“How to yield to God with joy”, Psalm 100

Quiet Time Coaching" Episode 29

Have you ever seen two drivers coming at a junction from a different direction and each refusing to yield to the other? Perhaps you have been one of those drivers. I’m sure I have! Not a pretty sight. And no one gets anywhere.

Yielding does not have a good image in contemporary society. It is associated with helplessly surrendering one’s liberty, possessions and even one’s life. But is there a more positive way to view yielding, especially when it pertains to our relationship with God?

Psalm 100

The concept of yielding in a healthy way is on my mind because I am studying Psalm 100. The purpose of this study is preparation for a special worship service I am planning for May 6. More on that as we approach the date.

Here is the Psalm in its entirety:

“A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(Psalms 100:0–5 NIV11)

It is not a long psalm, but it is powerful. It has been called the “Jubilate”, and is often quoted in church services. The famous old hymn, “All people that on earth do dwell” is based on this Psalm. Well worth praying through. The lyrics are below.

There is much to say about this Psalm. Future blog articles will expand on its themes. For today, we will focus on the overall tone of the Psalm. I am guided in this by some comments in the book, “The Psalms and the life of faith” by Walter Breuggemann. He makes the observation that both yielding and covenant are strong themes. Let’s have a look at those.

1. Nothing but yielding

The feel of the Psalm is one of surrender. As Brueggemann says, “In Psalm 100, the summons to praise are utterly yielding to God…There is nothing here but yielding.” p51

The whole earth is to make a joyful noise. We are to serve (worship), come to him, enter his gates, thank him, praise him, bless him.

The scope of the yielding is global. The extent of the yielding is total. The focus of the worship in this Psalm is God, not the worshipper.

Yet it is not a cringing, miserable yielding.

2. Covenant confidence

There is more to say about this Psalm than solely yielding. It is that, within the yielding, there is a relationship. A healthy relationship. The covenant relationship is in view. As is the character of God.

Brueggemann notes: “These invitations [to yield], however, are grounded in a sense of our position vis-à-vis God:…even in this supreme act of yielding, the language of hesed [steadfast love] and emet [faithfulness] is present because Israel knows no other way to sing or to pray.” p52

What is God like? He made us, calls us his own, and gives us what we need (V3). He is good (v5) and will love us for ever (v5). His faithfulness to us will never end (V5).

Conclusion

In this Psalm we see surrender and joy coexisting. A tremendous example from the old Testament are what we see in the relationship between Jesus and the father. We are able to yield to God and enjoy God. This Psalm shows us how.

Why not spend some time meditating on praising and worshipping God in a yielded way and the motivation for doing so.

Question

What helps you to yield to God? What helps you to enjoy that yielding? Which characteristics of God help you to yield?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“All people that on earth do dwell”

By: William Kethe, c. 1594; Thomas Ken, 1637–1711 Tune: Old 100th

All people that on earth do dwell,

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;

Him serve with fear, His praise forthtell;

Come ye before Him and rejoice.

 

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed,

Without our aid He did us make;

We are His folk, He doth us feed,

And for His sheep He doth us take.

 

O enter then His gates with praise,

Approach with joy His courts unto;

Praise, laud, and bless His name always;

For it is seemly so to do.

 

For why? the Lord our God is good,

His mercy is forever sure:

His truth at all times firmly stood,

And shall from age to age endure.

 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

“The Spiritual Benefits of Slow Singing”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 28

Try singing, “Happy birthday to you…” really slowly. Feels weird, doesn’t it? Most songs have a narrow range of speeds within which they can be sung and still make sense. But is there a case for singing ridiculously slowly?
 
 
I’ve made it a habitual practice to sing hymns or choruses as part of my daily quiet time. Not every day. But frequently. By the time you’ve been a Christian as long as I have, you’ve sung them so often at least a few have become lodged in the memory banks! Most of the time I sing them at normal speed. Occasionally, I slow them right down. Why? Let’s think about that.
 

Slow Speed, Deep Dive

We dive deeper when singing slower. Each phrase, each word, even each syllable becomes more significant when it is pronounced slowly, sung slowly, thought upon slowly.
 
If you’ve ever tried eating and chewing at a deliberately leisurely speed, you will know that the textures and flavours come out much more strongly. The same is true of the spiritual sense of songs when they are sung more slowly. This is not to say slow songs are better than fast songs. Not at all. Zealous energy in song is part of what makes praise powerful. It’s just that there are times to slow songs down.
This is easier done in personal devotional times than with a congregation. Why not try it in your next quiet time. Below, I offer two further thoughts on effective slow singing.

1. Lyrical Richness

Some songs are wordier than others. The strength of these hymns is their descriptive power. They use many words to create a beautiful picture of God’s nature or similar. The challenge is that we sing all these words without having the brain space to absorb their meaning.
 
Slow these songs down and you receive a rich deposit of God’s truth and love into your heart and mind. A good example would be the old hymn, “Crown him with many crowns”, or the more modern, “In Christ alone”.
 

2. Lyrical Repetitiveness

Songs with very few lyrics and repeated words do not have the lyrical depth of the songs I’ve been talking about in the earlier point. However, they have their own richness if we truly meditate on the repeated words. Perhaps the best example of this in the Bible is Psalm 150:
“Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.” (Psalms 150:1–6 NIV11)
 
You could try, “Those who hope in the Lord” by David Casswell, or “God is so good”.
 

Conclusion

In the video and podcast version of this blog, I give a demonstration of what this looks like when I do it. I pick one of my favourite hymns, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”. Oh, and I also sing it to my preferred tune – “Rockingham”. You can hear and see this at the foot of the blog.
 
Have a go in your next quiet time at singing a song you know well – ridiculously slowly.
 

Question

Have you tried singing a hymn slowly? What benefit did you find it bringing to your devotional time? Can you suggest hymns that work well with this kind of treatment?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

Episode 16, Sunday Sample, 17 December 2017 – “Sing A New Song”

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: Watford ‘Pop-Up’ Nativity Service, and the Bracknell Carol Service

The children had a whale of a time taking part in the Nativity in Watford and the song in Bracknell. Special thanks to Michelle who rehearsed the children for the latter, and to Joe and his team who got the children ready for their performance in Watford. It was noticeable that the young people came to church with greater enthusiasm than usual. And that they were more engaged in the services than normal. Another good reminder to me that we must do all we can to help the children to see this as ‘their’ church, and not their parents’ church.

Question to you: What are you doing, as a leader of worship, to convince the children that they belong in your congregation? Indeed, that it is theirs

The nativity in Watford was recorded. I’ll add the link when it’s been uploaded. Likewise the service in Bracknell.

Speakers

There was no sermon in Watford nor Bracknell because of the service formats.  However, both services contained communion talks. I contribute the outline of mine in Watford below.


  • Question to the children: What was Jesus laid in?

  • MANGER: An animal-feeding trough (Heb. ebus) or stall (Gk. phaétneä) in a stable.

  • Troughs were free-standing stone boxes placed against stable walls or boxes made by hollowing out rocks protruding into the stable area.

    • At Megiddo archaeologists found limestone troughs, measuring 91 cm. (3 ft.) long, 46 cm. (1.5 ft.) wide, and 61 cm. (2 ft.) deep, quite ample for an infant. – PICTURE ON SCREEN

  • Manger – French word for eating

    • Place animals out of

    • Dirty and disgusting – PICTURE OF MODERN ANIMAL FEEDING TROUGH ON SCREEN

  • Jesus not too proud to be associated with animals and dirt

    • Jesus so humble

    • He was laid where animals ate

  • Now we ‘feed’ on him

  • “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”” (John 6:57–58)

  • Communion meal reminds us of this. Let’s pray and eat…


Music Worship

The carols went off well in both services. We lost our guitarist in Watford due to illness (get well soon, Charl). But we adapted and survived! The Bracknell carol service was our best in the three years I’ve been involved. Why might that be? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Patience pays off. We sang “Ding Dong”. It’s hard for a congregation to pull that off. The first time we did it three years ago it was greeted with almost disbelief. i.e. “We can’t sing that!” Three years later we sound pretty good, and even those for whom it’s too much give it their best shot with joyful abandon. Three years of patience has brought it’s reward.
  2. Expanded talent pool. Three years ago it was the narrow band of usual suspects involved. This year Don played guitar, Rachel played flute, Fabian played keyboard, some teenagers sang, Marianne and others performed a spoken word piece, the Wakefields performed a duet – all people who were not involved three years ago. Surface the talent you have. Find ways to use it.
  3. Variety is the spice of carol services. Reading and carols were pretty much all we had three years ago. This year: carols, readings, spoken word, teenagers singing, children’s’ performance, a duet, an original song, one song accompanied by guitar, some by guitar and bass, some by keyboard, and some a cappella. It’s worth the effort to create as much variety as you can.
  4. Sing a new song. I wrote a song for the occasion. I don’t consider myself a good song writer. And I find it very hard to do. But I have been known to complain about the lack of new songs, so I’m a hypocrite if I don’t give it a go! The recording will go on line soon, and you can tell me what you think (holds breath…). Could you write a song? At least try. Please!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference. Done!
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.  Done!

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our carol service. My main aim is to be at peace, just like last week in Bracknell!
  2. Bracknell: No services until the New Year. This week I’ll outline the music plans for the January services for Bracknell and Lower Earley.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Episode 12, Sunday Sample, 19 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

I was involved in services in Watford and Bracknell this last Sunday. Our entry to the building in Watford was delayed due to a misunderstanding about parking, but we got in eventually. Everyone rushed around setting up before taking a deep breath for a pre-service devotional. We needed it. We were all frazzled.

We reflected on Hezekiah’s prayer, then God’s promise of healing, followed by the King’s poem of praise, culminating in this phrase:

“The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord.” (Isaiah 38:20 NIV11)

He knew why he was singing. His fellow-congregants knew why they were singing. See the “we” word in verse 20?  We also know why we sing. The point is not “what” we are about to do, but “why”. Focussing on the “why” helped us to worship and to lead worship with a clearer mind and heart. It’s an important reminder to me that we need those few moments to pray and remember what it’s all about.

Speakers

Charl gave us a communion talk with a difference in Watford. You may see the table, tablecloth, vase and flower between Barry and Kate in the photo above. He asked for volunteers for a demonstration and then set up Barry and Kate as if on a date in a restaurant. Romantic music played through the PA system. Charl spoke about what makes meals special before going on to describe the extra-special nature of the communion. His points were sound and well-made. But what I especially appreciated was the creative thinking that went into preparing and presenting his talk.

Osagie is in action below preaching in Watford. He is another one never short of a handy way to illustrate his points. His use of children’s play tiles was masterful. You’ll have to click here to see him in action on the YouTube channel.

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Music Worship

We tried a new song-sandwich in Watford. The first three verses of “Soon and very soon” were followed by “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and concluded with the final two verses of “Soon and very”. All in G.It didn’t really work. The problem was that we started too fast and had to slow down for “Shine” and then speed up again for the final part of “Soon”. It wasn’t a disaster, but the effect I was looking for didn’t happen. I’m going to try it again this coming Sunday in Lower Earley. We’ll sing the first half of “Soon” slowly, segue into “Shine” and then speed up for the second half of “Soon”. I’ll let you know how that goes next week.

In Bracknell, the stand-out musical item was a new song by Geraldine Latty, “Lord, you hear the cry“. I thoroughly recommend it. How many songs do we sing about the marginalised and needy? Not many. It goes well with the point in our services when we take a collection for HOPE Worldwide UK. Have a look at the lyrics and chord charts here.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Have song sheets for everyone in Watford. Done.
  2. Start the service in Bracknell with a 5-minute countdown video. Done.

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Have a devotional for all the service participants that includes one minute of silence – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62.1, (NRSV)
  2. Have a second bash a the S&S song-sandwich in Lower Earley.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Sunday Sample 12 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. Both had their own special and unique characteristics.

I preached in Watford – with a difference. In one of his letters Paul tells Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 NIV11)

There is more than one way to apply this, but what we did this Sunday in Watford is an interpretation of Paul’s instruction. I printed out the text of the crucifixion account from Luke’s Gospel. Then assigned different people or groups of people to read the parts of characters in the story. On Sunday I asked everybody to stand, and then we read the account for the crucifixion together. It was especially gratifying to see everybody take part wholeheartedly, including one of our teenagers.

After this, we broke into small discussion groups to consider the experience of the crucifixion from the perspectives of the different people involved.  10 minutes later we had sharing about what the groups discovered, and I wrapped up with Romans 5:7, and we took communion.

As usual, the groups came up with very interesting insights. Although it was not a typical sermon, I believe this format helped all of us find a personal connection with the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jonty preached in Lower Early, taking on the tricky subject of humility and pride. What a courageous man! You did a super job, Jonty, preaching with honesty and conviction, but without hubris. Thank you.

Music Worship

The singing in both services was encouraging. In Watford we overcame my mistake of forgetting to print enough song sheets and a ‘pink’ projector! Something wrong with the socket, I think.

In Lower Earley we sang a ‘new’ song for us, “Days of Elijah” – Rynhardt led it very effectively.

We sang “Above all” in both services and it was interesting that both congregations struggled with it to some extent. I love that song, but it’s tricky for the church to sing it well. There’s something about the rhythm of the melody that confuses us. I’m not sure what to do about it. Any ideas?

Other Thoughts

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Have song sheets for everyone in Watford.
  2. Start the service in Bracknell with a 5-minute countdown video. Here is the draft version:

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Corporate Worship Matters: Trends Part 2: “Test the Trends”

“..everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14.40 (NIV11)

Last time we talked about surfacing the worship music trends around us. Have you done your congregational survey yet? If not, why not make your own version of the survey I posted previously and see what you get back. It might be very illuminating!
Fidget spinners are the latest trendy toy for children (and a few adults!) where I live. Manufacturers and marketers will find a new way to part parents with their money when this trend has run its course.
Many worship trends are neutral. They are neither good nor bad in themselves, only more or less helpful. If we know our local trends, how do we assess if they are good or bad? Whether they should be opposed or embraced? Are they already influencing your congregation? To examine any trend apply these three filters and ask three questions:
  1. Doctrine filter. “Does it offend any Biblical principle or command?”
  2. Distraction filter. “Does it distract people from God?”
  3. Direction filter. “Does it direct people to God?”
In my own part of the world, I have observed a number of trends in churches around me. Some have been introduced to our congregations in whole or part. These include:
  1. Having no ‘main’ song leader, but a group of singers and a band
  2. ‘shushing’ a congregation before starting singing
  3. Emphasising one style over against others – i.e. all hymns / all gospel songs / all chorus songs
Are these practices good or bad? It’s going to depend. It will depend on whether they pass the three filters above, and whether they help people connect with God’s presenceWhat do we do when “it depends”? Three steps should clarify whether to adopt a trend or not.
  1. Pray for insight and that you would not be swayed by your own preferences. We are servants of God and our congregation, not our own preferences.
  2. Discuss the trend with the worship team.
  3. Discuss the trend with the church leadership team.
After this, it’s my guess you will come to a consensus. It’s unlikely any particular trend will lead people astray spiritually. But we shouldn’t adopt something just because it is ‘trendy’. Everything needs to be examined carefully first in case it distracts worshippers from their focus on God.
 
I’m not offering a definitive position on any particular trend but proposing that worship trends must be assessed in our local context.
What are your thoughts on this process? Please leave a comment below. 
Malcolm Cox
 
November 2017

How to be supplied with spiritual strength from the Psalms

Using the Psalms as God intended

Worship is Work

I lead musical worship in Church congregations. It is a privilege, a joy, and hard work! I need spiritual strength to lead worship. Where is the supply coming from?
 

God’s Songbook

Two weeks ago I chatted about this with my friend Dave Eastman. Check him out on lifechangingworship.com. He shared his conviction with me that a worship leader needs to be constantly in the book of Psalms. It is God’s songbook. A hymnal with 150 songs ready for any and all occasions in the Christian life.
 

Regular Devotion

I love the Psalms. I turn to them from time to time. But I’ve not been devoting myself to them regularly. I wonder how many of us use the Psalms in moments of great joy, or deep crisis, but neglect their day-to-day use.
 
What a shame to relegate this amazing resource to special occasions. They are available to supply us with spiritual strength whenever we need it.
 

A Psalmic Pile

Thanks to Dave, I’ve reflected on my use of the Psalms. So far I’ve made two decisions.
 
  1. I’ve opened a tab in my Bible software specially for the Psalms. That tab stays open no matter which other part of the Bible I’m studying.
  2. I’ve pulled my favourite books about the Psalms off the bookshelves and piled them up in one place. Now I see them every day and am reminded to look into them for insights. The books include: “The Psalms and the life of faith” by Walter Brueggemann (more theological). “Music of the heart”, new Psalms in the Celtic tradition by David Allen. “A long obedience in the same direction” by Eugene Peterson (focussed on the Psalms of Ascent). “Prayer, praise and promises” a daily walk through the Psalms by Warren Wiersbe (a devotional focus).

All About You

Here is a thought from Psalm 86 and some insights from Brueggemann. Read this Psalm, and you will hear a desperate David. But notice that his attitude is not one of self-pity. Instead, he is very focused on the qualities of God. This is emphasised by the use of the word, “You”.
 
Quoting selectively from the Psalm, “You are my God…For you, O Lord are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you… For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God… But you, O Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… Because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”
 
The force of the Hebrew doesn’t come across in an English translation. But the point does. David knows he must focus on who God is if he is to be supplied with the spiritual strength he needs.
 

Conclusion

I will finish with an old rabbinic prayer quoted in Brueggemann’s book on page 37:
 
Where I wander-You!
Where I ponder-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You ! You! You!
When I am gladdened-You!
When I am saddened-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You! Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Questions

What is it about the Psalms you find most helpful? Do you use them regularly? What books would you recommend to help us understand them and apply their message?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm