Archive for July, 2012
In the course of Ryan’s mini-series on praise in the Psalms, the subject of singing has come up a number of times. Paul tells us to, “[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). Singing to one another about God and singing with one another to God has a way of winding the truth we sing around our hearts. Truth is beautiful set to song, and it is even more beautiful when we sing it together.
Though I hold many cherished memories of [my father], perhaps the most vivid was his excitement over singing certain hymns. By all accounts he possessed at best an “average” voice when it comes to uniqueness and tonal quality. But he sang his favorites with a conviction that was beyond convincing and was by far one of the loudest and most joyful voices in a congregation of approximately 350. I remember looking up at him and “checking him out” while he was singing… “Is he for real?” I would wonder. When he would catch me looking at him he would simply “lock-eyes” with me and sing all the louder while he broadened his grin to match proportion with his pleasure.
He wouldn’t just sing hymns at church either. I can think of many times when the two of us would be welding up a go-kart frame or swapping an engine on a Saturday afternoon and he would spontaneously break into a hymn. In my teens and early twenties I actually found it annoying given the perplexity of some of the situations we would be deep into. But then again I would eventually come around and sing with him anyway. I just never managed to muster the joy he got out of it. I didn’t think about it then but I can see clearly now that he was blessing me with rich God honoring doctrine. That he was lovingly cramming truth into my psyche that would not return void in my soul.
The now heart-softening aspect of these memories is that I am standing here in my church singing these same time impervious truths in front of my children. I catch them looking up at me and I wonder if I am anywhere near as good an example as he was. I get caught up and overwhelmed when I recognize the blessing that God had granted me in an earthly father. How diligent Dad was to bless me in an eternal way without ever making a point to tell me that he was doing it.
Stephen goes on to recount his father’s death. It’s quite moving, and relates the enduring impact of this father’s voice on his son.
. . . Now almost two years later I am still unable to sing a lot of those “old-Baptist” tunes without experiencing the “echo” of my father. I count it a privilege to sing these rich truths in tribute to the one true God; but I also experience the benefit of knowing I am fulfilling the scriptural command to honor my earthly father as well.
If the congregation is actually the choir, then we should have a rank of male choir leaders. So, men, let’s sing out and sing loud! If you aren’t looked to by a son on Sunday morning, you are still looked to by someone. Read Stephen’s whole post here and look forward to “leading the choir” on Sunday morning.
In Ryan’s series through the Psalms, Pour Out Your Heart to Him, it was inevitable that he would weave in and out of the theme of praise. Even psalms of lament eventually turn to praise. The theme is everywhere because, as we’ve been saying, the LORD is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 145:3).
Because the Psalms have so much to teach us about praise, Ryan spent his last four sermons on the subject in a miniseries called, A Both/And Kind of Praise. Like the title suggests, praise in the Psalms reflects the breadth of our great God. So, on the one hand praise is to be heavy, but on the other hand it should also be happy. God can be praised with shouts, but also with silence. Praise is about giving to God, but it is also about getting from God.
In Sunday’s sermon, “A Both/And Kind of Praise: The Aim,” Ryan quoted Tim Keller about the mingling of head and heart in our worship of God:
In order for us to worship, our mind, emotions, and will have to be moved. They’re all organically connected. Merely learning a truth about God is intellectual education, not worship. For example, I can know intellectually that God is good but still be worried silly about something that’s coming up this week. If the morning’s sermon is on the sovereignty and goodness of God, I haven’t worshiped unless that truth descends from my mind and touches my emotions and my will.I worship, then, when I realize I’ve been trusting in my own abilities, not the sovereignty and goodness of God. When I pull my affections off the other things I’ve been trusting in—which is why I’m anxious—and put them on God, I will be touched emotionally. I may cry; I may not. It depends on what kind of personality I have. But the truth will affect my emotions.
My will is also affected when I decide to change the way I handle that threat next week. Worship is grasping a truth about God and then letting that truth strike you in the center of your being. It thrills you, comforts you. That’s when the truth has moved from left to right brain—from mind to heart. On the spot, it will change the way you feel. The whole brain, the whole person, is affected.
–Tim Keller, “Worship Worthy of the Name: Worship is Seeing what God is Worth and Giving Him What He’s Worth,” in, Changing Lives through Preaching and Worship
In the course of Ryan’s four messages, he worked through twenty-two pairings. In case you missed one of the sermons, or if you wanted to work through them again, here are Ryan’s twenty-two pairings in his four-part miniseries, A Both/And Kind of Praise:
Part 1: “The Basics”
- Constant and Corporate
- Bible-Formed and Bible-Filled
- Revelation and Response
- Greatness and Grace
- Historical and Heavenward
Part 2: “The Ingredients”
- Head and Heart
- Tasting and Telling
- Emotional and External
- Authentic and Aspiring
- Heavy and Happy
Part 3: “The Form”
- Pastoral and Participatory
- Formed and Free
- Past and Present
- Skillful and Simple
- Awe-filling and Not Amusing
- Shouts and Silence
Part 4: “The Aim”
- Giving and Getting
- Exalting and Edifying
- Teaches and Transforms
- Covenantal and Contagious
- Summons and Sends
- Sung and Spoken
After a short bout with shingles last weekend (many thanks to Trent for pinch-hitting!), I’m eager to get back to and wrap up our mini-series of praise in the Psalms. This coming Sunday, Lord willing, we’ll look at “The Aims” of praise, according to the Psalms.
Here are a few things you could do between now and Sunday AM to make the most of your time with others and the Lord.
You could read through and seek to apply these 10 suggested preparations for Sunday AM from John Piper:
1. Pray that God Would Give You a Good and Honest Heart
The heart we need is a work of God. That’s why we pray for it. “I will give you a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). “I will give them a heart to know Me” (Jeremiah 24:7). Let’s pray, “O Lord, give me a heart for you. Give me a good and honest heart. Give me a soft and receptive heart. Give me a humble and meek heart. Give me an fruitful heart.”
2. Meditate on the Word of God
“O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). On Saturday night, read some delicious portion of your Bible with a view to stirring up hunger for God. This is the appetizer for Sunday morning’s meal.
3. Purify Your Mind by Turning Away from Worldly Entertainment
“Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch. This makes us small and weak and worldly and inauthentic in worship. Instead, turn off the television on Saturday night and read something true and great and beautiful and pure and honorable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Your heart will unshrivel and be able to feel greatness again.
4. Trust in the Truth That You Already Have
The hearing of the Word of God that fails during trial has no root (Luke 8:13). What is the root we need? It is trust. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream.” Trusting in the truth is the best way to prepare yourself to receive more.
5. Rest Long Enough Saturday Night to be Alert and Hopeful Sunday Morning
“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). I am not laying down any law here. I am saying: there are Saturday night ways that ruin Sunday morning worship. Don’t be enslaved by them. Without sufficient sleep, our minds are dull, our emotions are flat, our proneness to depression is higher, and our fuses are short. My counsel: decide when you must get up on Sunday in order to have time to eat, get dressed, pray and meditate on the Word, prepare the family, and travel to church; and then compute backward eight hours and be sure that you are in bed 15 minutes before that. Read your Bible in bed and fall asleep with the Word of God in your mind. I especially exhort parents to teach teenagers that Saturday is not the night to stay out late with friends. If there is a special late night, make if Friday. It is a terrible thing to teach children that worship is so optional that it doesn’t matter if you are exhausted when you come.
6. Forebear One Another Sunday Morning Without Grumbling and Criticism
“They grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD” (Psalm 106:25). Sunday morning grumbling and controversy and quarreling can ruin a worship service for a family. When there is something you are angry about or some conflict that you genuinely think needs to be talked about, forebear. Of course if you are clearly the problem and need to apologize, do it as quickly as you can (Matthew 5:23-24). But if you are fuming because of the children’s or spouse’s delinquency, forebear, that is, be slow to anger and quick to listen (James 1:19). In worship, open yourself to God’s exposing the log in your own eye. It may be that all of you will be humbled and chastened so that no serious conflict is necessary.
7. Be Meek and Teachable When You Come
“Receive with meekness the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Meekness and teachability are not gullibility. You have your Bible and you have your brain. Use them. But if we come with a chip on our shoulders and a suspicion of the preaching, week after week, we will not hear the Word of God. Meekness is a humble openness to God’s truth with a longing to be changed by it.
8. Be Still as You Enter the Room and Focus Your Mind’s Attention and Heart’s Affection on God
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). As we enter the sanctuary, let us come on the lookout for God, and leave on the lookout for people. Come with a quiet passion to seek God and his power. We will not be an unfriendly church if we are aggressive in our pursuit of God during the prelude and aggressive in our pursuit of visitors during the postlude.
9. Think Earnestly About What Is Sung and Prayed and Preached
“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). So Paul says to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Anything worth hearing is worth thinking about. If you would take heed how you hear, think about what you hear.
10. Desire the Truth of God’s Word More Than You Desire Riches or Food
“Like newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). As you sit quietly and pray and meditate on the text and the songs, remind yourself of what Psalm 19:10-11 says about the Words of God: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”
Of course, if you’ve missed any of the three previous messages on praise on the Psalms, you could also get caught up today or tomorrow. We’ve looked at “The Basics” of praise, “The Ingredients” of praise, and “The Form” of praise.
You could remind yourself a few of John Wesley’s “Directions for Singing:”
Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually….
Or you could simply read one of the most exultant Psalms, Psalm 145. This coming Sunday we’ll be all over the Psalms, but we’ll give special attention to this crescendo of the Psalter.
And, of course, pray! Pray that God would help us come eager, expectant, and exultant. Pray, “satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psa. 90:14). I’m praying that for you now.
For a number of years now, children at VBS have gone home with a CD of the songs they sang together that week. With these CDs, children can sing the songs they learn at VBS long after the week is over.
This year’s album of children’s songs was recorded in the studio ahead of VBS, and is especially well done. You will want to hear these songs, so if you are a parent of a child at VBS, look out for this CD in your child’s bag on Friday night.
Come let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord,
our God, and Maker.
For He is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand,
just the sheep of his hand.
Other songs on this album include, “Jesus Saves,” “The Day,” “Oh, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” “Only God,” and “Only Elohim.” If some of these songs aren’t already familiar to you, they will become familiar to you if you have a child at VBS this year.
Click here to hear this song. Right click on link for the option to save the song to your computer.
Here are some photos from the first two nights at VBS:
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul exhorts Christians to grow in godliness, and gives them confidence that they can do so on the basis of God’s work in them:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We see the same pairing of our labor and God’s work in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
God surely is at work in us. And that’s why it is possible for us to work out our own salvation. In other words, the sovereignty of God at work in our lives does not preclude our laboring to grow in Christlikeness.
This truth brings us to the popular saying, “let go and let God.” It sounds good. It sounds dependent. It sounds humble. But it misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on how we grow. Ironically, the result is a cycle of self-dependence in the struggle to “let go and let God.”
Recently, Justin Taylor posted part of J.I. Packer’s forward to John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. To introduce Owen’s work, Packer rehearses the influence of what is called, Keswick theology, on the early years of his Christian walk.
I was converted—that is, I came to the Lord Jesus Christ in a decisive commitment, needing and seeking God’s pardon and acceptance, conscious of Christ’s redeeming love for me and his personal call to me —in my first university term, a little more than half a century ago. The group nurturing me was heavily pietistic in style, and left me in no doubt that the most important thing for me as a Christian was the quality of my walk with God: in which, of course, they were entirely right.
. . . Whether what I thought I heard was what was really being said may be left an open question, but it seemed to me that what I was being told was this. There are two sorts of Christians, first-class and second-class, ‘spiritual’ and ‘carnal’ (a distinction drawn from the King James rendering of 1 Cor. 3:1-3). The former know sustained peace and joy, constant inner confidence, and regular victory over temptation and sin, in a way that the latter do not. Those who hope to be of use to God must become ‘spiritual’ in the stated sense. As a lonely, nervy, adolescent introvert whose new-found assurance had not changed his temperament overnight, I had to conclude that I was not ‘spiritual’ yet. But I wanted to be useful to God. So what was I to do?
‘Let go, and let God’
There is a secret, I was told, of rising from carnality to spirituality, a secret mirrored in the maxim: Let go, and let God. . . . The secret had to do with being Spirit-filled. The Spirit-filled person, it was said, is taken out of the second half of Romans 7, understood (misunderstood, I would now maintain) as an analysis of constant moral defeat through self-reliance, into Romans 8, where he walks confidently in the Spirit and is not so defeated. The way to be Spirit-filled, so I gathered, was as follows.
First, one must deny self. Did not Jesus require self-denial from his disciples (Luke 9:23)? Yes, but clearly what he meant was the negating of carnal self — that is to say self-will, self-assertion, self-centredness and self-worship, the Adamic syndrome in human nature, the egocentric behaviour pattern, rooted in anti-God aspirations and attitudes, for which the common name is original sin. What I seemed to be hearing, however, was a call to deny personal self, so that I could be taken over by Jesus Christ in such a way that my present experience of thinking and willing would become something different, an experience of Christ himself living in me, animating me, and doing the thinking and willing for me. Put like that, it sounds more like the formula of demon-possession than the ministry of the indwelling Christ according to the New Testament. But in those days I knew nothing about demon-possession, and what I have just put into words seemed to be the plain meaning of ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2:20, KJV).
. . . The rest of the secret was bound up in the double-barrelled phrase consecration and faith. Consecration meant total self-surrender, laying one’s all on the altar, handing over every part of one’s life to the lordship of Jesus. Through consecration one would be emptied of self, and the empty vessel would then automatically be filled with the Spirit so that Christ’s power within one would be ready for use. With consecration was to go faith, which was explained as looking to the indwelling Christ moment by moment, not only to do one’s thinking and choosing in and for one, but also to do one’s fighting and resisting of temptation. Rather then meet temptation directly (which would be fighting in one’s own strength), one should hand it over to Christ to deal with, and look to him to banish it. Such was the consecration-and-faith technique as I understood it—heap powerful magic, as I took it to be, the precious secret of what was called victorious living.
But what happened? I scraped my inside, figuratively speaking, to ensure that my consecration was complete, and laboured to ‘let go and let God’ when temptation made its presence felt. . . . The technique was not working. Why not? Well, since the teaching declared that everything depends on consecration being total, the fault had to lie in me. So I must scrape my inside again to find whatever maggots of unconsecrated selfhood still lurked there. I became fairly frantic.
And then (thank God) the group was given an old clergyman’s library, and in it was an uncut set of Owen, and I cut the pages of volume VI more or less at random, and read Owen on mortification—and God used what the old Puritan had written three centuries before to sort me out.
John Owen helped Packer to grasp the Bible’s teaching on how Christians can fight temptation and grow in maturity. You can read John Owen’s, The Mortification of Sin, in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a collection of three of Owen’s works on the subject of the Christian’s fight against sin.
For a summary and history of Keswick theology, read Kevin DeYoung’s interview with Andy Naselli, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject. For an unpacking of the Bible’s teaching on how Christians grow, listen to Ryan’s seminar, The Gospel for Christians.
Vacation Bible School begins on Monday! Hundreds of children from our own church and from the neighborhood will be with us each evening from 6:00-8:30 PM, learning about God and about salvation in Christ through the Scriptures. The first chapter of the book of Ephesians tells us that God’s purpose in all of his saving work is “the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Pray for our children at VBS, that they would know God as he has revealed himself in his Word, that they would trust his saving promises in Christ, and praise him with their lives.
To help you pray for the children, here are the themes they will be focusing on each day and several verses that they will be hearing and learning.
Monday: Praise God for His Greatness
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
Tuesday: Praise God for His Authority
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Wednesday: Praise God for His Providence
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Thursday: Praise God for His Power
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Friday: Praise God for His Love
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Register your children for VBS online here, and don’t forget to extend an invitation to your neighbors and friends who have VBS age children. They are welcome to register on Monday night, if that is best for them.
Also, if you would like to serve in VBS but can’t be a part of the action during the week, perhaps you could serve our volunteers by helping provide for the daily volunteer meal. There is still a need for several meal items, including napkins, carrots, bell peppers, potato salad, grapes, and a few other things. Please email Nicole Arredondo if you are interested, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Sunday’s sermon, “A Both/And Kind of Praise: The Form,” Ryan addressed a number of principles that give shape to our Sunday gatherings.
The Role of the Sermon Listener
We learned that corporate praise should be both pastoral and participatory. So, while some are responsible for leading in song, all of us are part of the “church choir.” We should be engaged in singing, in relating with one another, and in prayer. But we should also be engaged in the preaching. That is, we should actively listen to and digest Sunday’s sermon as it comes at us. Much of our listening in a week is passive. Not this listening.
To help with this, there are two resources available at the Resource Center that teach us sermon listening skills:
Listen Up!: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons
by Christopher Ash
Principles for Song Selection
Song selection is pastorally directed as well, a function of the shepherding role of our leaders. And our leaders aim to select songs that are singable and encourage our unified engagement in song. In addition, our praise, as Ryan explained, should connect us with the past and the present. For this reason, we work to utilize the best of older and newer songs for congregational singing. We want to sing songs that accurately, thoughtfully, and beautifully express the truth we love in a manner that fits that truth.
Several writers and writing groups are worth mentioning, each devoted to serving the church with texts and music for congregational singing.
Keith and Krystin Getty are modern hymn writers. You might recognize the songs, “In Christ Alone,” “By Faith,” or “O Church, Arise.” We have the Gettys to thank for those tunes and many others. Their two popular albums are, In Christ Alone, and Awaken the Dawn.
Then, there’s Sovereign Grace Music, writing new songs and putting old songs to new tunes. You might be familiar with “Arise My Soul, Arise,” or “Now Why This Fear.” Both of these songs are from the newest Sovereign Grace album, From Age to Age.
Another group to check out is Sojourn Music, from Sojourn Church in Louisville, KY. Like Sovereign Grace Music, Sojourn writes a number of their own songs, and sets some of the better older songs to updated or new arrangements. A full list of songs with links for purchase is available here, including “Before the Throne of God Above,” “Warrior,” and “Absent from Flesh.” Examples of excellent songs that might not be familiar to you are, “Glory Be,” “Only Your Blood,” and “In The Shadow of The Glorious Cross.”
And, of course, at DSC we sing newer songs, many written by our own members, and older songs with updated arrangements. Click here for albums previously released by DSC, and check back to DSC’s bandcamp page for a slow trickle of free downloads of songs recorded at last year’s Cause for Praise concert, including, “He Hideth My Soul,” and “Kyrie (Lord, Have Mercy).”
The most important singing we do in a week is on Sunday morning when we’re together. But you can’t go wrong by investing in some of these songs for listening throughout the week.