Psalm 9 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

Give Thanks

Psalm 9

-Wizard of Oz – the man behind the curtain. Looks impressive until you see what’s really back there.

-2 sections in this Psalm: one looks back, one asks for present help

-History of combining these 2 into 2 long Psalm (if you look at Psalm 10, no header) we’ll see the second reason in a bit

READ

PRAY

  1. Prayer for Past Deliverance (1-12)

-Begins with another musical note no one knows what this means (some translated it as “The death of the son”) 

-Again, we have no clue the bigger context, David wrote it, that’s all we’ve got

-We do know that it all these Psalms served as the corporate songs of the Jewish people throughout history, meaning the singers/writers have a vital part to play in the life of the church

-Have you ever thought about how music has a universalizing reach? Songs are written by 1 person or a small group of people sharing their thoughts/experiences, but when those thoughts/experiences get released out into the world, it becomes the mantra of a generation. 

-I love music. I collected CDs as I was growing up (mowed a lawn, got $20/week, bought me 1 new CD/week!)

-My favorite band toured on the 10th anniversary of their best album, the entire room sang along with every single song

-Music moves us, shapes us, fashions us, imbeds ideas into our hearts & minds – so be careful with music! It’s a gift/tool to help stir our affections toward the things of God – Gods loves beauty.

-Spurgeon: “Singing and preaching, as means of glorifying God, are here joined together, and it is remarkable that, connected with all revivals of gospel ministry, there has been a sudden outburst of the spirit of song.”

-Theological idea: New City Catechism question #2 Who is God? God is the creator of everyone and everything. God created beauty, God designed beauty, that’s part of the main idea from Psalm 8 – “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers” we are stirred/moved to worship.

-Someone in the church just got married, went to one of my favorite places in the world for their anniversary: Estes Park, CO. The reason places like Estes Park exist is to remind us of our finitude. You don’t look at mountains like that and go “wanna know how much money I have in my bank account?” 

-Secondly, if Estes Park is THAT beautiful now, what do you think it’ll look like when sin is no longer wreaking havoc on it?

-Similarly to places like Estes Park, which as beautiful, even art is/can be used to bring honor/glory to God. Music can be used to bring honor and glory to God. Writing. Working. Sleeping. Eating. Reading. Singing. Thinking.

-The reality is, God wants us to do things excellently, not as a form of pride, but to use our unique gifts/talents to be a blessing. Why am I talking about all this?

-This Psalm, combined with Psalm 10 are an acrostic. This wasn’t just written off the cuff, this took time and effort to create a beautiful poem that uses each letter of the Hebrew alphabet as a prayer point. 

-Ever thought of doing the same? Going through the alphabet as a prayer list. A – my sister Anna, B – thankful for the bread I ate this morning, C – God’s greatest gift of all COFFEE!

-Realize that we live our whole lives coram deo before the face of God. So even something as seemingly trivial as writing a song/poem can/should be an act of worship. God cares about beauty, He designed it, and inspired others’ skills/talents to write down thoughts/ideas that are beautiful works of art. The building of the temple in 2 Chronicles was done by skilled craftsmen.

  1. Thanksgiving (1-2, 11-12)

-David approaches God by giving thanks, with what? His whole heart.

-3 ways to approach God: no heart (shaking your fist at him), half-heartedly (what has He ever done for me?) whole heartedly (with all you’ve got!)

-God doesn’t want a little bit of you, He’s not asking to be your co-pilot, he’s looking to take over and redirect, refocus, re-shape everything you do!

-How are we to give thanks? By recounting ALL his wonderful deeds

-Maybe that’s why David uses every letter of the alphabet, it keeps his thoughts on track to continue recounting all the deeds God has done, A-Z! Maybe instead of the alphabet you need to use numbers: 1 – God, 2 – daughters, 3 – churches that loved me and my family and let me serve them.

-We, as the church, are commanded to be a thankful people, giving thanks with our whole hearts by remembering and celebrating all the things God has done, is doing, and will do in all our lives. How many blessings do we miss/neglect because we’re not taking time to be thankful for how God is working?

-As you read through the OT, does it ever strike you just how much time Israel is given to festivals and parties? Even Jesus when he comes is described as “eating and drinking.” Church, God has created us to be party people! Not saying we eat/drink in excess, but we even eat and drink to God’s glory, so I can eat my pellet smoked medium steak and really and truly enjoy it as God’s good gift, and we can invite our friend, neighbors, and even our enemies to come participate in a taste of the feast that will be waiting for us when Christ returns. Do you ever notice that one of the things Jesus does when He returns is feast, throw a big party? Where we’ll have the best family reunion in the world! But we’re not there yet.

-Notice in vs. 11 where we’re supposed to tell his deeds: the peoples. Share with all!

  • The Enemies (3-6)

-Just as David had enemies who were trying to subvert/destroy Him, we have an enemy who is doing his best to undermine the mission of the King, to distract us, to tempt us and to take us away from pursuing everything God has commanded us to do

-Remember what I said about a place like Estes Park, or even beauty, they’re meant to make us feel the need for transcendence, but what about those who don’t “give thanks with their whole hearts”, those who shake their fists at God?

-Almost like God vs. the world. The enemies will do their best to fight against him, to push against him, but who ultimately rules and judges? We’ll see this more fully fleshed out in vs. 7.

-Notice that these enemies stumble and perish. They can’t even keep themselves together. And when these enemies are compared to someone walking/living in holiness, God will bring about perfect justice.

-Not sure if you’ve been following what’s been happening in Afghanistan, but it is a humanitarian crisis. Read an article this week that contained some quotes from our brothers and sisters there “One brother described these days as “dark” and said they feel like a “storm.” Then he asked that we pray for “revival.”” Listened to a podcast that talked about Afghan Christians, for the first time, putting “Christian” on their identification card to set a new trajectory for their families, those people are now being singled out. A reported tweeted, “A person who works with house church networks in Afghanistan reports its leaders received letters last night from the #Taliban warning them that they know where they are and what they are doing. The leaders say they aren’t going anywhere. So it begins.”

-See, God has rebuked the nations, God will blot out their name forever, those in the Taliban serving Satan and his minions will face everlasting judgment for their sins, but it can be hard to keep that perspective when it seems like evil has the upper hand! 

-The word used to describe “wicked” in vs. 5 refers to those who are practical atheists, they hate God’s commands, commit sinful deeds, and speak lies and slander. 

Romans 1 describes these wicked people as “suppressing the truth.”

-Church, we need to remember not to suppress the truth, not to live for this world, this world is not our home! We are sojourner, aliens, and strangers. We need not fear any trial/tribulation here because what can they do, kill us? Then we see Jesus! What these enemies don’t realize is that they have an expiration date.

  • The Lord (7-10)

-But the Lord sits enthroned FOREVER. 

-Have you ever thought about the fact or reality that God has ensured that the church will never end, that His Words would be perfectly contained for millennia? 

-Multiple groups, civilizations, countries, rulers, laws, tribes, tongues, nations have done their best to eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth. Even “intellectuals” have declared “God is dead” since Nietzsche wrote that in 1882. But who is enthroned forever? And what is the purpose of His throne? JUSTICE. There’s that idea that we saw a couple weeks ago again.

-This idea ties us back to vs. 4. “You have maintained my just cause” 

-All of us want justice for ourselves, but what about when we’re the one deserving of the penalty for justice? 

-God is the one who judges with righteousness, and that righteousness, as we’ve seen throughout all these Psalms only comes by and through God Himself bearing the weight and penalty of these enemies who are opposed to God and His ways. Notice how those enemies are described in vs. 8

-world – people. The world is comprised of people, so people aren’t off the hook for the way the world is operating. That’s where we as the church have to be the city on a hill, light shining into the darkness, salt in the world who proclaim and demonstrate what justice looks like, because our world will keep fumbling around in the dark trying to come up with broken/inadequate solutions for a cross shaped problem.

-That’s what David says here in vs. 10 – “those who know your name” someone’s name in the OT meant something significant. Until my generation came along and started giving their kids names like “Apple” and “North West” names carried connotations. When God commands Moses to lead His people, He gives Moses His name, that is his character, his way of operating, his resume. So when you read in 1 John something like “God is love” that’s God using His name to remind us of truths about Him.

-What is the first thing you learn about someone? Their name! You have to teach that to kids – Calvin.

-‘It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.’ James 1:27 reminds us “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

-Religion is just a way of referring to a system of beliefs, your operating principle. What’s crazy about our religion, is it contains a relationship with God.

-After David has reminded himself of how God has worked in the past, he then turns to the present:

  • Prayer for Present Deliverance (13-20)
    • Deliverance to Praise (13-14)

-The theme of whining comes up again. David is in a tough spot and needs God to intervene on his behalf. He asks for God to be gracious, and to see/pay attention to his affliction. Why?

-So that he can return to praising God. Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We are all created as worshipping beings, we’re created to worship God, but we don’t always do that! Because of the salvation freely given through belief in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, we get to praise Him together. 

-Everything you do, say, and are, is meant to be used to praise Him. Even our sufferings, trials, difficulties are an opportunity to rely more fully one Him than we did before! He won’t let anything go to waste!

-It’s one thing for s child of God to suffer, because we know the outcome, but what about those who are opposed to God, the enemies that were brought up in vs. 3-6?

  • The Nations (15-18)

-Remember the Wil E Coyote gifs I showed you 2 weeks ago? That’s how God views the nations. Pit they made, foot caught in their own trap

-The Bible calls those who are opposed to God foolish, and even the nations that are opposed to God and nothing compared to Him. Have you ever thought about the reality that no nation has existed forever? There was a time that the good old US of A didn’t exist. There may even come a time when the USA is a footnote in a history book somewhere. Every major nation has been defeated at some point. Egypt, Babylon, Rome, England. The ruins of the Roman Empire are tourist attractions today! The empire that tried to wipe out a flourishing Jewish sect called Christianity in the 1st Century. Who’s still standing today?

-So in response, God reveals himself (might only be after they die) but ultimately God will reveal Himself to everyone! Yet the wicked are still defeated by their own attempts to grab at power.

-C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.”

Selah

-It says the wicked shall RETURN to Sheol. 2 notes:

-Return signifies where they came from

-The biblical idea of repentance is the idea of returning. So everyone will return to something, either Sheol or the Father’s arms.

-Those are the ones whom forgot God, they will in turn be forgotten by God. What a terrible place to be!

-Lastly, see how evil these nations are: they neglect the poor and the needy. That’s exactly where we, as representatives of God are to care for those that our society deems as “poor and needy.” (James 1:27) Those who are evil don’t/won’t care for them, but they’re the very people God cares for. His Son was one of those poor/needy people! 

-In response to the way the poor and needy are treated:

  • The Lord Judges (19-20)

-No man can stand before God, we see in Psalm 2 that when the nations rage and the peoples plot IN VAIN, that God laughs at them! Everyone will have to face God someday and be judged for how they live.

-This idea goes completely contrary to the expressive individualism we see rampant around us. Talking with someone this week about our current education system. Did you know that originally public education was implement to help civilize people and train them to become good citizens? The purpose of education is to train people how to conform to the group/culture at large. Today, though, you’re not allowed to be conformed to some standard, the standard is supposed to be conformed to the individual.

-For we who are in Christ, we are to be conformed as a group into an individual – Christ. Our education in our faith is to be like Christ, and we all need to work to become more like him and help each other become more like Him “imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

-At the end of the day, all societies, nations, they’re just people, they’re not God! So why do we fear puny little men? God is giving his people (us) a peek behind the curtain here. Even if persecution comes for us, what are we afraid of, we’ve seen the little man hiding behind a curtain! Why do we worry/fret about our society decaying? We’re a part of a different society and we have a job to do! To reveal the little man behind the curtain for every other religion/ideology/thought that doesn’t have God as its’ foundation/author. One of the best ways we can do that is by giving thanks. This week, use the alphabet to give thanks! Come up with 10 ways God has blessed you. Every night Cara and I ask each other “what are you thankful for today?”

The Singing Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube channel.

The Singing

Eph. 5:15-21, Col. 3:12-17

-Why do we sing when we gather together? Most of us don’t have training, most of us don’t want others to hear us when we do sing (shower head), if we’re brutally honest most of us don’t really gel with the songs we sing anyway.

  1. What Is Worship?

-Unfortunate when we started making “worship music” as a genre

-God is interested in things being done well, honorable

-Ascribing worth and honor to God. Why? Because he alone is worthy! (Psalm 96)

-Tell of his salvation, declare his glory, he is to be feared

-All of our lives are worship (1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 12:1)

-Francis Chan eating a Snickers bar to the glory of God

-Martin Luther “The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but all works are measured before God by faith alone.”

-Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in 1647: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

-Worship -> Christian worship -> corporate worship

-What are some idols you see being worshipped today?

-Technology addiction – Time magazine, teenagers are becoming addicted to their cell phones, leading to depression. 

-Social networking – FOMO, fear of missing out.

-Money? 401K your god? Maybe the security of being financial stable? 

-In fact, none of these things are completely bad! A smart phone allows Cara’s parents to see their grandkids on a regular basis. Social networking lets me keep up with friends across the globe. The problem is when they become gods.

-What about family? Families are a gift from the Lord, but elevating them to the place of God is wrong. 

-Maybe image is your God? Proverbs reminds us that beauty is fleeting

-Health1 Tim. 4:8 “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

-Job? What if you’re fired?

-What about our acts of worshipAmos 5:21-24 ““I hate, I despise your feasts,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
    I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

-“the worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible.” (David Peterson, 20)

Hebrews 12:28-29

-Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10)

-Therefore, worship is always a response to God. (see below)

-every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)

-What do you have that you did not receive (1 Cor. 4:7)

-Worshipping is acknowledging these realities.

-One of the primary ways we can worship is through singing.

  • Singing is the Pattern of God’s People

-Creation accounts in LOTR and Narnia

-Adam (Gen. 2:23) “Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

-Crossing the Red Sea (Ex. 15) “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

-Deborah and Barak (Judges 5) (prophetess and leader in Israel, after Sisera is killed)

-Singing about Saul and David (1 Sam. 18) “And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

-Psalms as songs (A song of…) 18, 30, 45, 46

-Restoration of the temple under Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29) “The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 29 When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped.”

-Jesus and the 12 (Matt. 26:30) “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

-new heavens and earth (Rev. 4:8) “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”

Rev. 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

-early church 

-Pliny, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”

– Tertullian, writing from North Africa during the end of the 1st Century, “Each is invited to sing to God in the presence of others from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.”

-Jonathan Edwards: “And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.”

-what moves your affections?

  • We Sing to Remember

-We are forgetful people.

-Comic strip at Grace

-Building ebenezers in the OT

-How many times does it take you to remember something?

2017 Study – average American spend 2.5 days each year looking for lost items.

-Repetition is necessary to remember:

Psalm 136

-G.K. Chesterton: “it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”

-What does this look like in the NT? A couple parallel passages in Ephesians and Colossians

  1. Address One Another (Eph. 5)

“how you walk”

-walk this way

-Theme in this letter (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8) Paul’s way of talking about how they live

“best use of the time”

-Worship God everywhere we go

-Shema in Deut. 6

-Foolish contrasted with “the will of the Lord”

1 Thess. 4:3 “For this is the will of God: your sanctification (holiness)”

-Do not be drunk

-be filled by the Spirit, not the spirits (similar to what was happening in Corinth)

-How are we filled by the Spirit? Vs 19

-“addressing one another”

-You need to sing! You can’t address each other unless you’re singing

-Volume – too loud no one sings, too quiet no one sings

-Psalms (Jewish) hymns (Greek) spiritual song (everything else)

-Hymn definition: Augustine defined it: sung, praise, to God. 

-Google: a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

-I’ve yet to find a definition of hymn that means: in the hymnal or old.

-Grant Osborne “Hymns in the early church were used to teach theology to believers. The lyrics were chosen not for their artistic value but for their truth and depth of content.” (182)

-“with your heart” not just IN your heart, WITH 

-“giving thanks always and for everything”

-Even the songs you don’t like. Every week we sing songs I don’t like!

-“If the gathering is about building up and encouraging the church, then a song I don’t like presents an opportunity to love and encourage others whose tastes differ from mine.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 88)

-“submitting to one another.”

-Dying to ourselves, loving each other enough to look beyond our personal preferences

  • The Word of Christ (Col. 3)

-Clothing metaphor (earlier was putting off, this is putting on) 

-Laundry list of characteristics 

-One another’s in the NT

-Forgiving, we saw this idea last week in the Lord’s Prayer

-Love brings a beautiful harmony to everything we do

-melody vs harmony

-We need to use our gifts to create this harmony, that’s why I try to help Tami out with music regularly

-Peace of Christ leads to one body

-Thankfulness (again!)

-Word of Christ dwell

-you will probably forget everything I say today as you walk out the doors! You might walk out humming a song (guy complaining about it)

“Read the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word, sing the Word, see the Word (in the ordinances)” (Mark Dever, The Deliberate Church, 81)

-Singing is a form of teaching and admonishing each other

-Sing OUT LOUD!

-Whatever you do

-life of worship

-What does this look like?

-Liturgy: the work of the people

“The goal of our gatherings should be to cultivate practices that form our church to live in the good news of the gospel.” (Cosper, 121)

-Caught & Taught: reorientation 

The Common Flow (Bryan Chapell Christ Centered Worship, 100)

                        Adoration – recognition of God’s character

                        Confession – acknowledgment of our character

                        Assurance – affirmation of grace

                        Thanksgiving – expression of devotion

                        Petition and Intercession – desire for aid in living for God

                        Instruction from God’s Word – acquiring knowledge for pleasing God

                        Charge and Benediction – living unto God with his blessing

The Consistent message: The Gospel re-presented

-Begin, in the middle, and end with “the Word of Christ.”

“Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” Gordon Fee

-Service centers around the preaching of God’s Word, so song choice and other elements center on that theme (all else fails, re-present the gospel!)

-Variety of songs, styles, and ages (catalogue of no more than 100 with 8-12 new ones a year)

-Language matters (as we continue to worship through…)

-The entire service is important, not just the sermon or the songs, but BOTH

-Healthy tensions/well balanced diet: (Zac Hicks The Worship Pastor, 73)

  • Transcendence and immanence of God (Isaiah 6:5 “And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!””) (Acts 17:28 ““‘In him we live and move and have our being’;)
    • Cognitive and emotional (Head and Heart) (doxology & theology) (Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”, Romans 12:1-2 “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”) (Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”)
    • Internal and external expressions (Matthew 15:8-9 ““‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”, 1 Corinthians 13) (Psalm 100:2 “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”, 101:1, 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”, 134:2 “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!”)
    • Vertical and horizontal (Psalm 96:2 “sing to the Lord, bless his name”, 98:5-6) (Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”)
    • Planned and spontaneous – story of planning in pencil
    • Historic and contextualized (rooted and relevant)
    • For the church and for the unbeliever “Sit long – talk much – laugh often.” (Col. 3:16) (1 Cor. 14:24-25 “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.)
    • Gathered and Scattered (1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up, 11:17-18) (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”)

-So when we gather, we need to remember to teach and admonish one another, and one of the ways we can do that is by singing.

Music for EFCA Theology Conference 2021

I’m looking forward to leading the music for this year’s EFCA Theology Conference! While I’m sad we won’t be in person (there’s something fun about joining with 400 pastors from across the country to sing LOUDLY together!), I’m thankful that we can continue meeting and singing despite a pandemic preventing us from all being in the same place. I try to use this conference to equip pastors with a couple ideas. First, that you don’t need a giant band every week. We can sing praises to God with just a piano and our voices, and sometimes just our voices! Second, I hope to gives pastors some ideas of songs (old and new) they can take home and teach to their congregations that are biblical true, easy to sing, catchy melodies, and will help move the head knowledge to a heart knowledge where we can take the things we’re learning and apply them to our lives. This year, I thought I would add links to where all the music can be found.

All Creatures of Our God and King

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Praisecharts)

Speak, O Lord (Praisecharts)

Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Praisecharts)

Jesus, Strong and Kind

Only a Holy God

King Of Kings (Praisecharts)

He Leadeth Me

Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Yes I Will (Praisecharts)

I’ve also compiled on these songs on a Spotify playlist that you can find HERE. Because of the theme of this year’s conference, I’ve also put together an additional playlist that is various musical interpretations of various Psalms, which you can find HERE.

April 2 Devotional

Today we’ll be looking at Psalm 1:
 
Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.
 
This Psalm sets the stage for the rest of this book, which means it’s crucial that we get this Psalm right to correctly interpret the rest of the book! This Psalm paints a picture of 2 men, one who is blessed, and one who is “wicked.” We begin with a look at the blessed man.
 
This man has nothing to do with sin! He runs the other direction. Just as Joseph fled the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, the blessed man won’t even stay in the same room as temptation. Notice the trajectory of this fall into sin. You begin by walking with the wicked, then your walk slows down as you become enticed by their rhetoric so you stand there with the sinners, then you finally take a lot off and sit down with the scoffers. It’s a slow but natural progression. Instead, the blessed man focuses all his attention and energy on the law of the Lord. Instead of being tempted he fixates on how he can be obedient to God and follow in his path. Because of this, he is like a tree that is planted by water. Notice the intentionality of that! It’s not like the Amazon jungle where trees are haphazardly scattered about, this is intentional. God ensures that the blessed man will have rich soil and deep roots so that he will have what he needs (think of Job!). Because of this foundation, everything this blessed man does prospers. Once again, this is not material blessing, this is God’s economy at work! We serve a different king and a different kingdom than the world! 
 
On the other hand is the wicked. The wicked are tossed to and fro by the wind, unable to have their roots sinking deep into the soil in which they find themselves. This is the person who chases after all the latest trends and ideologies of the day. They are always chasing after the latest and greatest ideas and are thus changing their opinions as often as they change their clothes! But we know the outcome of this kind of person: perishing. Apart from God miraculously intervening and bringing their dead souls to life, they will continue down the path of wickedness. And it’s true for all of us as well! So we need to do our best to cling tightly to Christ! Then we will be blessed and prosper in all we do!
 
SONG:
Today’s song is from one of my wife’s favorite singers Audrey Assad! The song is called ‘Even Unto Death.’ You can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.
 
FREE STUFF:
One of my favorite authors has just released a new book on church history, and released one of the video episodes for free! You can watch it HERE.

April 1 Devotional

Happy April! Today we’ll be taking a look at Romans 8:26-30:
 
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
 
As I was reading through this this morning the first sentence struck me. I’ve been thinking through the implications of God being three persons who are co-equal, which means each of the three person of the Trinity is God. The Father is God, the Son is God, and Spirit is God. So when we come to a text like this, we’re reminded that GOD HIMSELF helps us in our weakness. And God himself indwells us as His people. And God himself will fight for us until the day we die or He calls us home. And because God himself is helping us, we can trust that no weakness will overtake us that we cannot endure. 
 
How often do you not know what to pray, or how to pray, or feel like you don’t have the right words? Yet this passage reminds us that even when we don’t know how to begin praying, the Spirit intercede with us and prays for us. This is the reminder that we have 2 intercessors: the Spirit and the Son (who again, are both God!). So, because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can then get to one of the best known passages in the Bible. God causes everything to work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. This only happens because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that we can then have hope. If the Holy Spirit isn’t at work in your life, then nothing will work out for good. 
 
Paul then ends with what is referred to as the golden chain of salvation which goes: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. Again, because it is God’s work from beginning to end, we can trust that He will bring His work in our lives to completion! That is working everything out for good! So everything we’re experiencing today is for our ultimate good, being confirmed into the image of Jesus Christ!
 
SONG:
Today’s song is a little different than any previous one as there are now words! The piece is Claire De Lune by Debussey, which was one of my favorite songs to play on piano back when I was taking lessons! It’s a wonderful piece of music to listen to as you pray through the things that are going on around you, and meditate upon God’s Word! You can listen to it on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.
 
FREE STUFF:
A friend of mine sent me a link to his blog yesterday with a list of 10 documentaries to watch during this time. I’ve watched a number of them and found them really enjoyable! You can find them HERE.

March 28 Devotional

Today we’ll be looking at Psalm 78:1-7:
 
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments.
 
This Psalm contains one of the longest historical summaries of Israel’s history in the Psalms. If you continue reading beyond what we will look at today you’ll see the repeated summary that Israel did not believe, that they forgot about what God had done, and that in the midst of that God continually forgave them, blessed them, and continued to work for their good. One of the things we see in the midst of this Psalm is the command to teach God’s truths and God’s ways to our children and our children’s children.
 
The primary point I want you to take away from this Psalm to wrestle with and think through today is: what kind of memories are you instilling in your regular family rhythms to help you, your kids, and your grandkids not forget the works of God? The ways He was worked in your family. We’ve talked about these at church before, the need to regular build some form of an Ebenezer, as in the song ‘Come Thou Fount’ where we sing “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” What we’re saying is we’ve built an altar of remembrance so that we do not forget how God has provided for us. In times like we’re in now, it seems to be easy to forget all the ways God has worked in the past to provide for us, to ensure our safety, even the fact that we’re alive today is because of His grace! So your assignment today is to find some way to build regular patterns in your life for you to remember how God has abundantly provided for you! I’d also encourage you to read this entire Psalm and see how God provided for His people in the past, as an encouragement that He will continue providing for us today!
 
SONG:
Today’s song  is an updated version of the hymn ‘Come Thou Fount’ sung by Chris Rice! The second verse contains new words that I love! You can listen to it on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.
FREE STUFF:
I’m not the only one who’s enjoying all the free things people are giving away during this time! One of my favorite bloggers has an ongoing list of things he’s found that you can access HERE.

March 27 Devotional

Today we’re going to take a look at the the beginning of Hebrews 11:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Most people when they hear faith detach it from anything grounded in reality. In fact, even some Christians I know separate their faith from from fact. Think of the song from the show Oklahoma “O what a beautiful morning, O what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful FEELING, everything’s going my way.” What is that feeling based in? Not in reality or facts! Yet for many of us, we can use those two words interchangeably. But the author of Hebrews is here reminding us that faith is true, and assured. We know from 1 Peter that we were born into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), and thus our faith is grounded in the reality of the empty tomb. Now it’s true, we didn’t see it, and it’s also true that we won’t see the complete ramifications of that until Jesus’ glorious return, but we also have evidence to back up our faith.
It’s also true that we’re not the first generation of God followers to need faith, as the next verse reminds us everyone at every time in human history has either been commended or condemned for their faith. Which leads us even further back in history to the very FIRST thing, the creation of the world! It is faith that reminds us and gives us the encouragement we need to trust that God is in complete control of everything we see. All of the created order bows its knee to him. Now, we don’t currently see that reality (see Romans 8:20-22), but we know that someday our faith will become sight. So my encouragement for you today is to take some time to think about your faith. Thankfully it’s not dependent on you, as Hebrews will go on to remind us, our faith is as assured as long as Jesus is on his throne (spoiler alert, that’s forever), so we can trust that He is continuing to work all things out. Trust in Him!
 
SONG:
Today’s song picks up that very theme of the need to cling to Jesus, it’s an older song by a guy named Rich Mullins that you should go check out, it’s called ‘Hold Me Jesus’ and you can listen on YOUTUBE or SPOTIFY.
 
Don’t forget, I’ve got all the songs together in a playlist HERE.
FREE STUFF:
One of my favorite ways to listen to the Bible has been through a new app I found last year called Dwell. They have different translations, different readers, with different options for background music to listen to too. You can also do plans, listen to a verse repeatedly to help you memorize it, or do themed plans. They are giving away 60 free days to anyone interested, and I’ve signed up our church HERE. If you like it, I’d encourage you to get subscribe to them to help them continue releasing new content, and if you don’t like it, then it was free 🙂 Let me know what you think of it!

March 21 Devotional

For today’s devotional, we’re going to look at one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 19! David writes: 
 
The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
   which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
I love the way this Psalm begins, because it’s a reminder that everything we see should point us back to God! Creation itself is the canvas upon which God painted his creation, which He described as good way back in Genesis 1. As I’m writing this it’s pretty foggy out, so I can’t see either the sky or the mountains that I love seeing so much, but I know they’re out there! And the fact that I know that reminds me that God’s love and faithfulness will similarly always be there. The fact that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow points to the consistency of God. One commentator stated “If you are a believer, God has surrounded you with a hymnbook. Wherever you are, day or night, you can look up and see the majesty and power of your God. And you can praise him.” (James Johnston, Preaching the Word: The Psalms Volume 1) As of now, we’re not confined to our houses, so if you’re able to, I’d encourage you to take some time today and walk outside (keeping at least 6 feet between anyone you run in to!). But don’t ignore them or pretend they aren’t there 🙂!
 
But that’s not the only thing God has given us! The Psalm tells us that we have two things that point out the grandeur and goodness of our God to us: the skies and the Scripture. David says “The law of the Lord is perfect.” What word! Perfect. Yet all around us we see things that aren’t perfect. We see the brokenness of sin, we see the way today that this virus is running rampant around the globe. A tiny little virus that we can’t even see is completely changing the way we function. Yet over all that, God’s law is perfect. This was one of the first theological truths I remember being taught as I was growing up! God’s revelation has 2 parts: general revelation and special revelation, and this Psalm has both of them! General revelation is the created order, which this Psalm tells us points us to God, but it’s not enough for salvation (Rom. 1:20). That’s where special revelation enters the frame. Special revelation is God’s Word, and the Word became flesh (John 1:14). This special revelation is so critical to the life of the believer that it is described as “reviving the soul,” but not just the soul, the body as well where David goes on to compare God’s Word to be more desired than your favorite desert! (Mine isn’t honeycomb, I prefer a delicious cake, but that’s besides the point!) Jesus even reminds us that we don’t live by bread alone, but by God’s Word. Therefore, if we aren’t spending time in God’s Word we’re anemic Christians, missing out on a feast the Lord has given us. During this time of social distancing, Pastor Ben is having his students read a chapter of Hebrews a day and use the SOAP method to study the Bible. SOAP is an acronym that stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. If you’re a normal human being who struggles to dig in to God’s Word, I’d encourage you during this time of a forced new schedule, to commit to reading through a book of the Bible. Hebrews is one of my favorites, but the Gospels are another great place to spend time, particularly John! And as you’re reading, if you have any questions, please let me know! I love learning more and studying the Bible together!
 
Today’s song expresses gratitude for how God has created everything we see, it’s called ‘All Shall Be Well’. You can listen to it on YOUTUBE or on SPOTIFY.

March 20 Devotional

While there are no passages of Scripture that specifically address COVID19, there are some passages that give us great comfort and strength no matter where we find ourselves! We’ll begin our devotional looking at Philippians 4:4-7:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Joy is one of the unique markers of Christians. It’s even included in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5! Let’s think about where Paul was when he was writing this exhortation. He wasn’t (as I am!) sitting in a comfortable chair at his house drinking a delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee. No! He was under threat of persecution, not knowing if or when he’s be killed for his Christian faith. Yet in the midst of that, he exhorts Christians throughout the centuries to be JOYFUL! How joyful are you right now? As you perhaps wrestle with your kids at home 24/7 now, or with trying to figure out what “social distancing” looking like, or worrying if you’ve got enough toilet paper stocked up, are you able to rejoice in God’s goodness?
 
Paul goes on though, and his second exhortation is “let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Another way of translating that is gentleness. This is another marker of Christians! Being gentle no matter how people may malign you! What do you think being gentle looks like right now? Maybe it’s bringing your extra toilet paper over to a neighbor. Maybe today it’s shoveling their driveway or sidewalk! (Yes, I realize it’s heavy!) But look for ways that you can be gentle today!
 
Next, we see a pretty short phrase that I don’t want you to miss! Paul said “The Lord is at hand” God NEVER has to practice social distancing! We’ve seen that a couple times as we’ve been studying the Gospel of Luke together on Sundays. Jesus didn’t have to distance himself from anyone, his cleanliness abolished the uncleanliness of those he came into contact with. Now, I’m not advocating we then run into places where the COVID19 is known to be affecting people, that would be foolish! But we trust a God who is sovereign even over viruses, so while we’re being careful, wise, and obeying the governing authorities God has placed over us, let’s pray that God will bring an end to this current global crisis. 
 
So with these three things in place, we then can read the rest of these verses. We’re commanded to not be anxious. If there ever was a time I’ve lived in to start being anxious, this is it! My retirement accounts are NOT doing well. I can’t find paper towels anywhere (I’ve looked at 4 stores so far!). People are holding toilet paper, some states are even forcing people to stay in their homes! Yet in the midst of that, we don’t need to be anxious! Instead we can pray! God is with you and will continue guiding you.
 
Then, the outworking of that is a sense of peace that the world will never know. We have peace because God has saved us from spiritual death, which means death no longer holds power over us! The Lord has numbered our days from before we were born, thus we can trust Him implicitly! 
 
An almost brand new song I’ve been listening to gets to this hope we have in Christ. It’s called ‘Christ Our Hope in Life and Death’ and you can listen to it HERE.
And if you’d like to hear the story behind the writing of this song, you can listen to it HERE.
I’ve been posting songs regularly on Facebook and Instagram as a way to encourage people during this time, I’ve been compiling them into a playlist on Spotify that you can listen to HERE if you’d like!

Mist and Fog

Howard Hendricks, quipped, “If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pew.” As far as I know, this wasn’t a comment about flatulence from the pastor, but instead is referring to unclear teaching. If the pastor is uncertain about what he’s teaching, and thus unclear in his delivery of the message, the congregation will completely miss the point of message. But this applies not only to the sermon, but also to the music and liturgy of the day. So how can we be sure our services are clear and communicating what we want them to communicate? Here are 3 ways we can ensure we’re not creating a fog in the pews.

  • Be Clear

I had a professor in seminary who said of preaching there’s four rules: be clear, be clear, be clear, above all else be clear. Walk your congregation through what you’re doing and why. This allows you opportunities to teach the importance of regular habits and disciplines in the Christian life, and also gives you an opportunity to model how other believers can carry out some of their own practices at home. We get to demonstrate to our entire body how we pray, how we think about God, how we sing about God, how we taste God (through the celebration of communion), and how we worship God through our whole lives. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:1 ring true here “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Is your example clear enough that people can imitate the right things?

  • Explain What You’re Doing

We celebrate communion differently at our different campuses, so we get to explain them a little differently each time, but each way gives us an opportunity to explain the importance of communion, why we practice communion, and a time to encourage everyone to examine themselves before taking of the body and blood of our Lord. Bob Kauflin encourages music leaders to think through their services and explain what needs to be explained. So do you need to explain why you’ve chosen a specific song that day? Or how one song ties into the next song you’re about to sing? Or how a specific passage of Scripture is illuminated through a refrain you’ve just song? Or maybe how multiple songs point us to the main theme of the sermon or passage of Scripture that has just been sung? All of these things are opportunities to demonstrate to the congregation what we’re doing and why.

  • Don’t Assume

I had very influential Sunday school teacher teach me the value of never assuming, because it will make an a– out of you and me! When we’re the ones planning our services it can often be easy for us to assume everyone will see what we’ve worked so hard to communicate! We’re also often very closely attached to what we’ve carefully curated so it can be difficult to see areas that may need some clear communication. I’ve found that it’s far better to OVER communicate than to UNDER communicate. This way we can know that people are making the correct connections and understandings of the various aspects of our service.

So how do you make sure there isn’t a fog in your pews during your service? Have you ever thought through more specific ways we can explain why we do what we do on a Sunday or is just the way it’s always been done?