Why I Love Our Summer in the Psalms Series

Each summer at our church, we break off whatever other series or book I am preaching through and camp out in ten of the Psalms. We started this in 2019, going through Psalms 1-10 and continuing the pattern. I joked with our congregation that at this rate, we will finish Psalm 150 in August of 2033–at this point, a scant 11 years from now.

Why do we spend time in the Psalms like this? And why should this be something your church should do.

First, it is the second largest book in the Scriptures. Lest I lose you upfront with this statistic, I can almost hear your response: “Um, the Psalms have 150 chapters. That’s more chapters than any other book.” Yet, if you go by word count, the Psalms contain just over 30,000 words, second only to the book of Jeremiah at just over 33,000 words. Even with this, second place is no slouch. Size does not indicate importance (otherwise, books like Jude would diminish in value–and who could say that with a straight face?).

Second, they cover a wide range of Christian issues and emotions. From praise to thanksgivings to laments to imprecatory Psalms, God gives us a book that gives a voice on the mountain, on the plateaus, and in the valley. The excitement of seeing God move and work to the disappointment of God’s apparent absence and allowance of events may startle the new reader who did not expect such a stark reaction from the Bible writers.

Third, these were originally intended to be sung. The Christian faith is a singing faith. By singing, we put music to our doctrine and devotion. Minister and musicologist Erik Routley wrote a book on church music called “Duty and Delight.” Twice in the New Testament, Paul invoked the worship through “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:16), showing that these were not merely texts to read but also texts to sing. Having said that…

Lastly, these texts show us the Messiah. The New Testament quotes the Psalms prolifically, usually in connection with their prophecies about the coming Messiah. Psalm 2, 16, 110 and numerous others show the nature and work of the coming King Jesus. As we continue in these Psalms over the summers, we will do all we can to show you the connection.

What are some ways the Psalms have blessed and encouraged you?

He Has Told You What is Good: A Threefold Understanding of What God Requires (Micah 6:6-8)

This past week pulled a cloud over our denomination–a cloud that I fear will not go away anytime soon and must bring about repentance and restoration. The messengers at our 2021 Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Nashville last June required our Southern Baptist Executive Committee to conduct an investigation into the nature of many sexual abuse charges that, though they had come to their attention, seemed to be unaddressed and, even worse, covered up. Who is this Executive Committee, you might ask? It’s a team that basically runs much of the administrative business of our denomination between the annual meetings themselves. 

Whenever investigations took place, they would take place internally. Yet the victims much more often than not did not get a hearing or receive justice as needed. The messengers of our convention, representing 44,000 congregations of all sizes, pressed and pressed for a third-party investigation team to come in. Many on the Executive Committee resigned and expressed a concern that we would lose our insurance and legal representation (none of which happened by the way). Now that the report has come out, listing some of what was not done, many inside our denomination have been rocked and those outside of our denomination (and unbelievers) look on and say, “See, they are no better than anyone else!” 

Thankfully, many churches (along with ours in the weeks ahead) and state conventions are putting things in place to make sure that those who need justice, love, care, and protection in the name of Christ will have that from us. 

This, along with the two shootings: one in Buffalo and one in Uvalde, TX, are reminders. The shooting in Buffalo took place at a Tops supermarket that that community worked hard to get–and the first supermarket in an area that has been called a “food desert,” where healthy and affordable food is accessible in a low-income area. Police say that the shooter was a “white supremacist” who sought to target black people. In Uvalde, 21 were killed in an elementary school (19 students and two teachers). One article described it this way:

It was a typical Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, as students and teachers at Robb Elementary School wound down the school year, with graduation set for the weekend. In the morning, the school celebrated its honor roll, but shortly after, the bright futures of 19 young students and two teachers were tragically cut short.

An 18-year-old gunman wearing body armor crashed his car in a ditch near the school, then, after getting past law enforcement, entered a classroom and locked himself inside.

 All this, on top of the reaction by some at hearing that Roe v. Wade will be overturned–our hearts are saddened, burdened, and (to use an old King James expression) feel a “righteous indignation.” When we look at the three requirements, these requirements did not stay with religious activities but with a relationship with God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Expository Preaching Exposes More Than the Bible

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At around 11:35 on a Sunday morning is usually when I say a closing prayer to my sermon. Then we sing a hymn and provide a time for people to come to respond to the Word they just heard. Then we have our Deacon of the Week come up and close in prayer. After a considerable time fellowshipping with church members and guests alike, we head home. I usually grab a nap because of the absence of the accumulated adrenaline, causing exhaustion which I’ve written about elsewhere.

I am an expositor by training and by conviction after 30 years of pastoral ministry. The premise behind expository preaching is that the point of the text becomes the point of the sermon. I not only like that, I need that. I need to know that the sermon that I preach to the people whom God has entrusted me to shepherd is tethered not by my particular ‘druthers,’ but by the inspired, authoritative, infallible, and sufficient Word of God which is able to equip for every good work (cf. 2 Timothy 3:17).

Yet, expository preaching does not merely expose the Bible. It also exposes the heart of the preacher. Preachers are people, too. And when pastors begin to focus on their own platform or the running of the church or on any other matter at the expense of studying and readying himself to preach God’s Word, that exposes a problem in their motives. We’ve seen all too many want to chase that gold ring of celebrity and influence. Yet, when pastors spend time in studying God’s Word, then the relationship and fellowship with the Triune God is in place and all that ultimately matters is the worship and pleasing of Him and shepherding the flock that is among them (see 1 Peter 5:1-5). The study of God’s Word will expose the motives of the pastor.

Expository preaching also exposes the character of the culture. God’s Word outlines God’s design for His world. In Genesis 1-2, we found at least eighteen different areas that God designed in which the culture is moving away (and at some point in the future, I’ll outline those ways). When the Scriptures come up against the culture, Carl Trueman’s prophetic reminder in 2010 is coming true:

…the beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.

Carl Trueman, Reformation21.org

Here we are twelve years removed from Trueman’s words. It’s hard to argue with the premise. The Scriptures expose the culture’s direction and motives. And I fear that the harder we try to get a seat at the culture’s table exposes more of our desire to be liked by the broader scope of society, which will lead to compromise. “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).

Lastly, the Scriptures expose the heart of the church. Is the church staying obedient to the direction laid out in Scripture? Is Christ a means to a church’s end or is Christ the end? Do our churches follow Christ and His commands even if they may go counter to the culture not just outside the church but inside? Every church has a culture, and that culture is informed by certain convictions and values. From where do those values originate?

If God gives a design in His Word, that design is good for His people and His creation. Will people take that to a problematic extreme at times? Of course! That’s why we need to operate by going ad fontes (to the source).

What are some other things that the Scriptures expose?

Tis Heaven to Serve Jesus: Why Equipping in Revitalizing Churches Matters

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When it comes to pastoring small churches, I always think of Daniel Im’s differentiation between the “sage on the stage” and the “guide on the side.” The former is the resident expert on all things–and sadly can be the doer of all things. He is on every committee. Every idea is his. Every strategy and mobilization effect begins with him. It is not sustainable and is one of the reasons why so many pastors last so little time.

The “guide on the side” is an equipper. He knows what he knows–and what he doesn’t know. He also knows that others in the church have a spiritual gifting and passion for a ministry in their readiness to serve Jesus. These dear saints need equipping. It matters. It’s crucial for the future of the church and gives joy in the present.

Why does it matter?

First, it’s biblical. Ephesians 4:11-12 calls those whom God has gifted to lead the church to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is a unifying trajectory for a church when everyone is equipped toward the Great Commission.

Second, we are equipped doctrinally and practically. In Ephesians, the first three chapters lay down a doctrinal framework, whereas the last three chapters apply that doctrine and put it into practice. So when Paul in Ephesians 4 (the start of the practical section) that we need equipping, we are not merely equipped on techniques to reach more people but equipped to know all about Christ and His teaching. I’ve noticed of late that when we get together as pastors at a denominational convention, we spend less time on understanding key doctrinal points than we do finding ways get more people into our churches. A balance is needed to mirror that of the Scriptures.

Third, it provides engagement. In his last sermon, Charles Spurgeon made the remark, “‘Tis heaven to serve Jesus.” Being engaged in Kingdom work is indeed a heaven on earth, for we are serving Jesus and His people here just as we will be in heaven. And we are not merely engaging to keep a preferred infrastructure going–we are engaged in helping all know Jesus and Christians grow deep in Jesus.

Lastly, a mission field is seen as your community. One church planting catalyst noted that for most established churches, the further away a mission field is, the easier it is to support. But what about the mission field around us? Homes, jobs, schools, communities–even the environments we occupy every day. This will mean a desire to be equipped to reach your marketplace. This may mean partnering with other churches to accomplish this task (for every faithful church has their unique role to play in the Kingdom).

All healthy churches continue to evaluate how they are accomplishing the Great Commission. What are some areas you see in which churches need equipping?

Jesus is Willing to Forgive

All-Around Spurgeon

If I were to see a needle running across the table all by itself, I should know that under-the-table a magnet was at work out of sight. When I see a sinner running after Christ, I feel certain that divine love is drawing him: the cords may be invisible, but we are quite sure that they are there. If you are seeking Christ, it is because he is seeking you. The desire for grace is caused by the very grace which we desire. You must not dare to charge the Lord Jesus with unwillingness to save, seeing he has laid down his life to prove his eagerness to redeem. No, it is not possible that there can be any backwardness with the Saviour; the backwardness lies with you. Get rid of the unbelieving in dishonouring notion that Jesus is unwilling to forgive, and at once throw yourself into his arms…

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