Worship Review AGAIN! 10.25.15 – GUEST POST!!!

Today is the first guest post featured here, and I’m super pumped. Steve led an awesome worship set this past weekend and here are some of his thoughts on the matter. So without further ado…

Also, Sam Jeet made the artwork for this sermon series. More from Sam hopefully this week.
Also, Sam Jeet made the artwork for this sermon series. More from Sam hopefully this week.

Well this is a first FROM me and a first FOR Tommy I believe. It’s an honor to be able to lead God’s people in worship of Him on a Sunday morning, and an honor to share with you the story behind the music. Tommy has shared at length what his process is in choosing songs for our corporate worship service, so I won’t bore you with details. We have a similar process, but our thinking can be quite different. Obviously our prose is quite different, which you’ll see as you read.

We started off at the top of the service with an exclamation, a declaration. We didn’t declare it, but Jesus did when he breathed His last breath on the cross. It Is Finished, was our opening declaration, and we made it joyfully. The rhythms, the upbeat tempo were all intended to be celebratory and joyful. Like a train barreling down the tracks, metaphorically like us often in life, going full steam into our own destruction, we needed God. Our frenzy for an answer to how we can be saved has a simple answer: “There’s no deed that can redeem us, there’s no rite, nor magic word. Only by the work of Jesus can salvation be secured.” We acknowledged our own fruitless pursuit for salvation, and that Jesus is our only hope. The chorus reflects our declaration plainly, “It is finished, He has done it”.

In rehearsal on Thursday we talked about this idea. The idea that He has done it. We didn’t say, He will do it. We said He HAS done it; past tense, complete, finalized. Jesus ended the power of the grave, the power of destruction and brought salvation to all man, Jews and Gentiles. So at this point we should be celebrating, right? I mean, Jesus came and did it, so I don’t have to do anything else. All I’ve gotta do is sit back, watch t.v. and live the easy life…right? Sadly, no. We live in the world, and we have to continually work at our relationship with our Savior. Sorry kids, Santa Clause isn’t real…wait, maybe we’ll save that for a Christmas article in a few months.

Dear Refuge (Come Quickly) put the focus on us and how we respond to God. We already stated we have no power, only He has the power, and now we’re stating, God, we need You. “Come quickly, come quickly, here to my rescue.” I know what you’re thinking, “Steven, I’m not helpless”. I’m sorry, my friend, we most certainly are and we most certainly were. As much as we love to watch stories about super heroes and secretly fantasize that we have super powers; it’s just fiction. It’s just not true. But, good news; Jesus is true, and what He did is true! He forgave us, forever.

Again, that sense of infinite is there again. He died on the cross as the one sacrifice, for all time, for our atonement. We were and are, Forgiven Forever. So much in this song points toward the cross, and the sacrifice Jesus made. “Beautiful the blood, we are forgiven forever…Jesus is risen, Love has overcome.” You might say, “How can blood be beautiful? I’ve seen car wrecks, and pictures of bombings and shootings, and it sickens me Steve.” The answer is simple. Jesus blood washes us clean, and we are covered in it, so that is cannot be washed off. We sang, “No death, nor life, no present or future, no angel, no demon, no power, no creature can take me away from the love that’s in Jesus Christ.”

Wow, that’s a bold statement. Why, yes it is. It’s bold because it is truth. Jesus didn’t fain away from doing what was necessary to save us, and because of His boldness as an example, I say to Him, “You Make Me Brave”. We ended our worship service with this anthem. “You make me brave, You make me brave, You call me out beyond the shore into the waves. You make me brave, You make me brave, no fear can hinder now the Love that made a way.” “It Is Finished” was our opening statement, why? Because that was the beginning, that was the moment that life began for us. We declared it, and then we declared it again in our final line of worship, “Champion of heaven, You’ve made a way for all to enter in.”

We learned, through music and song, what God did, and we can’t thank Him enough. We can never repay Him for His kindness. We are full of doubt, and questions, and God knows this. Ryan brought us a sermon from Luke 5. A story where Simon (Peter) is told to go out into the deep waters and cast his nets again, even after they fished all night and got nothing at all. Simon even declares his doubt to Christ in Luke 5:5, “…Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.” Simon did it, because the Lord asked him to, calling Him, “Master”. In verse 8, after catching so much fish that their boat began to sink from the fullness, Simon changed his tone. He said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” He went from calling Jesus, Master, to calling Him, Lord.

So let’s think about this. Master is a teacher, and we respect our teachers because we’re taught to. But let’s be brutally honest with each other. We didn’t give our teachers sovereignty over our lives. Simon, however, saw the difference and gave his honor to Christ, calling Him, Lord. A term for one who rules. I won’t go further into Ryan’s sermon, as I hope you kept notes and have been reflecting on it in your own studies.

To sum it all up, it was an honor to guide you through what was going through my mind as I chose songs and put together a worship service for you. My hope is that the music, and our songs, didn’t point to me, but pointed you to Christ. My hope is that God was glorified and edified through the talents and abilities of each of the members of the worship team: Jason Juan (drums), Max Reyes (bass), Jay Juan (electric guitar), Frank Long (percussion), and Candace Long (vocals). Our hope and prayer was that you learned about Christ and we did our job, which was simply to praise God. God bless you; thank you for reading.

Worship Review AGAIN! 10.25.15 – GUEST POST!!!

Worship Review 10.25.15 – It Is Finished!

Business In The Front

This weekend we sang the following songs:

  • It Is Finished by Dustin Kensrue (New!)
  • Dear Refuge of My Wear Soul by Trinity Grace Church
  • Forgiven Forever by Glenn Packiam
  • You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music

Here’s a playlist of the tunes we sang. If you like ’em why don’t you go ahead and buy ’em? Yeah, let’s keep these incredibly talented artists and writers able to write and produce great music for the church to sing God’s praises.

Party In The Back

As it goes it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Wrong season, maybe? But the director of “Nightmare Before Christmas” finally admitted that it’s a Halloween movie and not a Christmas movie, and we can all eat as much processed sugar as cheaply as we want on November 1st! Pretty wonderful to me.

Anyways as we sang “It Is Finished” it got me thinking about the upcoming holiday.

satan-is-real-4f85bede88756I realize Christians are divided on Halloween but for me the holiday season starts on October 31st and goes through the end of Epiphany on January 26th. Though, before starting, I want to say that I’m not trying to muddle the occult with Christianity. I realize that the reality of God determines the reality of demons and Satan which are certainly to be feared, fought, and ultimately to be defeated by Christ – the Warrior of God. Bear all that in mind while reading.

Okay, let’s chat Halloween.

“It Is Finished” opens up with these words: “There’s no deed that can redeem us/there’s no rite nor magic word” and while were singing it got me thinking about how it’s easy to invoke the Power of God in the same attitude that magic would invoke another, more sinister power.

There’s a tendancy for the Hocus Pocus of Halloween to sneak it’s creepy little head into the life of the Christian. I find myself thinking that “if I pray X, then Y will happen.” If I say the Lord’s Prayer, while fasting, facing towards Jerusalem, and annoint my head with oil then I’ll be able to harness the power of the Spirit and create a change in the material world. Or, more subtly, if I commit to living my Christian Values then I’ll be blessed. Hocus Pocus religion is just another way of talking about the Law. But the Law is unable to produce what it demands; as we sang, “there’s no rite, nor magic word/ only by the works of Jesus can salvation be secured.”

But October 31st isn’t just Halloween it’s also the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. It’ll be 498 years this Saturday since the Reformation, in some sense, was kicked off.


Luther wrote his theses in response to the church selling indulgences, the idea that salvation can be secured by works of the Law over and above grace alone, and that continuing Christian maturity is a life of constant works to maintain eternal security. For the church of Luther’s day this manifested with the buying and selling of indulgences and other spiritual disciplines dictated by the church and in our day with behavior modification. But as the Apostle Paul says (here and just about everywhere else he writes):

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2.19-20

Christianity is not a to-do list to accomplish, a supernatural experience that changes the natural material world, a transaction between buyer and seller. Christianity is a weary and dried out sinner sick of wandering in a spiritual desert jumping in the fountain of living water and drinking deeply. Christianity is a starving beggar putting down the empty calories of self and feasting at the table of a king. We sang: “There’s no sacrifice to offer/ there’s no penance to complete/ freely drink of living water/ without money come and feast.”

If we were able to produce righteousness by obeying the Law then Christ would have died for nothing. But as he hung on the cross he cried out, “It is finished!” and completed the Law, having lived it perfectly. When we eat at his table and are baptized in his living water we, by faith, are joined into his life, death and ressurection. As we sang, we can “go bravely into battle, knowing he has won the war.” So we can live a life of obedience and righteousness in the confidence that Jesus is already victorious over sin and death, in the confidence that we no longer live but Christ lives in us.

(Did you notice the “Worship Leader, Piano Player Uniform”?)

Worship Review 10.25.15 – It Is Finished!

Worship Review 9.20.15 – Their Own Private Cages

This week we sang, TWICE!, the following songs. I’ve attached a Spotify playlist but if you enjoyed any of the songs consider purchasing them, preferrable directly from the artist:

  • Only King Forever by Elevation Worship
  • Holy by Matt Redman
  • The Glories of Calvary by Sovereign Grace Music, arranged by Norton Hall Band
  • Revelation Song by Jennie Lee Riddle

Jesus Saves” by Gerry Dincher. Copyrighted. Some Rights Reserved.

I did an image search of “Jesus” to find a header image for this post because, hey, why not? And while I was searching I thought to myself, “Well this is revealing.”

I found images of Buddy Jesus, lots of iconography, some stained glass. I found an image of a bobble-head Jesus sipping a pint of beer (though I assume Jesus prefers a dark red cab), a beautifully composed shot of a homeless man (bringing to mind, Matthew 25), Lego Jesus (appalling), and a whole lot of Lily-White Jesus kitsch (even more appalling).

Jesus is an interesting figure in history. Christ, unlike maybe any other person in history, demands consideration. He’s problematic. What do we do with this guy? CS Lewis says we can declare he is either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. I like it though it may be simplistic. We could just as well say he never existed. But arguing such reveals certain prejudices and denies plenty of historical proofs to the contrary. Argue either of these points or any other of the countless points demonstrates my point well. Jesus looms large in our historical and cultural imagination asking us the same question he asked his disciples in Ceasera Phillipi:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16.13-16

Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to build his church and the gates of Hell won’t prevail against it and, in a completely frustrating and baffling moment, says “Don’t tell anybody.” Christ then predicts his own death and ressurection. The Gospel of Mark says that, “he spoke plainly about this.” That didn’t stop Peter from being confused though. Peter had some misconceptions about what it means to be the Son of the living God (don’t we all?) so he rebuked Jesus. Right? Kind of presumptious of Peter, don’t you think? Anyways Peter tells Jesus that Jesus is wrong and that death will never come to Christ. Peter assumed only glory, and a decidedly human glory.

Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Maybe Jesus is suggesting that mere glory is a chiefly human concern. The concerns of God being hard, difficult, and undesirable?

I paraphrased the opening sentence to AW Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy at the start of our time singing:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

It is curious the sort of images I found searching for Jesus. There he was trapped in stained glass and the rigid form of the icons, mocked and marginalized as a bobble head and Lego minifig, turned into a baby kissing cliché, painted to look like a ruggedly good looking white guy, infantilized into Family Friendly propaganda.

No one is immune to projecting their preffered image on to Christ. In my life, I’ve turned Jesus into a social justice humanist, an avid supporter of my political agenda, a doctrine to be defended, an object of my emotional affections, a genie, and plenty of other things that he is definitely not.

In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 photo, a person views two paintings attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn at the “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” exhibit. AP Photo/Matt Rourke Read more: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/8863/rembrandt-and-the-face-of-jesus-in-philadelphia#ixzz3mP0dLzBl
In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 photo, a person views two paintings attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn at the “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” exhibit. AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Read more: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/8863/rembrandt-and-the-face-of-jesus-in-philadelphia#ixzz3mP0dLzBl

After putting Peter in his place Jesus takes him and two others up a mountain. At the top of this mountain Jesus was changed, his face shone like the sun, his clothes becoming like light. Something akin to the description in Revelation 19 when he comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. And then Moses and Elijah appear, plucked out of history

“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'” (Matthew 17.4) Peter, always with foot squarely in his mouth, offers Jesus, Elijah, and Moses the pleasure of building each of them their own private cage.

When we encounter the glory of God we realize that he is too great for us to behold. So we try and put him in a box, etch him in glass, systemize him into a proper orthodoxy, put his face on a poster endorsing our candidate, ignore him and say he enver existed, spring-load his head so that it bobbles on a rough roads, doodle him in the corners of our sermon notes. But he is better than every doodle we could ever imagine of him and he demands an answer of us:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Worship Review 9.20.15 – Their Own Private Cages

Worship Review 9.13.15 – Our Rock and Refuge

I was so encouraged yesterday, our last service before launching two services this coming week, to see God’s people gathered to celebrate what He’s done in our history and looking forward to what He’s planning on doing in the future amongst us. And the food was good, too.

This week we sang the following songs, if you enjoyed them please consider purchasing them to support the artists and ministries that our helping sing God’s praises!

  • “Rejoice” by Dustin Kensrue
  • “Dear Refuge” by Trinity Grace Church
  • “Thank You, God, For Saving Me” by Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham
  • “The Mighty Hand of God” by Citizens & Saints

Here’s a playlist but, seriously, if you enjoyed the songs please consider purchasing them (directly from the artist if at all possible) because Spotify is a poor revenue stream for artists:

12416283244_2e7b56754a_k(‘Crashing Waves’ – Porth Swtan, Anglesey, by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. Copyrighted. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons.

One of my favorite things about New Song Community Church is that when we gather for an hour or so on a Sunday morning it is not in isolation, bound by time, space, and location. But when we gather we’re gathered together with five other campuses, three other venues, and a total of twelve – soon to be thirteen – congregations. Which serves to remind us that not only are we gathered into New Song Community Church, but that the Spirit of the Living God has been, is currently, and will be gathering people of every nation, tribe, and tongue into His unshakeable Kingdom. Our hour or so on Sunday morning is joined together with all the saints through past history and future history.

The worship leaders at each New Song campus are responsible for choosing songs for their congregation, we’re not beholden to what the other campuses and venues are doing. But, we do share with each other what songs we’re all doing on occasion. And a funny thing happened this past weekend. Unbeknownst to the other leaders Inland Hills, Central Campus, Parkside, and our Carlsbad campus all sang “Rejoice.”

The Apostle Paul told the church in Philipi to:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.4-7 NIV

The song is a great reminder that through our ups and downs we’re called to rejoice, again I say rejoice (as the KJV would read), because the Lord is with us and has gone before us.

As we rehearsed what God has done in Inland Hills’ history, celebrating how God has led us, and looked forward to what God will do we joined together, quite literally in song, with the other campuses. We sang alongside Carlsbad as they officially launched and had their grand opening, we sang along Parkside as they celebrated their one-year anniversary in a brand new location, we sang along Central Campus as they celebrated our being the 98th fastest growing church in America!

And though these are all celebrations we’re commended to rejoice in the Lord always. As we looked at our campus’ history a common theme arose: God’s faithfulness. Inland Hills has met in backyards, living rooms, movie theaters, community centers; we’ve had multiple pastors and worship leaders; plenty of transitions; and lots of barbeques. But through it all God has remained worthy of praise and faithful to His call and promise.

We opened our worship set, after reviewing our congregation’s history, with a song that has meant much to me in the past few years: “Dear Refuge.” It’s a retuned hymn from Indelible Grace Music based on the poetry of Anne Steele. The lyrics are not pat easy comfort. The song speaks of our sorrows and complaining and how God both allows, listens to, and attends to in His great mercy for us.

I find it important to be honest in our singing and address where our hearts may be at and though not everyone gathered has had a difficult week I’m guessing that someone has. Regardless of our emotional state walking into service I think it’s important to practice how we respond to God in difficult days so that we’re prepared when they come. And calling out to God is the best response because:

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved;… Joel 2.32a

Joel is quoted in Acts 2.21 by Peter and in Romans 10.13 by Paul.

Our rescue is not predicated on good behavior. Rescue comes when we desperately call out to God when we’ve been backed into a corner by our great enemies, Sin and Self. Rescue comes with our last-ditch cries of “Come Quickly! Come Quickly!” when He hears us and sends His son, Jesus. Who defeated our enemies with death and was raised on the third day victoriously by the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us. After crying out “Come Quickly!” and being saved what else can we say but, “Thank you, God, for saving me”?

When all around us seems thrown to and fro by the storms He remains constant. He is our rock, our refuge. We can rejoice in the Lord always because His rescue is eternal. His mighty, terrible hand has defeated the Enemy and now holds us tenderly but firmly. He will never let us go. We can no more pry our way out of His fingers than we can save ourselves.  As we sang, “even though our hearts are prone to wander we can never run beyond his reach.”

God remains faithful to His call and His promise. He will be faithful to us as individuals and will be faithful to Us, His gathered church. He has led Inland Hills from His first call on the founding pastor, through our adoption by New Song, through moving to Bonsall from Oceanside and from Bonsall to Fallbrook, and He will remain faithful as we go forward by the Spirit’s leading.

Worship Review 9.13.15 – Our Rock and Refuge

Play Ball! (Three Reasons Not To Sing In Church)


Once my dad asked me, “Tommy, when are you gonna start a band and be a rockstar?” Which was weird for me because, confession time, I have no desire to be a rockstar. The full extent of my musical ambition is sitting around the piano with my closest loved ones singing carols and hymns, maybe some American Standard or a Beatles tunes. Ain’t I just so very humble and Norman Rockwell-y?


In high school I was in a music class and another student said to the teacher, “One of the things I really hate seeing is old guys playing songs at open mics. If you haven’t made it by the time you’re 30 you should quit and work in real estate.”

In contempoary society we’ve relegated music to the professionals, to the people who have made it. Music making is for the rock stars, the unprofessional’s job is to listen and purchase. Which is a pretty recent development in history with the advent of new recording and broadcasting technologies. Just a couple of generations ago – and still in many non-western cultures – it is an alien idea that music is for professional performance and communal consumption.

Unfortunately, the idea of making music together is becoming more and more foreign. The following statements are common when I talk about singing in groups to individuals:

  • “The music is too difficult/loud/unfamiliar to sing along, I just like to listen.”
  • “I don’t like those songs so I change the words/sing my own song.”
  • “I’m tone deaf, I can’t carry a tune, the person next to me wouldn’t want to sing.”

I am most grieved when I hear, “The music is too difficult/loud/unfamiliar to sing along.” I must confess, though I said earlier that I don’t want to be a rockstar I do have a performance impulse. I’m an artist and sometimes my personal preference gets in the way of my pastoral responsibility to help us sing the gospel together. Sometimes I’m more excited about the sweet jam the band came up with, or the new hip song I’ve been listening to, or the entertaining emotional experience we’re creating.

These things are not bad in and of themselves but the goal of every worship leader shouldn’t be these cool arrangements, or hip song choices, or entertaining shows. The goal of every worship leader must be all of us singing the gospel together. Let me explain what I mean when I say “all of us singing the gospel together.

In Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul details how the individual Christian life should look, and then he moves through the chapters to talk about how Christian community should look. In the middle of these almost identical chapters there is a shift from the individual to the community:

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18b-20

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17

Paul’s foundation of how Christian community is supposed to begin is not listening to a good concert and lecture, but “one another” singing “among you” the gospel through all sorts of styles of songs. We don’t become better husbands, wives, parents, employees, or more Christlike by simply practicing 7 Easy Steps, we become better by starting with thankful singing.

Marketing agencies and the Bible agree that music is one of the best ways to teach people. Most if not all of the commercials we see are accompanied with music. This is because music goes deeper than any catchphrase ever could. We create mental, emotional, and spiritual bonds to the songs we hear – even more so to the songs we sing. The ad-men want you to be emotionally bonded to their product so that you’ll give them your money.

The Rugged Individualism that would change the words being sung by the congregation, or whole songs, to fit personal preferences is counterproductive to the New Testament goal of singing as an exercise in community buildling.

But far and above the first two comments the most common reason for not singing is also the most untrue. Because music making has been professionalized the myth of being unable to carry a tune or being tone deaf has gained prominence. But carrying a tune, like throwing a curveball, is a learnable skill not an inherrent talent given at birth to Music Geeks and Rock Stars.

When Alyssa and I found out that we were having an Atticus and not a girl* I was terrified that he might grow up and want to play ball. If that day comes I will be able to ask any number of ball throwing people in my life to show me how. I will be able to learn, despite my reservations and the embarrassment of learning a new skill. We’re not unable to carry a tune, we’re just out of practice.

“No, Tommy, I’m tone deaf!

To that I ask: “Are you able to distinquish melody, harmony, rhythm when listening to the radio or does music sound like static to you?” If music sounds like cacophonous nonsense when you listen you may be tone deaf but if you can distinguish music from noise then you’re unfortunately not tone deaf.

When we gather together on Sundays it is to proclaim the glory of God, to confess to one another, to be assured of God’s great grace for us in Jesus Christ, and to proclaim that message to those far from God. We sing together and the message of Christ burrows deep into our minds and hearts. On Monday when we’re prone to wander the Spirit sings those songs to our desperate hearts.

Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.


*Daughters are just as capable of wanting to go throw the ball around with Dad as sons.

Play Ball! (Three Reasons Not To Sing In Church)

Worship Review 7.19.15 – Big 80 Yard Play

After a week stuck in bed, unable to eat, and missing the best week in our church year (Kids Camp), it was a joy to at least be able to worship together with my church family. I owe my good friend and fellow worship leader, Anthony Giannell, a huge thanks for leading in my place this weekend and just killing it.

The songs we sang this week were:

  • God is Alive by Fee
  • Only King Forever by Elevation Worship
  • Unstoppable God by Elevation Worship (NEW!!)
  • Cornerstone by Hillsong
  • Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin

Check out this playlist and if you feel so disposed please purchase these tunes from the artists:


So, I’ve crafted this lovely personal mythology about myself where I know nothing about sports. I make jokes where I ask if touch downs are from lacrosse, or if a homerun is what somebody scores in soccor, or you get it… I’m the only one who thinks it’s funny. Well me and the guys so full of Gatorade that they think piano playing, poetry writing sissies like me don’t know anything about sports. But the truth is I used to play Sport.

I started on the offensive line for my freshman football team. It is there that the myth began. The team I started on was crazy good. We scored a grand total of 330+ points that season and only had 30 something scored against us. Most games ended 60 to 0, in favor of the Freshmen Hampshire Whip-Purs.

Whippur 002

(No joke my school mascot was the Whip-Pur. And this it. A giant purple cat. In the building where I went to middle school and high school there was a bipedal purple panther with a whip and chaps. Go team!)

Our strategy for winning everything like it was our job was this: no big plays. The strategy was to march down the field. Every four plays if you’ve taken at least ten yards you get to start over with play number one. So our coach said, if you get three yards every play you’ll eventually score and the other team will not get many chances to have the ball. And of course the defense’s job when the other team (probably the rotten Genoa “Gogs” or Burlingtong “I Forgets” – because the midwest has awful mascots) was to keep pushing in the same direction so that they would loose yards. It was common to hear the announcer yell: “Taken down by a WAALLLLLLLL OF WHIP-PURRRRRRRRRRSSSS!”

We had an excellent QB, Jacob Goebbert, who could launch that ball like a rocket. And our running back, Eric Finn, was a tank. But, the coach was reticent to let them go for big plays, despite the whole team begging them because once the ball is in the air it belongs to whoever catches it. As fun and exciting as that it is games don’t get won 60+ to nothing that way.

March down the field was the name of the game. It was good strategy and it won games but man was it boring to watch.

What does this have to do with yesterday’s worship?

Well not much and everything. It has more to do with my frame of mind as a worship pastor than it does with yesterday’s actual experience which I thought was far from boring. Anthony and the team killed it. I can think of moments where each musician really shined and together they rocked. And the sermon was top-notch, Alyssa and I were greatly encouraged in our marriage. So, yesterday’s service is not neccessarily what I’m talking about. Though it falls into my thinking.

When I was interviewing for New Song, and every other worship leading position I’ve ever had, I was asked this question: “When was a time you led people to the Throne Room?” For reference, I think they’re talking about Isaiah 6 when in a fit of worship the prophet is swept up to the throne room, or Revelation where the revelator is taken to the throne room on the “Lord’s Day.”

When have I taken someone to the throne room? Never. Not my job. Can’t do it. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But, I think the question reveals common expectations for gathered worship: emotional and ecstatic like a Big 80 Yard Play.

If I’m honest, when church doesn’t feel like the road to Damascus and God doesn’t knock me off my horse with a blinding light and say, “Tommy! You have a special destiny, a purpose driven blah blah blah!” then it feels like a waste of time. Or at least that’s what my gut feels but that’s not actually what I think.

During the sermon Ryan keyed in to a truth about marriage that I think is true of our whole lives, and especially of our worship. He said something along the lines of: “What if Heaven, not marriage, is where I find eternal joy? What if marriage is a class? A practicum?”

Sub out marriage for life.

Pastor Eugene Peterson wrote a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, and if that gem of a title weren’t enough he says this:

There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.

What if life and every simple Sunday is a practicum for Heaven? What if the ordinary act of showing up to sing some songs regardless of how they make us feel, to greet our friends, receive communion and baptism, and hear from the Word regardless if there are seven, easy to follow applications were enough? What if each Sunday was a march down the field to Heaven?

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16


That’s my little brother, The Chosen One, not me being a super star. After my freshman year of football I quit playing and started calling sports “Sport” and mixing up what happens in each. I quit because towards the end of the season our coach pulled us together after another spectacular win and said, “Boys! These are the best days of your life!” And I thought to myself, “Oh Cuss! I can’t peak at 14!” So I quit.

I still have a couple of decades before I’ll peak.

Worship Review 7.19.15 – Big 80 Yard Play

Worship Review 6.28.15 – Inside Out

After a Sunday off celebrating our anniversary and Father’s Day it was a blessing to be back in worship!

This past weekend we sang the following tunes, please consider purchasing them if you enjoyed them to support the artists who are blessing the church:

  • “O Praise Him” by David Crowder Band
  • “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin
  • “If You Wash Us” by Tommy Welty
  • “Rejoice” by Dustin Kensrue
  • “Glory is Yours” by Elevation Worship

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

If you haven’t seen Pixar’s newest classic “Inside Out” you’re in sin. Also, beware potential spoilers for that movie and other Pixar films.

Like I wrote earlier I watch too many cartoons for being such a serious burly manly man but this next opinion is a fact: Pixar is just far and above the best company producing cartoons right now. Who can argue against a catalog that includes the Toy Story Trilogy, “Wall-E,” “Ratatouille,” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles.” The guy who directed “Inside Out”, Pete Docter, also directed “Up!” and who can forget the sob fest that was the first ten minutes of that movie? I mean what cartoon starts with a lifelong love story, that features either infertility or a miscarriage and then the death of a beloved spouse? Which cartoon includes those things at all?

There’s a prevailing idea in the world that children, and thus adults, need to be protected from harsh reality. Author of “Where the Wild Things Are” (a truly terrifying classic) Maurice Sendak writes:

Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious — and what is too often overlooked — is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.

Pixar knows this when they make movies. Their films are honest. They approach the “Wild Things” of everyday life through the fantastic and the simple. While cartoons from lesser – my opinion (still fact) – production companies try to protect children, and us, from complex and difficult reality Pixar rushes in and grabs all our tears and yanks ’em out. And “Inside Out” is no different.

“Inside Out” maybe more than the others demands of us to deal with our inner life. Considering it’s outward narrative of a young girl moving to a new town is not all that profound though the movie is. The dual narrative, one which is common and the other profound, allows us to reach into our minds and hearts and examine our inner lives. The movie demands us to address all of our emotions, not just the ones we enjoy. With the final statement that sadness is valid, and important. We need sadness. Big spoilers: Joy needs sadness. We can’t hide our unpleasant and unwanted emotions in a chalk circle.

Pixar Post - Inside Out Joy Cheers Up Sadness

What all does this have to do with yesterday’s worship service?

Everything. I’m tempted most weeks, every week, to prepare happy set lists. Pick the top performing song on Air1 or K-Love (“Oceans” it is always “Oceans”) and play that as fast and as happy as possible with a big cheesy grin and a few catchphrases between verses: “Isn’t God just swell? Sing with me!”

I finished writing “If You Wash Us” over two years ago. When I write (a song, a poem, a short story) I go through a lot of revisions. A single poem or song can take me months to write until I’m comfortable enough to share it with Alyssa, let alone the rest of the world. “If You Wash Us”, a song meant for gathered worship, was at that point over two years ago.

But it’s not an easy song to sing. Its not a big radio hit, its not a happy melody, the harmonies are harsh, and lyrically it looks right into the depth of things and says: “You’re messed up.” And it never resolves. There is no happy ending. Just a cry for help and then the song ends.

For the past two years I’ve kept it in a chalk circle in the other room, hopefully shielding myself and New Song Inland Hills from having to look inward and examine what we find. It’s apparent that we’re comfortable with sin, like I joked in service, I’m on Facebook. We just wrongly assume that sin is a germ Out There and its trying to infect us. But the reality is that sin is a sickness in us infecting the rest of the world.

Like Pixar has been demanding us to do since Toy Story first came out twenty years ago – we need to look at the difficult things in us. We’ve all had hard weeks and it’s tempting to ask church to protect us from that reality. And what about the guests? We don’t want to bum them out! But I’m starting to think we all need catharsis.

Martin Luther writes in “The Bondage of the Will:”

There is no cure until the disease is diagnosed.

So we confess our sins in church. We let that bad feeling out of its circle. Because stories, fantasy, and play are “…the best means [we] have for taming Wild Things.” But our liturgies and ordinary means of grace – reading the word, our songs, our prayers, communion, baptism, etc – is where the Holy Spirit tames us Wild Things.


Worship Review 6.28.15 – Inside Out