Singing though the Psalms

Singing through the Psalms Introduction

Every week, Sunday Morning Worship begins with music. Youth Group later on that night includes the Youth Praise Band. Vacation Bible School, Children’s Church, Sunday School and Holiday Services all include music. Sometimes it’s a dozen, sometimes several hundred voices, all joining together to sing praises to the Living God through Music. Praise music is such an important part of the Christian life, and rightfully so.

As I’ve been reading through my Bible this year, singing is clearly an evident part of the life of early believers. Don’t believe me? Open up your Bible. Most likely, you opened to Psalms, a collection 150 praise songs, written by men who were head over heals in love with the living God, men like King David, Solomon, Asaph, and Ethan.

So, every day for the next few weeks, I will be posting a praise song from thousands of years ago, one from a few hundred years ago, and a modern one.

My prayer is that the words of these songs will touch your heart, and that the objective of the composers of these songs will become apparent. Because during the past centuries, it hasn’t changed.

Psalm 98
1 Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

Hymn
Composer: E. O. Excell. Born in Stark County, Ohio, on December 13, 1851.

Verse 1
When upon life’s billows You are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you What the Lord hath done.
Chorus:
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your blessings See what God hath done.
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings See what God hath done.
Verse 2
Are you ever burdened With a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear.
Count your many blessings Every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing As the days go by.
Verse 3
When you look at others With their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings Money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high.
Verse 4
So amid the conflict Whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged God is over all.
Count your many blessings Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you To your journey’s end.

Song
Jeff Johnson: Beauty of the Cross
Album: Amazed

At the cross I find the beauty of the your matchless grace
At the cross I see a King who died to take my place
Its the moment that you made me clean and pardoned my soul
Amazing grace that I would be alive unto Your throne

Not by my own will but solely by Your will alone
I’m unworthy of this love you are showing to me
I see my desperate need
The beauty of the cross is that there’s one who has redeemed my soul
The beauty of the cross is that I’m finally free and letting go
The beauty of the cross is that Your grace has found me just as I am

Verse 2:
Not by my own words that I may boast or I may come
But simply through your Son the sinless and Exalted One
Only through the cross am I made clean to draw near to you
Saved so that you would receive all glory due Your name
Everlasting God from age to age you never change
A true love story remains for all eternity
That all the world would see

My sinful soul could only be
redeemed by the blood of a sinless King
So you came to the world that You had made
Conquered sin on the cross and you rose from the grave

Meaning and Messages from Disney

Is it only a story?

Well, this is the first content post in a series on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Now, at first glance, one might assume that I have finally lost it, that spending all os those hours every week babysitting has finally gotten to me, and the 4 year old I affectionately call “Princess” has worn off on me. Well, if you said that, you probably wouldn’t be wrong, and I don’t blame you for thinking such. As my 16th birthday quickly approaches, my head is still encircled with Pixie Dust and Magic Spells and Princess Dresses and Happily Ever Afters. But, as the years have progressed and I have matured (I’m sure those of you who know me the best are laughing at that), I have developed a keen sense for looking beyond the seen, the surface, and the superficial-and that talent- more than that . . . that passion- is the driving force behind this post series. When most people see preschool entertainment, I see messages and meaning. Watch the below clip. . . the first two minutes of the movie, and then you might see what I mean.

I got three very important lessons out of the above clip. One dealing with self image and self worth (the prince’s vanity,insecurity and self imposed exile as a beast), the next with appearances (again dealing with the Prince’s beastly form) , and the third with first impressions (The prince’s judgement of the old “Hag”). However, I am only going to address one now. . . we will come back to the others later.

Look Away from the Mirror!
One of my very favorite things about Church is that most sermons begin with a funny, catchy story or joke that somehow ties into the day’s message. Unfortunately, I lack sorely in the comedy department, resulting in no opening story. Consequently, I am just going to jump right into my first point: Look Away From The Mirror!

The other day in my AP US History class, my teacher was talking about the importance of clarity and neatness in our writing. We are required to write in pen, and when under such time constraints, we all have a tendency to scribble out words, phrases, and in some situations, entire paragraphs that we deem unnecessary, poorly written, or off topic. Furthermore, when we forget an important fact or idea, we write it in the margin, and draw an arrow to the body of our essay where the quote should be inserted. Now, these things are well and good, encouraged, and even a strategy for acing the AP exam. But they could also be very detrimental. When the reader reads it through once in 2 or 3 minutes, they get the idea, give you the benefit of the doubt, and score you. But, if the paper is sloppy, poorly organized, and has arrows pointing all over the place, the reader has to slow down, and concentrate. As the reader slows down, they are more likely to pick up on crucial mistakes, bringing your grade down. The point to all of this is simple. . . the more time the reader takes reading your paper, the more they scrutinize it.

Less is More
The same can be said when it comes to self image and self worth. Those who spend hours looking in the mirror, doing their hair and makeup, and picking out just the right outfit are typically those who are the most insecure, and who have the longest list of perceived personal flaws. The more time you spend looking in the mirror, the more time you spend scrutinizing your appearance.

Now, I’m not at all saying that spending time in front of the mirror is a bad thing. Taking pride in your appearance is important- but, there is a very fine line between being comfortable in your skin and being so insecure that you feel it necessary to spend hours “improving” it, with makeup, a straightening iron, and Crest Whitening Strips. All of these are okay, but when used in excess they can become very detrimental.

Who are we really complaining too?
Now, lets go on an adventure, shall we? Lets travel to an art show, where the world’s best are proudly displaying their art work. There are oil paintings, clay vases, abstract, charcoal self portraits, and every other form of art you can imagine. They are all beautifully crafted, wholly individual, and very special to the artist who rendered them. Now, as you are walking down the aisles, you overhear a conversation. Phrases like “I’m so ugly” “My skin isn’t smooth enough” “I’m not curvy enough”, “I’m not strong enough” and “My hair isn’t straight enough”.

Now, as you move closer, you realize who is complaining. From the abstract painting, “I’m so ugly”. From the self portrait “My skin isn’t smooth enough”. From the porcelain vase “I’m not curvy enough”. From the Clay jug, “I’m not strong enough”. And from a statue “My hair isn’t straight enough”

How ridiculous does that sound! The creations had nothing to do with what they would look like, and the finished product has no say what-so-ever in what it would look like. But to the artist, they were crafted beautifully, and they were perfect.

The Point
It’s the same way with us when we complain about they way we look. God made us in his image, just the way He wants us. When we complain about how we look, we are really complaining against God’s handiwork. Mandisa puts it this way: “But God made me in His image, and that makes me a beauty queen”. How true that is. If only we lived like it.

Heres a song that I love listening too. More Beautiful You by Jonny Diaz. I wonder how High School would change if we lived like we believed this song.

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine
Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight her body isn’t fake
And she’s always felt overweight

Well little girl fourteen I wish that you could see
That beauty is within your heart
And you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair
Are perfect just the way they are

[Chorus]
There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

Little girl twenty-one the things that you’ve already done
Anything to get ahead
And you say you’ve got a man but he’s got another plan
Only wants what you will do instead

Well little girl twenty-one you never thought that this would come
You starve yourself to play the part
But I can promise you there’s a man whose love is true
And he’ll treat you like the jewel you are

[chorus]

So turn around you’re not too far
To back away be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear they can all be washed away
By the one who’s strong can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl
[chorus]

Shopping

A Simple Shopping Trip turns into a Revelation

Last week, we were in Tennessee on vacation visiting family. It was Saturday, and as pure Ferguson tradition, the girls and guys spilt up and went in two different directions . . . the guys back to the cousin’s house to watch Batman, and the girls to the mall. We went to the typical stores, ate at the typical restaurant, and then continued on in our very typical way. I bought a birthday present for a girl from school, my cousin bought a pair of purple converse tennis shoes, and my mom shopped on the 75% off rack. Nothing unusual. We got makeovers, (okay, that was unusual, but very fun, in addition to being beside the point 🙂 Then, we went to Forever 21.A Scavenger Hunt in the Mall
Now, I don’t know if you have ever been to Forever 21, so, I will summarize the experience for you. For starters, think scavenger hunt. Everything is thrown on racks with no rhyme or reason. . . everything is just. . . there. The store, at least the one in Tennessee, is huge. . . at least as big as a small department store. It doesn’t end. You go from room to room, looking at more randomly placed stuff. . . .stuff that, in no way, shape, or form, seems to belong in the same store.

Ripped jeans and lace
There are rose print sweaters, leopard print leggings, dresses that leave little to the imagination, jeans that really should be called leggings, jeans that look like they went through a paper shredder, jeans that look like you got them out of your grandmothers closet, plaid button up shirts, sweaters that look like Wolverine sharpened his claws with them, and the list of clothes that have no correlation once so ever continues. Clothes that look like they’re from Hot Topic, American Eagle, Pac Sun, Gap, Abercrombie, Walmart, Aeropostale, Delia’s, a yard sale, Hollister, and your grandmothers closet, all in one place, all mixed up together.

The store is darkish, music loud and current, the dressing rooms beautiful (though not equipped with doors that lock, or really stay shut, so I avoid them at all costs) and the collection of shoes, jewelry, and makeup is as eclectic as the clothes. All in all, if you have someone to go with, and you have a little bit of time, its a fun place to shop, because there is something for everyone if you take the time to find it.

Now, it was amongst the racks of mutilated, old lady, and flannel clothes that I was looking for a new cardigan, (which I didn’t end up finding, even though I never walk out of the store empty handed 🙂 that I found a tank top that seemed desperately out of place. It was a deep navy, and the front was taken up by a big, red, heart with sun beams peeking out from behind. The words on the heart read “God is my friend”.

The Revelation
Here I was, standing in the midst of skimpily dressed mannequins, flannel lumber jack clothing, clothes that look like they have been hidden in a time capsule since 1930, clothes that were just about as mutilated as a piece of rice paper after being used to wrap a rose bush, clothes that thank God for cute guys at camp, and I find this. Out of place, sticking out like a sore thumb, practically mocking everything that I hold dear.

But the juxtaposition wasn’t lost on me. A perfect metaphor, hanging in the middle of the mall. There was something obviously different about that shirt. It wasn’t like everything else hanging on the racks or laying on the tables or in bins. That shirt was a bit of truth. It was a bit of life, of peace, of light, in a dark world.

Living Crazy
That’s what our lives should be like. They should be desperately out of place. They should stick out, be different than everything else around us, and should be noticeable. Blending in is not what we are called to do. We are called to be different. We are called to be crazy.

Rummikub and the Radio

I was sitting at my Grandmothers table last night playing Rummikub with my cousins while my parents were on their anniversary date (22 years:), and, as custom in a Ferguson home, the radio was on in the background. As almost Divine intervention, the playful banter ceased and the volume of the music that had up until that point been simply background music seemed to emanate from the speakers clearer, stronger, and louder.

It’s more like falling in love than something to believe in, more like losing my heart, than pledging my allegiance.

That’s what living crazy is all about! It’s about falling head over heels for a God whose head and heels were pierced for our salvation. It’s about letting his current take us where He wants us to go, whether it be blissful, cool, streams deep in the heart of the Smokies, or white water rapids off a craggy Cape Cod coast line. It’s about living expressively, letting people know what we stand for, and whom we stand with, and not being ashamed. It’s about letting our lives speak through the silences, letting our actions be our witness, and letting our God be our guide. It’s about living by faith, walking in love, and speaking in grace. It’s about forgiving when condemnation is deserved. It’s about forgetting when holding your best friend’s transgressions over their head would make a lot more sense, at least from an Earthly perspective.

Get the Right Perspective

But we are not supposed to live from an Earthly perspective. We need to live from a Heavenly perspective. And to so many people. . . . . that seems crazy!

The Real Crazy

But in Reality, the crazy thing would be not living for God. The crazy thing would be not to accept free salvation. The crazy thing would be hiding the gift that we have been given.
We are glowing with The Light in a very dark world. Hiding our light, ultimately dimming it, would only lead to confusion, and more souls would be lost to the King of Darkness.
So, do the crazy thing, and live out loud. Because it really should be

It’s more like falling in love than something to believe in, more like losing my heart, than pledging my allegiance.

What it is, and What it isn’t
You believe in a religion. You pledge your allegiance to a flag, or a country.
You fall in love with a God. You lose your heart in a relationship.

It’s not a list of rules, its not regulations or restrictions or requirements. It’s a list of freedoms. It’s forgiveness, and it’s grace. It’s healing from our past wounds, and it is turning our scars into something beautiful.

It is a relationship, not a religion.

It is understanding and love and might. It’s more like falling in love than something to believe in, more like losing my heart, than pledging my allegiance.

Lyrics by Jason Gray
Give me rules
I will break them
Give me lines
I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet
It ought to be

(CHORUS)
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love

Give me words
I’ll misuse them
Obligations
I’ll misplace them
‘Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free
It’s gotta be

More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love

It’s like I’m falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made
Me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me
It’s gotta be

More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love
It’s gotta be

More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love
It’s like I’m falling, oh
I’m falling in falling
It’s like I’m falling

James 1:21

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:21

There are so many verses present in the Bible that are akin to this one. I’ve done posts on repetition for emphasis before, and I could do another one on this topic as well.

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17″Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
18″I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

You get the idea. The point is, Gods will for our lives is Divine, super natural, and the greatest thing that could ever happen to us. What we believe is the best very rarely is. If Christ lives in us, then we need to live for Him. He diedfor us so that we could live with him.

One Final Question:
How is my life today reflecting the light of Christ that I have living inside of me?

Romance

Okay, so I admit it. . . . finally. I am a helpless romantic. The candy hearts, bright pink flowers, milk chocolates filled with caramel, are overwhelming, I must confess. But, all these holiday cliche’s are not what leaves me awestruck, and completely and utterly in love. The story below is the most romantic story I have ever heard, and every time I hear it, I am left breathless, pondering the majesty and love and power behind it.

Luke 22
47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.

Luke 23

1Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”

3So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

5But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

18With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

20Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

22For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
” ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘ 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38There was a written notice above him, which read:|sc THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Now imagine. The Son of God. The King of the Universe. The mastermind behind all of Creation. He did all of this, for us. He died on our behalf. He was only on the cross for less than nine-ish hours, but during that time, all of Hell broke lose. The wrath of the Holy Perfect God, was all dished out onto His Holy, Perfect Son. Because God is Holy, He can not be in fellowship with sinners like me, like us. And Christ’s blood is the only thing that led to the atonement of our Sins. Christ’s blood cleansed me. The blood of Christ washed my sins of scarlet to be as white as newly fallen snow. I was washed by His blood, his red blood. Red. . . . the color of love.
Happy Valentines Day, and Thank You Jesus.

Blind Faith

In my experience, the “blind” aspect of blind faith is hardest part. When God says “wait” and I want to run. When God says “turn left” when I want to go right. When God says “look over here” when I’m so so sure I’ve already found it. When God says “put it down” when its already in my grasp. Sometimes, not knowing and not seeing and not understanding is so hard to accept. Sometimes, accepting that He knows best and that he does whatever He does, A), because he’s God, and B) because he wants the glory and in he end result, will get it, is near impossible.

Walking along a cliff in the middle of really dense fog is something that only happens to me in the midst of my greatest nightmares. But metaphorically, it happens in my life all the time. I can’t see what God is doing, I just know that He is working. And whatever God is doing, He is doing out of love, out of sovereignty, out of compassion, and He is doing it in all of His glory, His power, and His might.