“Christian music makers have to risk new ways of praising God. Their faith must convince them that however strange a new offering may be, it cannot out-reach, out-imagine, or overwhelm God. God remains God, ready to swoop down in the most wonderful way, amidst all of the flurry and mystery of newness and repetition, to touch souls and hearts, all because faith has been exercised and Christ’s ways have been imitated. Meanwhile, a thousand tongues will never be enough.” – Harold Best

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The instructions in Psalm 96:1-3 are clear: “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” But, what does it mean to sing to Him a song that is “new?” The Hebrew word used in the passage for new (transliterated “chadash”) has the connotation of something “fresh.” This means, by way of application, that the songs sung to the Lord need not be brand now. But rather, these songs should be song in a way that is fresh to the Lord. This, of course, is good news to the fans of the old songs (however you may define them). In his book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best, rightly notes that there are a variety of ways that one might accomplish singing a new song to the Lord. One might sing an entirely new song to Him. And today, there are fantastic songs being written in praise to the Lord. One only needs to peruse the material that has come from Keith and Kristyn Getty to know this! Best also suggests that Christians learn to sing old songs in a fresh or new way. In other words, even if you have sung “Holy, Holy, Holy” a thousand times, you recognize that this phrase will never stop being proclaimed for all of eternity (see Revelation 4-6). A third way that a new song can be sung is with a posture of the heart. The Christian responds to God’s glory with a consistent longing and desire to walk towards God. In this way, the soul takes up a posture of fresh worship on a daily basis, as even the “heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). May we, with this posture, daily sing a new song to the Lord!

“Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light is throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” – Blaise Pascal

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In Psalm, 13 David gives great voice to the difficulty, suffering, and obstacles that tend to come up in this life. In verse 1-2, he asks, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hid Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy by exalted over me?” I am sure that you have asked this question at least once or twice in your life, perhaps in the middle of a difficult period of loss or transition.

Well, this week, W. David O. Taylor announced a project that he is working on with Bono and Eugene Peterson. The project will be a dialogue between Bono and Peterson on some of the sayings in the Psalms that have served as inspiration for Bono and his music with the enormously famous band U2.

Perhaps most popular is the song 40, that Bono and U2 based on the Scripture found in Psalm 40. Apparently, it took the band less than an hour to write this song after turning to Psalm 40 and deciding that this text would be the basis for the song’s lyrics.

Psalm 40:1-3 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”

This Psalm, in addition to Psalm 13, poses the question of trust in the Lord despite the difficult times faced in the life. Peterson, translator of The Message translation of the Bible, views this obedience and trust in the face of difficult as being a cornerstone of Christian discipleship. In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Peterson says, “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusion. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.”

It is with this posture and David asks, “How Long?” There  is a confidence to say, as Psalm 13:5-6 does, “I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” In an age of instant gratification and the certainty of difficulty, may we worship Him with this type of obedience, trust, and hope!

“When a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:

‘Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G.K. Chesterton.’

That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.”

–Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York: Dutton, 2008), 46.

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Truly the Christian life is a life of yielding in submission to the King of Majesty! It’s the hardest thing in the world to do, and yet the easiest. Remember when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” in Matthew 11:30? Well, that sounds great doesn’t it!? And it’s true. Only, it is coupled with his instruction in Luke 9:23 to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily. This is discipleship in Christ. It’s a life of decrease. A life that says, with Keller and Chesterton, “I am what is wrong with this world.” But, thanks be to God, who in His great mercy has established a life of decrease for the Christian.

In John 3:27-30, John the Baptist says, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” You see, John understood the nature of this relationship with Christ. His glory grows, as we submit ourselves to him and humble ourselves in the sight of the mighty God (James 4:10).

The irony? Jesus emptied Himself completely when He became human and went to the cross. Philippians 2, called the “kenosis” passage, tells of his complete emptying in order that He might fulfill perfectly the covenant that God had established with Abraham all those years ago. In other words, you can’t out-humble Jesus. The Name Above All names went to death on a cross for us. And when Jesus tells us that must do the same, our faithful response must be that of John the Baptist. Lord, may you increase, as we decrease!

“What worship means is the submission of the whole being to the object of worship. It is the opening of the heart to receive the love of God; it is the subjection of conscience to be directed by Him; it is the declaration of the need to be fulfilled by Him; it is the subjection of desire to be controlled by Him. And as a result of all these together, it is the surrender of the whole being. It is the total giving of self.” – William Temple

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There are times when the words of the Bible just jump off the page, leaping out to teach, correct, training, and yes, reproof. Today was such a day for me, as I read Psalm 119:20. In the New American Standard Bible, the verse says, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times.” I wondered, almost out loud, whether or not I could claim the universe truth of that verse in my own life.

At once, I was met with a myriad of questions. For starters, this verse paints soul crushing as a positive effect of following God’s ordinances. In what universe is soul-crushing a good thing?! Secondly, the soul is crushed because of longing. What kind of longing is this, that it has the ability to crush the soul? Thirdly, the longing and the soul-crushing is a result of God’s ordinances. What commands, at once, have the effect of crushing the soul and producing great longing?

I can tell you, I have been a Christian since I first knew the Lord at age four. (It is true, he knew me well before that!). But, I have never, in all the years following, thought of God’s commands as being simultaneously soul-crushing and life-giving. But, that’s what the verse in Psalm 119 claims as true!

Now, here is the deal: most of the time we view God’s commands as something that grinds us into some lifeless, colorless submission. And apparently, there is some reason that we think this. God’s commands (and all commands, by nature) are designed to drive us to submission! So, submission, yes! But, that is only half of the story. God’s commands also grant us longing, passion, LIFE!

Doug Brown says that we rightly assume that coming to Christ means that we will have to give our very lives over to Him. But, we wrongly assume that doing so will rob us of the joy that this life has to offer. Remember what Jesus Himself said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Friends, the Good News is not only that God has provided a way from sin, but also that He has given new life to you and to me. And it is Hebrew poetry like this that gets at the heart of what Christian worship actually is. We give our very selves to God so that He can, at once, crush our souls and fill us with longing for Himself.