By John Tompson
Psalm 98:1 begins with the admonition to “Sing to the Lord a new song.” I believe this new song is a song of praise, of adoration, of awe, of love. Too often when I pray, it is not a new song. I find myself using the same old tired phrases. Even more often what I would like to pass off as worship is simply a recitation of what I want God to do for me.
The theme of these advent lessons is rest. I need to concentrate on the person of God—to rest in Him and in His providence. He knows my desires and my needs. He really doesn’t need me to remind Him. I believe he would rather have my praise and heartfelt worship than my begging prayers.
We should sing and praise God with a new song because He has done marvelous things. For ancient Israel, the marvelous things were in the exodus and occupation of the land. It was in the deliverance from the exile in Babylon [depending on when this was written]. For us His marvelous things are given to us in, and through, Jesus our Savior. He is the strong right arm that has given the victory to God. The right hand is the place of honor and authority. Stephen says: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Through Christ, God has made His victory known more powerfully than the psalmist could imagine.
In verse 3 we read of his faithfulness to Israel. Christ came as the fulfillment of all that God had promised in the law and the prophets. He came in such a way that all the earth has seen His victory. Further, He came to those who were not included in the covenant with Israel. Christ extended His new covenant to all men—for which we should give thanks and praise and worship. And…we should rest in the sure knowledge that we are secure before God: John 10:28-30: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand .” This should be reason enough to offer unending praise to God and rest in His love.
By Lori Tyler
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas carols. They are what make the Christmas season so special and memorable. They remind me of growing up, singing these very same songs at the candlelight service with my family. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas carols? Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if the first Christmas had no music to announce Christ’s coming?
Another beautiful song of this season is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. I am thankful Luke included this song of Mary for us to read. It is sometimes referred to as the Magnificat, which is a Latin term meaning, “to magnify.” Even though Jesus Christ has not been born yet, Mary wants to sing His praises and magnify His name. She reveals here that true worship of God begins with the spirit. It is the understanding of who God is, what He has done, and all that He has given us. This alone should cause us to sing. You may not have a good voice. You may not have a poetic way of saying things. That doesn’t matter because God made you and He loves to hear you sing and give praise to His glory. So this Christmas season, what do you give to the God who has everything? You give Him praise and thanks.
As you offer this gift of praise to God, in return you will be filled with the same peace and rest within your heart that Mary experienced when she trusted God’s magnificent plan for her life. She could easily have wept and mourned when she learned that she had been chosen for this humanly impossible responsibility. Yet she turned her sorrow into gladness and rejoiced in God’s overwhelming love for her. Trust God’s plan for your life this Christmas season and rest in the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. You will experience a peace that passes all understanding.
By Bob Morrison
Who can really sing? Well, at first thought, I was not the best choice for this scripture or so I thought. That rascally Randy Edwards picked me for this verse knowing it was a challenge for me. But even with my untrained screeching, I know a good voice when I hear it – and the best one belonged to my grandmother (or maybe yours!). At 81 years of age, the doctors told us she had only months to live so we did what countless families have done before us and moved her to a nursing home (no Hospice back then) near the family so all could be with her. Her music could be heard the moment you entered the building. She was beginning to lose her eyesight and hearing, yet her voice was sweet and gentle and filled with the hymns of my childhood. In the beginning of her stay there, this preacher’s wife played the piano for others and led the singing – no one there needed a hymnal. She would tell us, “I don’t know why my Jesus hasn’t come to get me.” My voice was never good, but I came to love the music because she did. When the day came that she left us for that heavenly choir, the music was still in the nursing home . . . and it never left our hearts. We buried her on her 100th birthday!
By Lance Mayes
The first two verses in Psalm 105 encourage us to give thanks and sing praises to God and let the whole world know the wonderful things God does.
Thanks, praise and Good News. We can do that!
It is easy for us to give thanks and praise to God when things are going well: the birth of a healthy baby, a good doctor’s report, getting a driver’s license, winning a game against your biggest rival. It is much more difficult when things are not going so well: a miscarriage, the cancer is back, failing the driver’s test, losing the big game.
It is good to stop and reflect when things are great and when things are bad. Make a list, write it down and thank God. In The 5 Minute Journal gratitude is defined as “the feeling that embodies the word ‘Thank you’. It is the unexpected reward of a kind deed that is magically produced by your brain. It is the cute, tingly feeling in your body that makes you smile at strangers.” Thank God for the day God has created for you. Thank God for every beat of your heart and breath you take. Thank God for the good and the bad (James 1:2-4).
Most of the time when we think about singing praises to God, we think of Sunday morning worship. It is good to be with other Christians and raise our voices in praise as one. It is good to listen to and enjoy a concert of praise and be spurred to join in their worship of God. It is also good to have private times of praise. You see a beautiful sunrise and speak a word of praise to God. You hear the story of your neighbor that their grandchild is getting the mental health help they need and you whisper a song of praise in your heart to God.
Sharing the Good News. Telling others about the wonderful things God is doing in your life and in the lives of others. What story is in your heart that is just waiting to get out? Please share! Tell your family and your friends. Tell your neighbors and coworkers. Tell your church community and your acquaintances. Write your story and post on a blog or on Facebook. Record your story on video for Youtube.* We all have so much we can tell about the wonderful things God does.
*We encourage you to record your story and we want to help. We can help you by posting on the Woodland Blog and/or in our print publications like our missions newsletter “Harvest Tree.” We can also record your story on video.
By Nate Newell
King David writes in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, oh whom shall I be afraid?”
When people remember King David they often remember his great feats, and his courageous faith, but no one ever brings up how scared he must have been … I look back at the things he had to face: lions, bears, giants, and even entire nations waging war against him. I think to myself, if I was alive back then, would I be as brave as David? Then I go on to think, what dangers do I face? Are they even remotely as dangerous? While we might not have to do battle with a 9 ft warrior we do have to battle traffic on Loop-1604. We don’t have to wrestle lions and bears to protect our flock of sheep, but we do have to worry about the mergers on I-410.
We should take our cue from David and put our trust in God, not our GPSes. In Psalm 27 David says the Lord is his stronghold, the bible also says God is an ever present help in trouble.
Put your trust in God, pray, sing praise! For he is our salvation, we need not fear anything. Psalm 27 puts into words the thing that everyone wants to hear, salvation from sin, and defense from danger. God protects us from all things and all he asks in return is that we talk with him. Pray before a meal, thank God for a friendship, for “The Lord is our salvation.”
By Christopher Langford
Psalm 98 begins with the verse “O sing unto the Lord a new song”. This simplistic statement is profound. It is so short and easy to read that we may be tempted to quickly move on from it without giving it further consideration. Alternatively, some of us may be unsure of the meaning of the new song so we quickly move past trying to interpret it. Yet if this psalm was transformed into a hymn this verse would most certainly be the refrain. Many of the remaining verses in Psalm 98 provide justification for why the whole earth should rejoice and provide praise to the Lord. The great irony coming from this psalm is instead of praise being sung to the Lord upon the remembrance of His mercy, petitions for vengeance continued to be sung by the Israelites. The final verse concludes that all of the earth should be joyful together “Before the Lord, for he come to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.”
All too often anger, sadness, anxiety, and despair supersede our communal joy. Perceptions of inequity are often at the core of our negative emotions. We worked harder than our peers and yet they got promoted, they earned better grades, they received the praise and recognition. We did the right thing, we followed the rules, and yet we are the ones that got in trouble, received punishment, thrown under the bus for the mistakes of others. Does this sound familiar? It has undoubtedly happened to all of us before, and it will happen to most of us again.
A buzzword these days is justice. We throw around this phrase carelessly and convince ourselves our actions promote this noble idea. I am all too guilty of this myself. I tell myself – and my business students at BUA sometimes – I try to promote justice is the classes I teach, in part by assigning grades on an equitable basis. But the truth of the matter is I do a horrible job sometimes in ensuring justice here. Students’ computers crash, their vehicles break down, a few end up sick and even in the hospital sometimes. In these cases, I may elect to extend deadlines and provide make-up exams. Is this promoting justice? I am unsure. I am unsure because I have only a vague idea of what justice looks like and even less definitive information to base my assessments on. Looking at definitions in the dictionary provides limited guidance. For example, Wikipedia defines justice as “just behavior or treatment”. What does just behavior or treatment consist of when my knowledge of any given situation is deficient in some capacity?
Thanks be to God for being the living truth and for discerning the heart and mind of man. Only He is the rightful judge. The closest humans can come to ensuring justice on the earth is to love those around them by extending and encouraging mercy whenever possible. For “with righteousness shall (God) judge the world, and the people with equity”. Let the joy and gratitude that accompanies mercy be the new song we sing. Let us sing this new song unto the Lord.
By Ellen Di Giosia
High above the front door to my house perches a nest made by barn swallows. Every year the birds return for some DIY, rolling pellets of mud in their beaks and shoring up the cup-shaped home. After they line it with feathers and grass, Mama Barn Swallow lays her eggs and the waiting game begins. Both parents guard the nest, and when their precious babies hatch, they will search for food and bring it back. At just the right time, Mama and Papa will nudge their little ones from the nest, give them a few days of flying practice, and then send them out to face the big world.
Our front porch is a very active place with two children and all their friends coming and going, packages (and pizza) being delivered, and the general business of life. I often wonder why the birds have chosen that spot. Wouldn’t a quiet, peaceful place be better? So when the psalmist writes that even the birds have found a safe place in the courts of the Lord, I think, There, silly birds! That’s the place you want to be, not here trembling every time the door slams and trying to sleep through the whoops and hollers of a bunch of kids!
But it’s not the quiet of the sanctuary that draws the birds of Psalm 84, for verse 4 speaks of a house full of people singing the praises of God. The drama and clamor of worship may seem like a strange soundtrack for bird-raising, but somehow they are safe there. And that same background “noise” is right for our own adventures, whether in parenting, work, service or play. Worship is the song that connects us to God in the midst of the busiest times – the way we remember who we are and Whose we are. During this season of self-examination and reflection, let us not forget to worship together, making our little nests in the safe shelter of God.
By Ed Twedt
This beautiful psalm is the story of Israel’s history, beginning with Abraham, and God’s promises to him, and God’s covenant with him. In this poignant psalm, the author asks the offspring of Abraham to remember God’s promises and God’s covenant. The author speaks of God’s covenant as a word God commanded for a thousand generations and as an eternal covenant.
Both of those things caught my eye and my heart as I read through this psalm. Imagine a thousand generations and an eternal covenant. Of course the “thousand generations” is a metaphor intended to reemphasize the eternal covenant. And what, after all, could this have to do with lent? This season should remind us of the promises of God, a season of looking back and looking forward.
The psalmist closes by reminding us that God remembered God’s holy promise, AND God’s servant Abraham as God brought God’s people out “with joy”, “his chosen ones with singing.” We look back on our lives and the history of the church, our church – the church universal – and are reminded that all of that history is our shared history with Israel, and lent points us forward to being brought out with joy and with singing as we anticipate the glory of that Sunday when we will all greet one another with those ancient words of the Church, “He is risen”, and the answer will come back strong, “He is risen indeed.”
It is no accident that the author closes the psalm with that powerful phrase, “Praise the Lord” or Hallelujah, a transliteration of the Hebrew which means literally, “Sing praises to” or “Praises to” and ending with the short form “Jah” for the personal name of God. So let us all sing praises to our God as we remember God’s everlasting covenant with us which points back to God’s promises and forward to God’s finishing of God’s work.