,

Esther H.

Reflections from the Sing Conference Part 1

Hello church family,

I apologize for not posting daily updates. The schedule this week was so packed that we’ve been returning home past midnight every night of the conference. Since we needed to rest, we decided to wait until the end of the conference to share our thoughts. Either way, thank you so much for your prayers and support for those of us in the SUMC team who have attended the 2019 Sing Conference in Nashville, TN! After a series of delayed flights and barely making transfer flights, we made it to the Airbnb we were staying at (Praise God!).

On the first official day, we attended the Hymn Sing concert; though this was an optional event before the main festivities that started on Monday, it was nothing short of amazing! We got to hear from several hymn-writers, who explained the process behind writing the hymns that we love to sing so much. Stuart Townend, one of these hymn-writers, shared about the modern hymn "In Christ Alone". He wrote this song as a narrative, which isn't common among hymns. Though children are accustomed to story songs, we as adults can easily lose sight of the wonder that is the Gospel story. We then had the privilege of having Joni Eareckson Tada lead us in hymns. She encouraged us with Psalm 119:50, which says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” She concluded the night with an encouraging and yet challenging statement. What she's looking forward to even more than a glorified body is a glorified heart that isn't tainted or distracted by sin. Tada has been a massive encouragement to believers who experience hardship in this life. Let’s grow in our love for the Lord, so that we can treasure Christ above our circumstances!

The theme of the conference was the life of Christ, and the days were divided to cover the incarnation, the resurrection, and the Great Commission. John MacArthur preached on Matthew 27:45-54, which is the crucifixion account. He taught us that God the Father, without saying a word, demonstrated that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to satisfy His wrath upon sin. He explained the “Day of the Lord” and connected it to Old Testament prophecy. When God tore the curtain of the temple, He demonstrated His satisfaction with Christ’s sacrifice by ending the sacrificial system that the Jews practiced. Christ’s resurrection established the new covenant, and is the reason that we must sing praises to God. 

Throughout the conference, we split off into breakout sessions to learn specific topics. One of the sessions I attended was hosted by Tim Challies, titled “Singing and the Art of Godliness”. He exposited on Colossians 3:16, which states, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The main point is that we as the church must sing to God and to one another. In order for the word of Christ to dwell richly in us, we need to believe in a substantially rich Gospel. We sing to God because He sent Christ to die for unworthy sinners like us! He shared a personal story about the encouragement he received by listening to his congregation sing and being reminded of biblical truths after a difficult week. When we sing to one another, we affirm the truths of God’s Word and encourage one another with God’s Word.

Singing matters to God because our songs are an overflow of what’s in our hearts. My favorite part about this conference was singing heartily alongside thousands of like-minded believers; I felt as though I had a foretaste of heaven when all the saints worship and enjoy the Lord forever! I encourage us to be in the Word and grow in our love for God, so that the word of Christ can dwell richly in us. There’s so much that I can say regarding this conference, so feel free to speak with any of the attendees to learn more. Esther will share her thoughts from the conference as well, so stay tuned.

 

The conference is over, but we can still be praying that this conference makes a long-term impact on our church:

1.     Pray that we, as a church, continue to grow in the Word. When we do that, we can further appreciate the songs we sing that are rich in God’s Word. Sing to God and to one another!

2.     The SUMC desires to take back what we’ve learned from the conference to better serve you, the congregation. Pray that we improve as a music ministry in teaching and encouraging the church with the word of the Lord.

3.     Pray for Elder Peter to have wisdom and discernment in his leadership of the SUMC ministry. Pray that he can take the ministry in a direction that best honors the Lord.

68362183_710627822731835_505943621300649984_n.jpg
69316831_464022397481786_2370703706942341120_n.jpg

Day 3: Gospel Response to Sin

Wednesday marks the halfway point of camp - already! Right after breakfast we all took a train from Felton to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for lunch and bowling. This is a highlight for many of the campers and kids. The kids had fun waving to cars and pointing out different sights as we took the train and later the campers either took a walk down the beach or went bowling. Also, ice cream!

After the Grace staff and helpers prepared dinner (burgers!), Ted taught a lesson on the gospel. He reviewed previous lessons by Pastor Rick and Teddy who shared that God is the Creator and that God created man in His image.


Ted continued the gospel message and focused on the proper response to the gospel - repentance and faith. He highlighted that repentance is not just feeling bad for sin or even turning from one sin to another sin, but it is a turning away from sin and a turning to Christ. Carrie and Danielle acted out a scene involving repentance from stealing money, sorrow for sin, and seeking forgiveness. Ted also used an example of walking along the rim of a fire pit, with the help of another person, as an illustration to demonstrate that it matters who you put your faith in. If a child was helping you balance along the rim, you'd surely get burned, but if an adult helped you balance, you'd be able to make it all the way around. In the same way, it matters who we put our faith in for salvation. Christ is our only hope from sin and death, and we must put our faith in him, for every aspect of our lives. Repentance and faith are both proper responses for salvation!


For me, hearing the campers interact and respond to Ted's questions during the message helped to emphasize that whether we have special needs or we're typically functioning, the gospel is for all of us, because our fundamental problem is sin and every one of us needs Christ. It was encouraging and humbling to think this is the same good news we're studying together this summer as a church.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers that we would be faithful to lovingly proclaim the good news to the campers as we continue to get to know them and talk with them. Please also pray that we would rely on the Holy Spirit's work and not our own ideas or volition. Lastly, sometimes at the second half of the week fatigue for some campers may set in and sin could come out in different ways. Please pray for hearts that would seek Christ, not only for salvation, but in every thing!

Day 2: God, Our Holy and Loving Creator

Dear church family,

As of Tuesday night, we have just finished our first full day of camp!

On Tuesday morning, we had a sweet day spent at the camp site, full of conversations, crafts, hiking and eating! After breakfast, Pastor Rick taught from Genesis, about God as creator and how He created the world, the sun, moon and even the pesky mosquitoes! We then were able to spend time with the campers helping with crafts and going on a short hike! After dinner, Teddy taught that God created man and woman. We also went through the characteristics of God- that He is good, loving, sovereign, merciful and true. He also pointed to the holiness of God as it says in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”. Unlike sinful man, God is perfect and cannot tolerate sin, which is why we need Christ to be saved. We ended with a staff meeting and prayers for the rest of the week.

We have been greatly blessed to get to know the campers and staff at Grace and serve alongside one another. It is personally an encouragement to me to see seasoned believers who have been serving faithfully in this ministry for many, many years. Everyone has been so willing to help, from washing the dishes after meals, to getting to know a camper, to helping out with food or crafts. The campers are also so happy and excited to be here. Many of them express their love for crafts and singing praise songs by the campfire. They're all looking forward to the rest of camp!

Alongside the blessings there have been some challenges. At times the conversations with the campers can be challenging, especially going deeper into what they are learning about God. Thankfully Teddy and Ted have encouraged us to continue to pray, asking for love and more opportunities to talk to them about God. And of course the mosquitoes are feasting on all of us again.

Here are some continual prayer requests for us!

  1. Please pray that the campers would be able to see their need for Christ, as we learned last night. That they would truly understand the goodness and holiness of God, and understand that they are sinful human beings (Romans 3:11-12), in need of Christ and the gospel.

  2. As the week continues, the staff will struggle with tiredness, and some discomfort (mosquito bites!!). Pray that through these times when we are physically outside of our comfort zone, to be content, and always have a willingness to serve and love in any condition.

  3. Pray for the staff to trust in the Lord with conversations with the campers, that we would seek opportunities to talk with them about the goodness of God and the gospel. Even when the conversations don’t go as expected, to not be discouraged but to pray for them unceasingly, trusting in the sovereignty of the Lord in their lives.

Thank you so much for walking with us by reading and by praying for us!

Day 1: Ministry Partnership in the Word of Truth

Yesterday was the first day of camp. We gathered together as a team this morning to eat lunch, pack the cars, pray, and drive to the campsite. Once at the campsite, the attack of the mosquitos came immediately as we began setting up all the tents. The GCC staff and campers arrived in the late afternoon. It was a blessing to see some of the same faces as last year and the year before that. We are more equipped with mosquito head nets and protective canopies this year, but continue to pray that those bites wouldn’t be a distraction to our ministry here!


I was particularly encouraged by the testimony of one of the staff who was saved after coming out of a charismatic church. That particular church taught about the Spirit’s healing power as well as the gifts of prophecies and tongues. However, there was an overemphasis on spiritual gifts rather than addressing sin. This particular staff was taught that sin was just a spirit that was casted out upon salvation. He didn’t realize there needed to be an ongoing repentance, turning away from sin and toward God. The church took portions of scripture to fit their teaching rather than considering the whole counsel of scripture.


“3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” - 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Praise God for the work He has accomplished through this staffer in bringing him to genuine salvation! We are blessed to both be at a church that teaches the truth as well as having the opportunity to partner in ministry with a church that teaches the truth. Thankful for the word that God has clearly revealed to us and the Spirit’s work in our lives to be obedient to it. Let us continue to be equipped with the word that is able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ and encourage one another in this endeavor as members of the body of Christ!