Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ Worship Blogs

A lot of thought and effort goes into each worship service. Each week, I try to tell a story through the song service and the overall worship experience at Pleasant Ridge. Sometimes it is obvious what that story is, and sometimes some guidance is appreciated.

This blog is intended to help prepare hearts and minds to receive the message that God provides to us each week. It will be updated weekly and the content will be based largely on the song selections and the reason for those songs as they pertain to the overall message.

I pray that this blog will serve as a tool for you to use to continue in a “life-changing walk with Jesus Christ.”

Blessings,

Dean Willis

Singing isn’t for singers. Singing is for believers!

Why Marriage?

Last week, Ryan began a series called “Committed.” This series is hitting home for many of the congregation who is married and challenging us to look back on the vows we made, whether a few months ago or a few decades ago. This week, we continue this series by exploring the original purpose of marriage.

It’s not hard to believe that there are not many Christian songs on marriage or romantic love. However, there are songs that, when sung in the context of marriage, are meaningful to how act and think within a marriage. On Sunday, we will focus on holiness and sacrifice, each vital to a successful marriage.

We will sing songs about God’s holiness, such as You are Holy and Holy, Holy, Holy. We will sing songs about where we should place God, both in our everyday lives as well as in our marriages: Highest Place, We Will Glorify, and Seek Ye First. We will also leave with our focus on greater things: There is a Habitation helps us remember our ultimate goal. Take the Lord with You reminds us that no matter where we are – at work or at home – we should always remember that God is with us.

I’m sure most of you have heard the analogy of marriage as a 3-legged stool. You are one leg, your spouse is one leg, and God is the third. Without God as an integral part of your marriage, you and your spouse will have to do a balancing act to try to stay upright!

Join us Sunday to hear the message God has prepared for us through Ryan.

*Please excuse the short blog post this week. I do intend to get a blog out each week and I have fallen short on that front in recent weeks. I believe great things are happening at Pleasant Ridge and I am excited to see where things continue to move.

He is Risen!

Matthew 28:6

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the reason we are Christians, is this Sunday. This is what it’s all about! All year long we teach, learn, sing, and pray to and about a loving, caring, merciful, graceful, omnipotent Savior – but it all revolves around this day. If Jesus had not come to this world, died the worst death for all of our sins, and ultimately rose from the dead, we would not be who we are today. The importance of Easter can not be overstated.

JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS AND ROSE TO LIFE AGAIN! HALLELUJAH!

We will begin together with a triumphant call –

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!

Imagine you being at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead. Other than falling on your face in awe and wonder, you might be shouting these words.

Jesus’ Death

After we begin we the declaration of why we are joined together, we will begin to go through the story from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. Many churches have a Good Friday service which focuses mostly on this part of the story, which leads us to Easter day which focuses on the actual resurrection. Here at Pleasant Ridge, we do not have a Friday service, but I wanted to spend some time on the whole story – from death to resurrection. Ten Thousand Angels is a great song to tell that story. The first verse goes like this:

They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed. The led Him through the streets in shame. They  spat upon the Savior so full and free from sin. They said, “Crucify Him, He’s to blame!”

But before we get to the second half of this song, we will continue to explore the death of Jesus and what that moment means for us as believers.

Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

I want to pay special attention to the last two sentences of this verse of How Deep the Father’s Love. “His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.” That is so powerful and speaks so clearly to the importance of the death of Jesus. His death has allowed each of us to have eternal life. There was no other way for this to happen. Only through the great love and grace of Jesus are we able to live. And as we finish singing Ten Thousand Angels, we are reminded that Jesus did have a choice of whether to die for us or save himself.

He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free. He could have called ten thousand angels, but He died alone for you and me.

Jesus’ Resurrection

We will then turn our minds to the resurrection of Jesus. One of my personal favorite songs for this topic is Low in the Grave He Lay. I particularly love the third verse when we are proclaiming the good news of the all-powerful God:

Death can not keep his prey, Jesus my Savior. He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over his foes. He arose the victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

We will also sing the song we have been learning over the last few weeks, Christ is Risen, which has one of the most powerful verses in the Bible:

1 Corinthians 15:55

“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”

And the songs adds one more line to that:

O Church, come stand in the light. The glory of God has defeated the night!

Conclusion

We will end second service by telling the story again and remembering what it means to us. We will do that through the Townend and Getty song: In Christ Alone.

The third verse is the verse to focus on this week:

There in the ground His body lay – light of the world, by darkness slain.

Then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory, sins curse has lost its grip on me.

For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.

The story of Jesus is such an exciting story and the most exciting part of it is the death, burial, and resurrection. There is a reason so many movies are made about this part of Jesus’ life.

I hope this blog has allowed your heart and mind to prepare for this Sunday’s worship service and on.

Have something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Listen

Mark 4:9

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Listen

Jesus has something He wants to say to each of us. He tells us to listen to his words and he will not lead us astray. We need to always remember to listen to the words and the calling of Jesus. This Sunday, Ryan will outline just how to do that.

This message is also outlined throughout the songs. There are 3 main points to watch for as we sing together:

Jesus Listens

Remember that our current sermon series is about being like Jesus – The Jesus Way. This week, we will explore how Jesus was a listener, and so we too must be listeners. Just a Little Talk with Jesus is a great way to begin the morning by singing of the power of prayer and that when we talk to Jesus, he always listens to us.

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus. Let us tell Him all about our troubles. He will hear our faintest cry and he will answer by and by. Now when you feel a little prayerful yearning as your heart unto heaven is turning, you will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right.

We will then plead with God to Listen to Our Hearts.

Words are not enough to tell you of our love, so listen to our hearts.

Listen through the Bible

We know that Jesus listens to us. So what do we need to do? One answer is read your Bible. We must listen to Jesus, but we can’t always hear him just walking around. We can’t wait for Jesus to call us on our phones or send us a message on FaceBook. We have to be proactive about trying to figure out what He is telling us. Getting into God’s word daily is one of the first steps to hearing Jesus. We are told throughout the Bible that He will not lead us astray if we listen to Him.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

We must always be living by this truth and always striving to do more and more. The question comes through another song we sing: Poured Out Like Wine.

Would you be poured out like wine upon the alter for me? Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry? Would you be so one with me that you would do just as I will? Would you light, and life, and love My word fulfilled?

I think you know the answer.

Listen to God

Finally, we must listen to the voice of God. Different people do this in different ways. For many of us, myself included, a lot of listening to God is done through praying, then doing what we think is best, hoping that what we think is best is God’s plan, then looking back at it months or years later and realizing that yes, God was leading us all along. But we have to take that first step. God can’t take it for us.

I am resolved no longer to linger charmed by the world’s delight. Things that are higher, things that are nobler: these have allured my sight. I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free. Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

I leave you with this thought from a song popular a few years ago: The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.

May this song bless you this week.

Happy Valentine’s Day

1 Samuel 16:7

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is coming soon and it is easy for many of us to say who we will be thinking about the most this weekend. For many of us, that person is a significant other – a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.

This is a great time to spend extra time with out loved ones. It is a blessing that God has given to us to have a perfect opportunity to remind our spouse what he or she means to us. God has given us the gift of romantic love and it is celebrated throughout the Bible, especially in that great book of passion, love, and poetry that we all know of, but seldom talk about.

Song of Songs 1:2

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
    for your love is more delightful than wine.

This Sunday, however, we will not be focusing on our lives and our loved ones right around us. In fact, the exact opposite is true. We will be focusing on those we never focus on – the neighbors who live on our street who don’t know we exist… and who we don’t know exist either.

There are not many songs about this topic though. We could go the “love your neighbor” route, and we will sing Hear, O Israel, to that effect. But that’s not quite where we are going with the song service this Sunday either. Since there are not many songs about this particular track, we will spend our time singing about our love for God and His love for us.

While we will be focusing on our loved ones this weekend – let’s all join together on Sunday and remember who loved us first. And if we can realize the magnitude of the love Jesus has for us, we will want to tell everyone about Him and spread the love of God to everyone we cross paths with – including that neighbor you have never noticed before.

A quick note

I haven’t updated this in a few weeks now and it has become apparent to me that with the addition of Wednesday Night Live and my involvement with the greeting ministry, I simply do not have enough time in my hours to get everything done that I want to get done. I have to prioritize what I can do within my ministry at Pleasant Ridge and creating a meaningful service both on Sunday morning and Wednesday Evening are at the top of my list. Building on the foundations of the greeting ministry to make it a highlight of PR is just as important. And while I believe this blog helps people better prepare for worship, I pray that each of you will spend time in prayer before the service and ask God to give you the heart of worship each morning. I also pray that the worship services are apparent in their purpose and guidance towards God.

Once I have a hang on everything again and things are more automatic, I will add this back in and hope that it blesses you all. Thank you for reading so far and I look forward to adding this back into my weekly routine. If I ever find myself with some time during the week to write this, I will. Until then, sing out, sing loud, sing strong, sing to the Lord. Praise Him in every situation.

Christmas is Pleasant Surprises

As we come to the conclusion of our Christmas series, we will look at the Pleasant Surprises Christmas brings us. Ryan will lead us through the Bible to look at many of the surprises found there that relate to the Christmas season.

Each Sunday, I prepare a story to go along with the message. It is that story that I share with you all on this blog. This week, however, is a little different in that instead of a story-line, we are simply singing all our favorite Christmas hymns in preparation for Christmas. These are not just fun songs that we sing, but rather important songs that remind us of the nature of Jesus.

Jesus did not come down in a chariot of fire as a grown man ready to change the world. No. He came as an innocent baby – just like every other human being ever born. Except His birth was different. As Ryan spoke about last week, Jesus wasn’t born in a comfy hospital with doctors there to make sure everything was OK. Instead, he was born in a dirty manger with cows nearby. The songs we sing sometimes do a bit of a disservice to the situation Jesus was born into. We sing songs like Silent Night that make it seem so peaceful – “all is calm, all is bright.” We sings songs like Away in a Manger that say that Jesus was the perfect baby – never crying, never fussing, just laying there perfectly happy. “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.” But here’s the real deal – there were no inns available that night. Apparently, it was a busy time in a busy area. Was it really silent with every room in every inn occupied? Have you ever met a baby that didn’t cry? Especially one that is outside, lying in a manger, with dirt and bad smells all around Him? The fact is this: Jesus had the lowliest of births. We like to imagine His birth as this calm, sweet thing. We like to imagine His childhood as lovely and bright. But the Bible doesn’t tell us much about his childhood and if we are realistic in our thinking, it probably wasn’t the life of a Prince for Baby Jesus.

But PRAISE BE TO GOD, He was willing to choose this lowly birth just for you and me.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

If God wanted to, he could have been born to a king in the most comfortable place imaginable with many people to watch over him and care for his every need. But he did not. This is the way he decided to come into the world – and how great is our God to do that for us?!

So yes, this week we will be singing our favorite Christmas hymns. But remember this: this time of the year we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Focus on His birth and what it means to us. Focus on why He came to this Earth and why he came the way He did. Focus on the incredible amount of love that Jesus has shown to us first by his birth, and ultimately by His death. From beginning to end, Jesus did not have a cushy life that we often like to believe – and He lived his hard life for one purpose.

That purpose was to save this world. That purpose was to save you.

Luke 2:14 – Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Christmas is for All People

Oh how He loves you. Oh how He loves me. Oh how he loves you and me!

God sent His one and only son to die for the whole world. Why? Because he loves each one of his children that much!

This Sunday, we will continue our Christmas focus by remembering that Jesus came for all people. It is so easy to get into the rut of thinking that Jesus only came for the good people or the people who go to church every week or only the Christians. But when we really begin to think about it, we know that is not true.

Mark 2:17 – On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

And how good it is that this is true – for we are all sinners and we all need Jesus. The whole world needs Jesus.

With this in mind, we will begin our service asking God to come down, confessing that we need Him in our lives, and asking Him to build His kingdom right here.

Come set your rule, and reign in our hearts again. Increase in us, we pray. Unveil why we’re made. Come set our hearts ablaze with hope. Like wildfire in our very souls. Holy Spirit, come invade us now. We are your church. We need your power in us.

His work in building up a kingdom here on Earth has always been His plan. The most important part of that plan being Jesus. We ask Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?

The answer? Because he loved me so.

Keeping our Christmas theme at hand, we will sing It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, which gets its inspiration from our scripture this week: Luke 2:8-14.

Luke 2:10 – Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.

Yes. This is the news that is for ALL people. Jesus is born today! Amen!

We will finish the service being reminded that Jesus did come for everyone on earth and it is our responsibility to help spread that message.

Go, tell it on the mountain! Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!