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2021 Pastors' Blog

A New Song to Sing

January 21, 2021

"And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."

Psalm 40:3

 

Music has always been a powerful tool to express the sentiments of the heart.  That is certainly true for the song writer, who composes from the experiences of life and reflects his mood in the tone of the melody and the tenor of the lyrics.  But we who are avid listeners also reflect the sentiments of our heart in our selection of music for a given moment – the tendency toward lower-key, somber music when we are down or exhilarating, upbeat music when we are happy.  Our music reflects what is going on in our hearts.

 

So, it should come as no surprise that, when the heart is changed, so, too, is the song that expresses its sentiments: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The next verse, in David’s Psalm of a renewed mindset (Psalm 40:3), shows the dramatic transformation that has taken place in the heart of someone who has been given new direction for life.

 

The Source of the Song“And he hath put a new song in my mouth,…”

This is a continuation of a theme that flows through these first two verses – “he inclined;” “he heard;” “he brought;” “he hath put.”  The restoration of the relationship between the Creator and His creation is His work.  So, too, the ongoing work of transformation – a new direction to life; a new song in the mouth; etc. – is His work.

See also Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1.

 

The Subject of the Song“…even praise unto our God:…”

If a song is the expression of the sentiments of the heart, what does that song “sound like” before one comes to Christ?  It is self-absorbed (Isaiah 53:6) and opposed to truth (Jeremiah 17:9).  But when a person develops a personal relationship with God, the “tone” of that song changes – from self-focus to God-focused praise

See also 1 Chronicles 16:23-33.

 

The Impact (Sway) of the Song“…many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.”

When a life is changed, from the inside out, it has an impact on those around him.

    • It causes others to take notice. This is because it is unique, compared to the “sound” of what is going on around him – its theme is God-focused, not self-focused.
    • It leads to a change in attitude. It is important to reiterate two important truths.  First…the change in attitude, as with any genuine change, is brought about by God.  Second…the object of the change in attitude is God, Himself.
    • It culminates in a change in trust. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” (Proverbs 3:5,6).

 

What does your song “sound like”?  I am not asking you what you had playing on your radio, your CD player, or your digital music player this morning.  Rather, what does the song of your life sound like?  If you have a personal relationship with God, He is tuning the expression of the sentiments of your heart toward praising Him.

 

What will others hear, in your life, today?

 

Pastor Dan

 

* * * * * 

 

A New Path

January 14, 2021

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."

Psalm 40:2

 

Last week, I challenged us to a new philosophy of life in 2021 – a mindset shaped by our understanding of God, as He reveals Himself in Scripture, not by our circumstances.  I shared that this challenge would take us to Psalm 40, where David, who had confronted incredible challenges, chose to view those challenges through the lens of God’s unchanging character.

 

In the first verse, we see David coming to God in prayer with great expectation, because His is: (1) THE ATTENTIVE GOD, Who has a deep interest in what we have to say; and, (2) THE OMNISCIENT GOD, Whose answers to our prayers are exactly what are needed because He has the larger picture always in view.

 

As we move to verse two, we notice that David’s patient expectation is also rooted in the fact that God is in the ongoing work of changing our lives and giving us a new direction for living.  But for that to take place, we need to get a clear picture of the depths of where we were, so that we can get a fuller understanding of how far God has taken us.

 

  • He broke through all the noisy distractions to give us the truth. Another way that “horrible pit” can be translated is “a pit of noise.”  We are daily surrounded by voices, clamoring for our attention by claiming to be the most important voice of all.  David had counsellors constantly giving him their opinions and advice.  However, the loudest voice of all tends to be the voice of our own heart, imploring us to go our own way.  But God draws us to Himself by shutting out all the other voices, to make His way clear.

 

  • He guides our vision to see that going our own way only makes the situation worse. The imagery of the next phrase – “out of the miry clay” – is of an individual who is stuck in mire, who is flailing his feet, in an attempt to pull himself out, but who is, instead, only causing himself to sink further into the mire (Isaiah 64:6).  His ONLY hope is for someone else to come along and pull him out – to rescue him.  David knows that One can only be God.

 

  • He puts our lives on solid footing. Imagine the relief in being lifted out of such a helpless situation – feet flailing to no avail – and being placed on solid land.  As David considers God’s work in his life, he understands that God not only removes him, at times, from the muck and mire.  He also puts him on solid ground – gives him a new foundation.  That new basis, for the life of the one who is now a follower of God, is God’s Word – the Bible.  No more are we relying on ourselves, or others, to try to figure it out.  We have God’s inerrant, inspired Word to give us direction for our lives.

 

  • He continually points us in the right direction. When giving directions to your children, did you ever have to lovingly take them by the shoulders and turn them around until they were facing the right way?  That the picture the Psalmist uses to describe God’s work in our lives.  He not only puts us on solid footing on a new path.  He then, lovingly, turns us and points us in the direction we ought to continue to walk.  We will, from time-to-time, venture off the designated path.  But God is ever calling us, and working in us, to get us back on track: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them,” (Deuteronomy 28:14).

 

As we walk the days ahead, let us remember where we WERE – the “horrible pit” and the “miry clay.”  But then, let us praise God for where we are, by His grace, because he “set my feet” and “established my goings.”  You can be assured that He will continue to lead you through whatever rough waters may be ahead.

 

Pastor Dan

 

* * * * * 

 

Great Expectations

January 7, 2021

"I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry."

Psalm 40:1

 

As I have talked to people about the start of this new year, there tend to be two mindsets:

  • 2021 is just going to be an extension of what I experienced in 2020. Or…
  • 2021 is going to be different (usually meaning better) from 2020.

Do you notice something that those two philosophies have in common?  Both mindsets are based on the person’s experiences – or anticipated experiences?  In other words, “How I view this coming year will be determined by whether or not my experiences in 2021 are positive or negative.”

 

Looking ahead to this new year, I would like to challenge you to a different philosophy – a mindset that is not shaped by your circumstances, but rather formed by your understanding of God, as He reveals Himself in Scripture.

 

Even though Psalms 38 and 39 had been expressions of frustration with the circumstances in which David found himself, he kept coming back to a state of confident assurance – a place of peace.  Psalm 40 gives us a glimpse into how that was possible.

 

  • An Approach with Anticipation (“I waited patiently for the LORD;…”) – How do you approach prayer – with anticipation of what God can and will do or anxiety over the situation? David opens this Psalm with an expression of great expectations because the One to Whom he prayed was the great God (“LORD” = Jehovah; The self-existent One; The eternal One).  Our approach in prayer is built on our perception of God.  Yet, how often do we allow our perception of God to, instead, be shaped by our circumstances.  Matthew Henry described David’s patient waiting this way: “From God he expected relief, and he was big with expectation, not doubting but it would come in due time…he waited patiently, which intimates that the relief did not come quickly; yet he doubted not but it would come, and resolved to continue believing, and hoping, and praying, till it did come.  Those whose expectation is from God may wait with assurance, but must wait with patience.”

 

David approached with anticipation because he worshipped…

 

  • An Attentive God (“…and he inclined unto me,…”) – How many conversations have you ever tried to carry on with a small child? They do not always understand the need to project.  So, when they are hesitant to share their needs with an adult, they tend to keep their volume at a whisper.  If you want to hear what they have to say, you usually need to lean over and “incline” one ear toward them.  The simple act of leaning in shows the interest you have in what the child has to say.  David paints a vivid picture for us of God leaning in to catch every word when we pray.  We can be assured that He has an interest in what we have to say.

 

Even with good intentions and dedicated listening, we do not always catch what someone else has to say.  God is not just an attentive God.  He is also…

 

  • An Omniscient God (“…and heard my cry.”) – One of the many awe-inspiring things about God is that He not only desires to hear what I have to say, but, in His omniscience, He hears my every word and knows my every need, perfectly. So, I can be assured that the answer He will ultimately provide is precisely what is needed – whether it fits my plans or not – because He has the larger picture always in view.

 

Let me close this post by challenging you in two ways:  (1) This Psalm can be such an encouragement, if we will allow its words to flow over our spirit and dominate our thinking.  Would you join me in memorizing Psalm 40, in the weeks ahead?  (2) As we get rolling into 2021, no matter what may happen this year, would you join me in committing to intentionally looking for God’s hand at work in our lives and seeking God’s face in all things – good and bad?

 

I am trusting and praying that we will see God’s mighty hand at work in our lives and in our world in 2021.

 

Pastor Dan

 

* * * * * 

 

Pressing Onward and Upward

December 31, 2020

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13,14

 

How can I summarize 2020?  It has been a year unlike anything I have ever experienced – personally or in ministry.  I have picked up some new vocabulary – pandemic; Coronavirus; quarantine; etc.  I have had to learn some new “skills” – preaching to a camara in an empty sanctuary; blogging; livestreaming; etc.  I have gained insight into some new forms of communication – ZOOM; Google Meet; Facebook Live; etc.  But, as unique as those elements are, they do not adequately sum up this year of challenges.

 

I would prefer, instead, to describe 2020 as the year of “learning the hard way.”  And there are three Biblical lessons, summarized in the passage above, which I will take with me into 2021.

 

  • I have a lot of room for growth. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended,” (Philippians 3:13a).  A year of challenges tends to bring areas of weakness to light.  What I will do next, with that revelation, will determine whether 2021 will be a year of growth or a year of stagnation.

 

  • I have some things, upon which I used to depend, that I need to forget. “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,…” (Philippians 3:13b).  Most often my weakness comes about because I lean on the wrong sources of strength or direction.  Those are things I need to learn to set aside – to put in the past.

 

  • I need to set some new, eternal goals. “…and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13c-14).  If I am to be a wise steward of the life to which God has called me, I need to make His goals my goals – His pursuits my pursuits.  After all, those are the things for which God has created me.

 

Are you looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020?  I would encourage you to reflect on the lessons that God has taught you, through it all, and move into 2021 with faith and confidence – in His goodness; in His purpose; in His plan.

 

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

~ Job 23:8-10 ~

 

Pastor Dan