The principle purpose of worship is not to teach but to worship God…

God is praised as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. The worshiper praises, magnifies, and glorifies him not only for who he is, but also for what he has done in providing life, redemption, sustenance, hope, and many other blessings. In this way, worship becomes an experience of God. The worship is carried through an experience in which the opportunity is given to make a fresh commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

-Robert Webber, Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 129.

Easter is not a single day; it is a season…Every event of the Christian year flows into Easter, even as all the events of the Christian year flow from Easter.

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 142-143.

Psalm 139-Spoken Word

I like to rewrite the psalms because, like the psalmist himself, it helps me process my life and faith in real-time. It helps me process my thoughts and emotions. This is a spoken word from Psalm 139.

New Song: Goodness of God

It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when your life is easy.  But when you are facing serious disease, loss or death, it becomes a lot harder.  So many people end up in the desert of pain and suffering and cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When we lose a job or face a life crisis, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious disease, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

When a loved one dies, we cry out…”God, are you really good?!?”

The answer is “yes”.  God is good.  Let me give you three reasons…

  1.  God is good…in his being.  He is not evil.  He IS the definition of goodness.
  2.  He shows us his goodness in the way he gives and sustains life.  He shows us his goodness in the good gifts he gives.  He shows us his goodness in the way he showers us with mercy that we don’t deserve.  He would still be good if he didn’t do these things, but he chooses to show us his goodness.
  3.  Not only that, in the midst of pain, God comes close.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote that God is good because in the storm of pain and suffering, he comes closer to us than the storm could ever be.

Because of that, we can sing these words.  We might have tears running down our face, but we can still sing these words.  The first verse comes straight from the psalms and looks back at our lives so far…

Verse 1
I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me 
(I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. -Psalm 116:1)
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
(Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. -Psalm 31:5)
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
(I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. -Psalm 3:5)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
The chorus, also from the psalms, expands the theme musically and names God as the FAITHFUL one…
Chorus
And all my life You have been faithful
(Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. -Psalm 36:5)
And all my life You have been so, so good
(For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. -Psalm 100:5)
With every breath that I am able
(Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.-Psalm 150:6)
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
(I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:6)
God is not silent.  He has spoken through his Word and now uses the Holy Spirit to illuminate his Word to apply it to our lives in dark times…
Verse 2
I love Your voice
(The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.-Psalm 29:4)
You have led me through the fire
(When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2)
And in darkest night You are close like no other
(Your hand will guide meeven the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. -Psalm 139:10, 12)
I’ve known You as a Father
(Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…-Matthew 6:9)
I’ve known You as a Friend
(You are my friends if you do what I command…I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. -John 15:14, 15)
And I have lived in the goodness of God.
So is God’s goodness pursuing us, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son?  Or, is God’s goodness following us like it says in the 23rd Psalm?  I think the answer is yes.  It’s both.  God’s mercy is pursuing us and His goodness continues to follow us when we know Him.  What this bridge shows me is that this goodness, this mercy demands a response.  Am I willing to lay down my life for my christian brothers and sisters?  Am I willing to give up everything for Jesus?  Am I willing to do that because of his great goodness to me?
Bridge
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(…While [the Prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20)
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
(Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. -Psalm 23:6)
With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now
(This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. -1 John 3:16
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.-James 4:7)
I give You everything
(Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.-Luke 17:27, 33)
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.

Like I said before, it’s easy to sing about God’s goodness in general terms, but after living through some hard stuff, I can say, “yes” I want to lay down my life and sing about the goodness of God that is running after, running after me…

I think this quote applies to our singing in worship services too.  A few years ago, I heard a fellow worship leader comment that a song written five years ago felt old.  “I don’t know why we feel that about worship music, but we do,” they said.  Their lack of interest in the “why”confused me at the time.

I wonder if it’s our culture that is feeding us the message that new is better and shiny while old is, well, old.  While we need to “sing a new song”, we practice a kind of “spiritual amnesia” when we only sing songs written in this small moment of time.  As Robert Webber comments,

Our ahistorical approach to Christianity has cut us off from the great heritage of thought that has grown up in the church and that has been passed down through the centuries. In the history of the church lies untold treasures of theological thought, devotional literature, and guidelines for nearly every issue that Christians face today.

-Robert Webber, Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 44.

A Living Hope for 2020

I ended up watching Netflix late last night.

Again.

I wasn’t going to do it.  But then Netflix showed me a new show, an action thriller with spiritual themes…so I watched the whole, first episode.

I’m hopeless.

And while my back is feeling better after straining it, the new Soni-care tooth brush that Sara got for my birthday gave me a headache.  I was excited about it because it’s supposed to be good for gum-care. I need better gum-care, at least that is what my dentist says.  But, it gave me a head-ache so I guess it’s a choice between receding gums and a headache?

I’m hopeless.

I also spent most of yesterday installing a new DIY alarm system from RING.  I love doing this kind of thing and Sara has been wanting a better security system w/ cameras for awhile now.  The camera doorbell works amazingly well and the whole system syncs with the Alexa.  In fact, I just asked Alexa if the back door was closed and she responded, “Back-door is closed”.  Ironically, I still have two magnetic sensors that won’t work.  It’s the simplest part of the whole system and I can’t get them to work!

I’m hopeless.

However, the biggest part of the New Year so far was the four word text from my Mom.  It read, “Aunt Dottie went home” . By “home”, my mom meant heaven because my Aunt Dottie has been fighting ovarian cancer for 6 years and fell asleep in the Lord on the first day of the year.

My Aunt Dottie and Uncle Ray were the family we always stayed with when we went out to Philly to visit the Scott side of the family.  Aunt Dottie was short, even by Scott family standards, but she was always ready to laugh, hug or encourage.  She regularly wrote my wife, Sara, encouraging her to keep writing.  A little over a year ago, Aunt Dottie messaged me about a new song we were singing at Emmanuel called “Living Hope”.  She loved the lyrics that come from 1 Peter 1:3-4.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

This year, we are going to focus on the theme of hope.  We are going to learn that “Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised…” As Peter writes, we have a living hope in Jesus, who rose from the dead.  That is our confident expectation.  That was my Aunt Dottie’s hope in life and in death.

Later, I cried while listening to Coldplay’s new song, “When I Need a Friend”.  I cried for me and for my Mom who just lost her sister.  But they weren’t hopeless tears, they were hopeful tears.

Maybe I’m not so hopeless after all.

Christians shaped by the (new heavens and new earth when Jesus comes again and makes everything right) vision of worship seek to bring that vision to bear . . . in the world.

(For example, stand up for human rights, oppose injustice and oppression, work out of a clear sense of honesty, take care of widows and orphans, support the battle against the destruction of the environment, and engage in various activities that uphold the vision of a new heaven and a new earth where all wickedness has been put away forever)

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

New Song: New Name Written Down in Glory

When your name is changed in the Bible, it indicates that there has been a change of status.  The person has not only been given a new name by God, their core-identity has changed too.  We see it throughout the Scriptures…

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.

His wife Sarai was changed to Sarah.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was given the name Israel.

Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus.

And then famously, Saul saw Jesus on the road and became Paul.

We also are given a new “core-identity”, but it is an identity that was designed for us by God before we were born and is written down in heaven.  Jesus told his disciples that this was more important than casting our demons!  He said,

…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. -Luke 10:20

Charles Austin Miles originally wrote a song with the title A New Name Written Down in Glory back in 1910.  He had already aban­don­ed his ca­reer as a phar­ma­cist and had become a gospel song writer.  Our new song by People&Songs is loosely based on Miles’ song.  In fact, there is only one line that carries over…

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!

BUT there is an important difference.  Miles’ song suggested that your name was written down in glory at the time of your salvation.  But Revelation tells us something different.  It says,

The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… -Revelation 17:8

So before “the creation of the world”, your name was already written in the book of life.  But let’s jump in and see how our name (core-identity) is changed and what that means…
Verse 1: I was lost in shame
Could not get past my blame
Until He called my name
I’m so glad He changed me

Sin, shame and blame entered our world after the Fall, but he calls us by a “new name”.  As God says to Israel,

…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. -Isaiah 62:2b

Darkness held me down
But Jesus pulled me out
I’m no longer bound
I’m so glad He changed me

Just so you know, most of the metaphors in this song (darkness, blindness, light, freedom from prison) are from Isaiah 42:7.  Jesus later read this passage and said that he fulfilled it.  Jesus is…

…A light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. -Isaiah 42:7

But the core of this song is about identity.  Let’s get back to it.  The pre-chorus is almost verbatim from 2 Corinthians!
Pre-Chorus: See I’m, now a new creation in Christ
The old has gone, there’s new life
I live by faith, not by sight
Or as the Bible says…

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For we live by faith, not by sight. –2 Corinthians 5:7

And then we hit the chorus.  We’ve already talked about the first two lines that come from Charles Miles…
Chorus: There is a new name written down in glory
And it’s mine, yes, it’s mine
I’ve met the author of my story
And He’s mine, yes, He’s mine

Did you catch the last two lines?  They come directly from Hebrews and affirm that Jesus has already written our life’s story with both a beginning and end.  Hebrews 12 says we are,

…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verse 2: Sin had left me blind
But Jesus opened my eyes
Now I can see the light
I’m so glad He changed me

BIBLE GEEK SIDENOTE!  I find it so interesting tracking themes through the scriptures.  The first time that we find the phrase “eyes were opened” is after Adam and Eve fall into sin and shame…

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…-Genesis 3:7

But when Jesus quotes Isaiah, he tells us that he came to “open eyes”.  Not only that, when he appears to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus we read,

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him[Jesus]…-Luke 24:31

So it seems that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to sin and that is really blindness.  We THINK we can see clearly, but we only see who we are AFTER Jesus opens our eyes.  That was just a side-note…back to the song…
Now I’m walking free
I’ve got the victory
See it’s all over me
I’m so glad He changed me
Lastly, the bridge tells us that the I AM defines who we are.  But who is the I AM?  Back in Exodus, God gives tells Moses that this is his name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14

Later, Jesus claims to be the same I AM…

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” -John 8:58

So God is the great I AM, but what are we?  In his book, “Who Am I?:Identity in Christ”, author Jerry Bridges answers this question by pointing us to scripture.  He says there are 8 ways to biblically define ourselves.  These 8 “I am…” statements are:

I Am Created.  I Am in Christ.  I Am Justified.  I Am an Adopted Son/Daughter of God.  I Am a New Creation.  I Am a Saint.  I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ.  I Am Not Yet Perfect.

In other words,

Bridge:  I am who I am because the I AM tells me who I am.