pastor's blog
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 16:53

Clap Your Hands and Shout!

1         Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

2         For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. (Psa 47:1-2 ESV)

Last month, I wrote about the blessings of singing hymns as a part of our worship, and how the hymnal is a great help in doing that. I am so grateful for this blessing. We are incorporating newer music on Sunday morning as well (some of those new songs are actually hymns!)  It was wonderful how our worship band could put the refrain of “He Will Hold Me Fast” into our hearts and minds.

Hymnals are useful tools. They help us worship together. There are other tools we can use. We can print words, even music into the bulletin. We can sing from memory. The book of psalms is the God-inspired collection of hymns that has been in steady use for centuries. In older times, God’s people would have them memorized.

We can also project the words on a screen. That seems to be what most congregations are doing these days. We project words occasionally at our church, but we are not really set up to do it well.  It is another tool.

Last time, I quoted extensively from an article by Tim Challies. He makes the point that there are pros and cons to our choices in how we present our music. As most have shifted from hymnals to projectors, there are some things that are lost, and some things that are gained.

In April, I shared his thoughts about what we lost. Here is what we gained. These are excerpted from the full article, which you can read here. (Note: he uses “PowerPoint as shorthand for any projection method.)

  • We gained immediacy. Not all of the good songs are old songs...yet hymnals made us wait years or even decades before we could add them to our services... projection reduces the lag between great new songs and updated hymnals.
  • We gained posture. We had to hold the hymnal… and look down at the words…hymnal posture was stiff and fixed. PowerPoint posture is open and free which may be a superior posture for worship, and especially for worship that is physically expressively—something the Bible seems to allow or even advocate.
  • We gained variety. Hymnals promoted certain kinds of songs while holding off others. Yet the Bible gives us freedom to worship in “songs, hymns, and spiritual songs”, to praise God in every variety of song. PowerPoint helps us do this.
  • We gained portability. There is a convenience and portability … that is missing in hymnals. Not only that, but the cost is lower. Two hundred and fifty hymnals will cost around $6,000; a laptop and projector can be had for a fraction of that.
  • We gained spontaneity. PowerPoint allows a kind of spontaneity that may not be present when relying on hymnals.
  • We gained service. Our hymnals reflect a vetting process where hundreds of thousands of hymns were whittled down to just a few hundred..We…serve future generations by singing a variety of today’s songs and, as we do so, filtering the good from the bad and the best from the rest.

We enjoy some of these advantages by using bulletin inserts. I wonder what our singing would be like if we could be looking up, hands free. We couldn’t sing parts as well (although some do that by ear), but we might sing out, and with different kind of togetherness.  Do I dare mention clapping? That needs another article. But, exactly how do we sing Psalm 47?  It’s worth thinking about.

Tools are tools. They have pros and cons. They need to be used thoughtfully and faithfully. Whether the words are in our minds, in hymnals, on bulletin inserts, on screens, on clay tablets or vellum scrolls, we must praise the Lord our God with loud songs of Joy! Sing out!

Wednesday, 04 April 2018 21:11

Why We Still Use Hymnals

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:16–17 ESV)

I praise the Lord for a congregation that loves to sing. Music has always been a vital part of the worship of God’s people. Our church has blessed with a number of people with musical gifts, and whom are encouraged to use them.

Styles of music come and go, and we may use different instruments. Few of us play on seven-stringed harps. Our worship services do not include many Gregorian chants. The current trends are very much toward contemporary music and projected lyrics.

Our congregation is very unique. We sing newer songs, with newer instruments. But we also still sing traditional hymns, with hymnals and organ accompaniment. That is not only because of our preferences, but because of the giftedness of our people. The Holy Spirit shapes our ministry through the particular gifts He gives to a particular congregation.

I came across an interesting article written by Tim Challies. His blog is one I go to almost every day. In this particular article, he talks about what we give up when we replace our hymnals with words projected on a screen:

  • We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration…
  • We lost a deep knowledge of our songs…As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts…
  • We lost the ability to do harmonies…Hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts…
  • We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well…
  • We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship…

Challies is not particularly advocating that everybody go back to using hymnals, only that it has come at a cost. I have only quoted excerpts here. You can read it in full here:  What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals.

I am glad that we have continued to use the hymnals. I am also glad that we have been able to sing new songs and hymns as well. Above us, let’s continue to sing with thankfulness in our hearts. And may the Word of the Lord dwell in us richly as we sing his Word and sing his praises

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 00:03

Waiting on God's Providence

The book of Ester is a wonderful story of God's providence. God sets people and plans in place, but it can still take a considerable amount of time for things to develop. Esther had to with twelve months before she was first brought before the King. The threatened plot against the Jews was not hatched for another five years. That's a long time for Ester to what before the "such a time as this" moment arrives.

We live moment by moment, without knowing how or when God might make a move. Until the God-appointed time arrives, we are doing His will by remaining faithful in place. It may take a while, but God's time is best! 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 16:30

Billy Graham

I was sad to hear of the death of Billy Graham this morning. I'm not sad for him, of course, but for us. His loving desire to see people come to Christ was an encouragement to the church, and a strong witness in the world. It seems like an important chapter has come to a close. It is hard to imagine that those shoes will ever be filled. Some leaders will continue to serve in positions of prominence and influence. All of us can serve wherever God has placed us, and lace up "shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace." (Eph 6:15 ESV)

Justin Taylor posted this wonderful quote on the gospel coalition website: "Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."

So he has. And he has joined in the glad reunion with the saints who have gone before. Many of those came forward at Billy's invitation, just as they were, and were redeemed by Jesus, our Savior, the Resurrection and the Life.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 05:52

Study, Do, Teach

Ez 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

 

Ezra’s priorities were amazingly simple, yet really helpful. He resolved to study the Word, to do it, and to teach it.

Study must come first. We have to read Scripture carefully and prayerfully so that we might understand what God is saying to us.

 

Knowledge of Scripture is not the end goal. We need to obey it; to be doers and not hearers only. Some of us love to study, and that’s good. If we are not careful, we will be slow about putting what we’ve learned in practice.

 

The last step is also crucial; to teach others. It sounds a bit like the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), doesn’t it. It’s discipling. It’s passing on what we have learned so that others can study, do, and teach as well.

 

It’s helpful to keep these three priorities from Ezra in mind, as of first importance, and in order. When Ezra did so, the good hand of his God was with him. May God’s good hand be upon us, as we study, do, and teach his Word.

Saturday, 20 January 2018 01:26

Praying for important conversations

What do we do when we know we are about to have an important conversations with someone? If we have to discuss something really important, then we will want to be well prepared. It would be wise to pray for God's help, but how should we pray?

The book of Nehemiah describes the time when God's people have begun to return to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. The temple has been rebuilt, but Jerusalem still lies in ruins. Nehemiah is deeply moved and concerned when he hears the plight of his fellow Jews. He is serving as cupbearer to the king of Persia, and he prepares to ask the king for help. In chapter 1, Nehemiah prays to God. He considers the Lord's greatness, confesses his sins and the sins of his people, clings to God's promise, and asks for his help in his meeting with the king. "Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

We can pray in just this way when we are getting ready for an important encounter. Perhaps we have to bring up a delicate issue. We might be looking for an opening to share the gospel. It could be that we are trying to find words to comfort  or encourage a friend who is going through a hard time. We can be like Nehemiah, and prepare by seeking the Lord's help. "Father, I have a weighty conversation coming up. Be with me, Lord. Grant me success and mercy a I speak."

We all face difficult and significant personal encounters. We do not face them alone, and we need not face them unprepared. The Lord is with us!

Friday, 12 January 2018 00:18

Psalm Study Schedule

Psalms 34-45: Heart Songs for the New Year

Sunday

Sermon Text & Title

Wed

Text

Jan 7

Ps 34 Taste and See that the Lord is Good

Jan 10

Ps 35

Jan 14

Ps 37 Be Patient and Don’t Worry

Jan 17

Ps 36

Jan 21

Ps 39 Shadows and Sojourners

Jan 24

Ps 38

Jan 28

Ps 40 God, Put a New Song in My Mouth

Jan 31

Ps 41

Feb 4

Ps 42-43 Thirsting for God

Feb 7

Ps 44

Feb 11

Ps 45 Royal Wedding

 

 

 

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 04:24

Digging Deeper in the Psalms

The Psalms have always been a favorite part of Scripture for God's people. Many of our most-loved and frequently sung Bible passages come from the book of Psalms. No matter how often we read them, there is always something new for us to see. I'll suggest two resources that you might find useful as you explore these rich passages.

Derek Kidner has written a wonderful commentary on the Psalms. For each Psalm, he helps describe the background and answer common questions. In a concise way, the major themes are outlined. His insights are helpful, sometimes profound, and often reveals how the Psalms relate to the person and work of Jesus.  Volume 1 and volume 2 are available from Amazon.

The second resource is not a book, but other Christians. We can learn a lot by studying Scripture with other believers. On Wednesday evening, we spend time opening God's word together, sharing our insights, raising our questions, and wrestling with applications. I encourage you to come and join in the study. 

May God help us to grow as we dig deeply into the riches of His word! 

 

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 04:23

A New Website Experiment

This year I am trying a new experiment. I am going to start a blog on our website where I can share some things with you. Sometimes, I come across an article that want to share. This is a place where I can post a link. Once in a while, someone asks about a quote that I use in a sermon. Here, I can cite that full quotation. We'll see if it is helpful, and if its something I can keep up with.

This is all new for me. The website was one of the things Jeff Delay handled so well. Now that he has moved on to his new teaching post, we are all adapting. Beth Naegele has done a great job with extra duties. The band and other musicians have stepped wonderfully into the breach! 

My part has been to figure out how to keep the website up to date. I have learned how to post new articles, and to deal with the audio recordings of sermons and worship services. This blog in another step. Hopefully, I will put something here weekly.  Let's see how it goes!

May God bless our experiments and endeavors that bring glory to His name and good things to his people!