Author Archives: Joel Jupp

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Nearly two years later, it is still difficult to write about our son, Jeremiah. For months, I could not write about his death. Then, after it became possible for me to write, I felt like anything that I wrote was far too trivial.

About a year ago, I wrote my first song about our experience and memories. Now, about two years later, I am writing my first poem. (I had tried to write one earlier, but again, it seemed too trivial.) I woke up today, a very snowy day, and was frightened by how easily I forget those lives that are so meaningful to me. I decided to write so that I could remember. I suppose it didn’t feel trivial because I was not writing for the purpose of writing a poem, but for the purpose of remembering.

This poem may evolve with time, or I may write another. In the meantime, you are welcome to read my first attempt: joeljupp.com/poetry.html

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For Christians, the “good life” is not something reserved for an exclusive few. It is not hidden, or kept for those who have an ecstatic vision or some kind of secret experience. It is not monopolized by a particular class of people. Christianity is unique in that life is accessible to everyone, regardless of who you are.

In 1 John, we are told that this life was “made manifest.” In other words, God fully disclosed His plan, so that all could see. It was a revelation that could be “heard,” “seen,” and “touched.” It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus, but the mere thought that God was visible is incredible. In terms that humans could understand, God’s love was fully disclosed.

Unfortunately, there are many religions and sects that keep secrets. Because deception needs to be hidden, they need to keep certain aspects of their religion from being known. But shouldn’t it seem suspicious if some things are reserved for a small few?

As a follower of Christ, there is always a deeper life (when a person can know God better), but this is not a hidden experience. Rather, all of the details are visible in Christ. No other revelation is needed. Jesus Christ, who performed miracles and rose from the dead, was seen by hundreds of people — not just one or two. The totality of the gospel is accessible to all.

Interestingly, the realization that “Christianity is public” leads us to evangelism. Because God made His incredible life manifest to all, we should echo that by sharing life with others. As John writes in his first letter, “that which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you.” (1:3) If the nature of the message is public, we distort it if we keep it to ourselves. We should be drawn towards fellowship with one another.

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If you need a Christmas gift that’s a bargain and immediate, remember that individual MP3′s are available at DiscRevolt: http://www.discrevolt.com/albums/view/2334

It’s really easy to download the songs. You can even email the MP3′s to your friends online. It’s a perfect way to keep in touch this holiday season!

1 MP3 = Someone you barely know
5 MP3 = Someone you like, but don’t love
10 MP3 = Someone you love

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Spiritual revival, or the renewal of our relationship with God, does not merely happen by chance, nor does it descend from heaven without our awareness. Both Scripture and history attest to the fact that certain conditions need to be met before we are spiritually resuscitated. We do not slip and “fall” into revival, but we prepare for it.

Thankfully, revival never feels very systematic, but if we were to analyze it, there are certain factors that are absolutely necessary for revival. By that I mean that true, long-lasting revival cannot occur without these factors being present. I have identified several of these, along with quotations from famous revivalists.

1. Passion for God’s Word. Our faith grows when we hear God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), and it is essential for spiritual renewal. George Whitefield, one of the great preachers during the Great Awakening, explained that “The reason why congregations have been so dead is because dead men preach to them.” Often this passion begins with the preacher’s heart, but it must eventually make its way to the listener. We cannot claim to seek after God if we do not listen to His voice. (Jn. 10:27)

2. Desperation for God. If we are content with life as usual, there is little reason to search for anything else. John Wesley observed this danger and said, “I fear that wherever riches have increased the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion… for religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality.” Often we need to lose our “riches” (or what we hold dear) before we recognize how desperately we need a Savior. In a sense, we need to be dissatisfied with our current spiritual condition.

3. Communication with God. As with any healthy relationship, there must be dialogue, an expectation to hear and be heard. Unless there is an effort to communicate with God, renewal is impossible. As Edwin Orr notes, “History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer.” In other words, we cannot change ourselves by merely talking to each other.

4. Rejection of Godlessness. It is impossible to seek God and not-God at the same time. Men and women who experience revival decide to give up their old life and follow after God with their entire self. “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God,” observed Charles Finney. “It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.” Our lives either move toward God or away from Him.

These factors are usually interconnected, but it is helpful to distinguish them, so that we can see where we may be missing the mark. We can prepare ourselves for spiritual renewal when we desire God’s Word, seek God with desperation, dialogue with Him, and reject what is the opposing to Him.

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It is easy to become short-sighted in our worship of God. Some seek self-fulfillment in worship, which often includes songs about ourselves and our desires. Others see worship as having only one purpose and only one purpose, neglecting the fact that the act of worship can have a variety of purposes. Still others miss the fact that worship should be the most joyous part of life!

Psalm 108 begins with six wonderful verses that instruct us about worship, concluding with the truth that praise can deliver us! Since this post will only make sense after reading the passage, you will probably want to open a Bible or read the passage online. Much could be said and written about these verses, and I hope to preach on that passage someday, but here are a few concise comments:

Verse 1: In order for worship to be meaningful, a worshiper needs a healthy relationship with God; this relationship then spills over into singing and making music “with all my being.”
Verse 2: Worship should be the first priority of our day. We dedicate buildings and celebrate inauguration day, but few of us start our day with recognition of God.
Verse 3: Others need to hear our worship — not just our friends, but everyone. Worship is meant to be heard.
Verse 4: Lest we forget, we have more than enough reasons to worship, including God’s steadfast love and His eternal faithfulness.
Verse 5: Our desire should be to see God exalted above all else — not that He is lacking glory, but that we need to fully recognize who He is.
Verse 6: One result of worship is deliverance! According to God’s Word, we are not saved through self-help programs, but when we truly recognize how great and powerful God is.

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How can we honor God in our worship?

Although Exodus 20:22-26 is not frequently quoted in the context of worship, it provides some direction for us. In speaking to Moses, God gives the Israelites four instructions. They are simple and helpful, even for us today:

1. Do not worship anyone else beside me. (v.23)
2. It is absolutely necessary to worship me. (v.24)
3. Where I am worshiped, I will bless. (v.24b)
4. I deserve to be worshiped reverently. (v.26)

These instructions may seem familiar, but they serve as a helpful corrective for us. Does the worship in our lives meet those standards? If not, we should reconsider how we are worshiping God.

Taking this further, this passage also contains another kernel of truth that can set us free from egocentric worship. In these words to Moses, God expresses that He is the one who causes His name to be honored. As He says, “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” (v.24b) Incredible!

What is so striking is that this is the opposite attitude of many of us today. We often think that we are the cause of worship — whether it be a talented worship leader, a great hymn that was written, a moving instrumental song, or a passionately singing congregation. Speaking on behalf of worship leaders, it is fair to say that we often feel a burden to “help” worship along. Even if we meet the 4 instructions listed above, this is one area where we often miss the mark — ironically, in the process of worshiping, taking credit for ourselves.

While there is truth in the fact that leaders need to lead, it would be wrong to overlook the powerful truth of this passage. Ultimately, it is not us who cause worship. Rather, it is God who causes His name to be honored. He is the first cause.

In other words, God is glorified for who He is, not because of what we bring. He is the one who inspires worship, and in that sense, our responsibility pales in comparison. Instead of causing, we should think of our responsibility as responding to His glory.

When we worship in a God honoring way, God will come near and bless us. Ultimately, because He is the one who inspires worship, He ends up blessing us because of who He is. What an amazing promise!

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Colossians 3:23 was intended for all aspects of life. In that verse, Paul reminds us that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.” Our work should be defined by maximum effort and the right motives.

Unfortunately, most of miss the mark in one way or the other. Some people become accustomed to what is common and slow down in their efforts. They may have good reasons, such as fatigue or a low salary, but they forget the ultimate purpose of their work. Other people work hard, not wanting to fail, but they work for the wrong reasons. They work to please men instead of the Lord, and in so doing, get distracted from the ultimate goal.

A.W. Tozer’s insights in Of God and Men are helpful. Tozer rightly pointed out that people often act out of fear. We often choose the easy route (fearing hard labor) or the popular route (fearing human opposition). Of course, in reality, the best choices in life are usually difficult and unpopular.

Two stories are inspiring in this regard. First, think of Moses. When Moses was called to the incredible task of returning to Egypt, he was full of fear. He did not know what to do, what to say, or how to respond to criticism. (Does that ever sound like you?)

God’s response is wonderfully encouraging. In speaking to Moses, God asked, ““Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” God reminded Moses that fear is irrational. God is in control, and He is always present to help his servants.

Even more significant is Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Jesus, we have the perfect illustration of Colossians 3:23. He gave everything and never lost sight of His father. He is the perfect example of working for God with all effort.

The key to living a productive and courageous life is to remember Jesus. After all, if Jesus physically suffered, even unto to death on a cross, then we can certainly try harder in our daily efforts. In Jesus, we also find courage to face opposition. Fear has no power over us. Even death itself cannot conquer us.

Now my brothers and sisters, whatever you do, work with all your heart.

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Recently I was asked about my view of the arts in local church. I thought I’d post my brief response, in case it is helpful to anyone.

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When it comes to the creative arts, I believe that art is a wonderful part of the Christian life. Various passages of Scripture reveal that God loves creativity, He enjoys various expressions of art, and He desires to be glorified through the arts.

In the local church, creativity’s primary purpose is to glorify God. A theme verse of mine has been Psalm 115:1, though there are many to support this. In no particular order, secondary purposes of the creative arts include: (1) delighting in creation, (2) expressing ourselves to God, (3) soothing/reviving our spirit, (4) edifying the church with sound doctrine, and (5) testifying to non-believers.

Worship is important to God and to His people. Although the creative arts should be enjoyable — very enjoyable — it is far more than being a form of entertainment. As I see it, the arts serve as the intersection between theology and expression. In biblical terms, this means worshiping in “spirit and truth.” We get into trouble when we neglect one or the other.

Finally, worship extends far beyond music and the other arts. It includes all of our actions. 1 Corinthians 10:31 makes it clear that we can even glorify God in our common, everyday activities, which extends far beyond a few hours on Sunday. (And based upon Amos, it is fair to say that this “daily worship” is much more important than the music on Sunday morning.) In a sense, creative arts are not an end in themselves, but a means towards greater service, sacrifice, love, etc. Worship beyond Sunday morning is the real test for the Church, and which ultimately determines the validity of its corporate worship.

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Very rarely do I post links to other websites, but this one is so beneficial, I couldn’t resist.

If you are interested in worship or lead worship at your church, Sovereign Grace has graciously posted 37 audio sessions on their website at:
http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Events/WorshipConference.aspx

Worship conferences usually cost several hundred dollars, so this is a blessing for those of us without such resources. Although I did not attend the conference, these audio sessions are the next best thing.

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Language has never been a science. It is mysterious, beautiful, and often confusing.

All of us are dependent upon language for communication — whether it be verbal or non-verbal. As language becomes both more diverse (due to globalization) and more unified (due to mass media), we are caught between understanding and misunderstanding.

Historically, Christians have recognized that God primarily speaks to us through His word. He spoke the world into existence, He spoke to the Israelites throughout the centuries, He sent His son into the world to fulfill the Word, and He continues to speak to his people today.

We do need to look far before we realize how “slippery” language can be. When people use language, there is always a degree of uncertainty when it comes to meaning. It is no wonder that there are so many cases of misunderstanding between people. The nature of language itself, because it is not scientific, often leads to such misunderstandings.

Left on our own, we are often misled or confused. We define words differently, speak them differently, use them differently, and so on. In order to truly understand language, of course, we need someone to guide us as we interact with language and interpret it for ourselves. We need to ask questions, seek clarification, and truly interact with the speaker.

Thankfully, we can be assured that God’s Spirit does just that. In speaking of the Spirit of God, Jesus calls Him a “helper” and assures that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things.” In other words, the Holy Spirit is a teacher that can clarify our confusion, unveil what is veiled, and satisfy our need for knowledge.

In our day, many scholars want to deconstruct language, both religious and non-religious, and question whether we can truly determine a meaning from a text. For example, some point to textual criticism and the many variants used in Christian scripture. How can we truly know anything if language is so slippery?

In response, we must first admit that language is mostly effective. Otherwise, we would not use language at all. The argument that language cannot communicate meaning is self-contradictory, so we cannot hold on to that argument for very long.

Secondly, we do not need to deny these difficulties, but we can embrace them. If language were purely scientific and self-evident, we would have no misunderstandings, we would lose some of the beauty of language, and the Spirit would have no role in helping us understand what has been spoken.

As we come to God’s Word, it is essential, then, that we ask for the Spirit’s help. Interpreting the text is not simply an intellectual puzzle to be figured out. It is an exercise of listening to God’s voice as He speaks to us through His word.

As any married couple knows, true listening involves the heart, even more so than the mind. Communication is not simply the deciphering of language, but the heart-felt interaction with what is being said. Only then do we truly listen.

May this be true of us as we listen to God speak to us.