Our Hidden Hallelujah

I didn’t grow up with this thing called liturgy and with the church calendar. Clearly along the way I became something of a fan. I don’t currently serve in a liturgical tradition but I do let my novice understanding have influence on how I plan services and how I order my private spiritual life.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. As I understand it this is a season of corporate repentance. Or, this is the time when we, the big-c Church, say we’re sorry and turn from our wicked ways. In some Ash Wednesday services some churches will “bury” a banner that reads “hallelujah” and will spend the next season mourning. The cross in the church will be draped in black and nary a whisper of PTL! will be heard those forty-six days leading up to Easter Sunday.

Lent is a time to recognize our own mortality, that the odds are not in our favor. Most people die. And those who do, well… For the wages of sin is death. Lent culminates with the events of Holy Week – Palm Sunday when a king is announced, Maundy Thursday when a kingdom is inaugurated, Good Friday when the king is killed, and Holy Saturday when we sit in disbelief. The Lenten season ends remembering that God has gotten His feet dirty with the same dirt we do and ultimately has died the death we’ve earned.

And so Christians of all stripes will be taking the next few weeks to fast and confess. In the words of Kendrick Lamar: I am a sinner who’s probably gonna sin again. Lord, forgive me. Lord, forgive me.

So, I know the Bible says we should pray and fast in secret but… Stop reading my diary? I’m not sharing this so that you’ll think I’m super spiritual, though my sinful nature does hope that. Forgive me. And I’m not fasting to gain any favor from God or to get anything from Him, I don’t think that’s how fasting works.

My hope in writing is that it’ll act as an invitation to join me this year in focusing on the finished work of Christ on the cross. That you will join me in carving out some sacred space in the year to reflect on what God has done because of what we’ve done.

Last year Alyssa and I abstained from meats and sweets to middling success. Lent isn’t really about being successful. Quite the opposite, really. This year we’ll also abstain from alcohol.

There’s a rich symbolism in what we eat. Meat, sweets, alcohol all suggest feasting. And feasting suggest some sort of victory. But the war between Satan, Sin, Death and God was not won by our efforts but by the willful death of Jesus. In Deuteronomy the Israelites are reminded of when God was victorious for them over Egypt and Pharaoh, this was quoted by Jesus while he fasted in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan:

[God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8.3 NIV

When we fast we’re reminded that victory belongs to God and God alone.

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1954 Food Ad, Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. May 11,2014. Classic Film, Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

 

Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends; for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers and pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God when we are desirous of confessing our guilt before him.

John Calvin, Institutes, IV.12, 14, 15 

Join me this Lenten season in making some time to remember what Christ has done on our behalf.

Glenn Packiam, the songwriter behind “Forgiven Forever”, wrote in his blog yesterday that… “the point of starving one appetite is to feed another. The void created by expelling our demons (figuratively speaking) must be filled by ‘whatever is pure and noble’.” James KA Smith in his book Desiring the Kingdom writes about the Christian tradition of confessing that “…the practice does not leave us in despair, but rather gives us hope, assuring us of forgiveness and reminding us that the curse is being rolled back.” (181)

This season we’re entering is a hard season. A time of reflection, repentance, and confession. It is difficult to recognize fault, harder yet to admit it. But we’re not without hope. Though we enter into a season where we confess from the ashes we’ve come, to the ashes we’ll go and though we’ve hidding our hallelujah the sun will rise on Easter Sunday, Death itself will start working backwards, and we’ll sing once again Jesus Christ is risen today! Hallelujah! 

It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.

– Aslan (CS Lewis) The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

 

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Our Hidden Hallelujah

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.

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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 8.16.15 – Galatians One and The Story of Everything

Sunday was quite the day! Alongside leading worship at Inland Hills I also had the pleasure of preaching at our College/Young Adult Ministry – Elevate. Normally after worship I like to write a review on a theme from the morning, and (this has happened only once, but will happen at least twice more this year – maybe more) after preaching I like to give a few extra resources that coincide with the message. This week I’ll do both, and it’ll be all over the map.

1. At NSIH we sang:

  • “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin
  • “Man of Sorrows” by David Potter
  • “Forgiven Forever” by Glenn Packiam
  • “The Mighty Hand of God” by Citizens & Saints
  • …and we were going to sing but didn’t, “Glory is Yours” by Elevation Worship.

All but one of these tunes were written by artists that serve in the local church, and the one that wasn’t is writing songs that will be remembered in history alongside Charles Wesely, Isaac Watts, The Gaithers, and more. So, attached is a Spotify playlist but please, please, please purchase these songs and albums so they’ll all continue making great music.

2. After I finishing my study of a particular scripture for preaching I make a playlist that serves as background music and inspiration while I write out my manuscript. For this past Sunday I created a playlist with several songs based on Psalm 23 and a tune for every single pop culture reference I wrote into the manuscript and there were a lot considering that I was talking about everything. It is one of the most fun and the weirdest playlists I’ve ever made. Enjoy!

3. At NSIH we began our sermon series on the book of Galatians which just so happens to be one of my all time favorite books of the Bible. Or, at least it is this year. In the spring, when kings go to war, I had the serendipitous pleasure of studying Galatians (which is great because in a few weeks I’m preaching) and in my study I read Martin Luther’s Commentary on Glatatians. Which had a huge influence on me, check out my post “The Glorious “And Yet!” of God” to see how. Luther’s Commentary is surprisingly accessable considering it was written in 15th Century Germany by a theological titan. Anyways, I found an abridged version by a Lutheran Middle School ministry from Michigan named RJ Grunewald that is available as a free PDF, a $2.99 Kindle e-Book, or a print edition for $14.99.

4. Speaking of abridged versions, earlier this week I wrote an abridged version of my sermon and posted it to the blog. I think it is well worth the read if you’ve not already read it, “The Story of Everything.” Unfortunately, the full sermon was not recorded so I can’t share that. If your appetite is whetted or your curiosity piqued feel free to email me at: tommy.welty@gmail.com and I’ll happily email you the PDF of my manuscript and you can take the approximately 36 minutes it would take to read that. Or, you could read the abridged blog.

5. So, it probably comes as no surprise but I’m particularly interested in writing. My studying creative writing greatly influenced the sermon at Elevate and there’s a handful of books that have meant a lot to me at different times as a writer. None of these are Christian books, or, even remotely Christian, but each is worth reading if you’re curious about the process.

6. Towards the end of my sermon, about the last ten minutes or so, I attempted to teach the entirety of the Bible’s narrative. I did alright, but in that short of time it is really actually impossible to do – so it was mostly just super general themes and events. I missed a lot. I missed most things, but “A+” for effort. Anyways, I stumbled upon this great resource Monday morning after preaching, “The Bible Project.” After checking it out I could not more fully recommend it. They are creating animated videos as overviews to each book of the Bible and different systemic themes of the scriptures. Here’s their intro to “Leviticus” and to “Holiness.”

7. My birthday was this past weekend and my mom flew out to celebrate and to hear me preach, which was wonderful. I read a poem by poet Wendell Berry Sunday night. Here’s another of his from the Poetry Foundation, where you can read many other poems by Wendell Berry and a great magnitude of other poets.

This poem delightfully captures the maternal grace and love of God. I see Alyssa loving Atticus like this, and know that my mom has loved me like this, and all the more that Christ has loved us like this:

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8. Two summers ago I made the attempt to read the book of Psalms each month, I read the psalter three times totally that summer and a few times since. It’s an incredible emotional and spiritual experience. I would encourage everybody to take a few months to reading and rereading the Psalms. The best method in my opinion is in months that have 30 days read five psalms everyday, excluding Psalm 119 because of it’s length. And I’d suggest not reading them in order, though that works too, but rather reading them scattershot so that you can capture the breadth of the book and capture themes. The best way to do this would be on day one reading Psalm 1, Psalm 31, Psalm 61, Psalm 91, Psalm 121; and Day Two – Psalm 2, Psalm 32, Psalm 62, Psalm 92, Psalm 121; etc. So, whichever calendar day you’re on read that Psalm and then add 30 for the next, then 30 more… and so on. Then on the months with 31 days read only Psalm 119 on the 31st.

9. Really, everbody should read Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians:

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

I mean… Come on, what’s holding you back?

10. When a sheep had left the flock three times a shepherd would break its legs so that it couldn’t leave, and then carry the sheep the rest of the way. After being broken the location of the bone’s fracture would heal and never break again in the same spot. After a sheep had had its leg broken and been carried through the healing process with it’s ear so close to the shepherd’s mouth it would never leave the safe comfort of the shepherd’s voice.

Before the cross became the preeminate image of Christianity this image was, or a variation on it:

good-shepherd-2

Christ is carrying us in our brokeness, healing us and leaving the fracture stronger than it was before. As we read the Psalms, pray, study scripture like Galatians, worship in song, take communion, celebrate God’s Spirit is whispering in our ears, revealing Christ to us:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Worship Review 8.16.15 – Galatians One and The Story of Everything

Worship Review 6.14.15 – Dragon Skin

An honest confession: I’m incredibly proud of yesterday’s service.

There were two moments where that made me proud as an artist and a pastor.

The first was the Oasis trailer. One of the goals for the Oasis Conference is that we’d all be refreshed by the end. So, I decided to play up the beach theme and there you have it…

As the video was drawing to a close I heard audible sighs of relief and then people giggling as they realized that multiple people sighed.

That was a nice, proud moment.

Oasis is going to be amazing. The conference is Thursday and Friday, August 6th and 7th from 3p-9p. The cost is $25 which covers dinner both nights, snacks, printed materials, liscencing and more…

Right now, while you’re thinking about it, register here: newsongchurch.com/oasis


This weekend we sang:

  • “Psalm 100” by Chris Tomlin
  • “Glory to God Forever” by Fee
  • “If You Wash Us (Psalm 51)” by Tommy Welty (New!)
  • “Forgiven Forever” by Glenn Packiam
  • “This is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham

Please consider purchasing these to support the artists. Well, except for one. If you’d like to listen to it this week email me at tommy@newsongchurch.com for a VERY rough demo.


There’s a line in “Glory to God Forever” that makes all the hands go up in the air: “Take my life and let it be all for you and for your glory!” Which is a great and dangerous prayer. But to be honest, it makes me uncomfortable.

There are times when I’m singing that line where I think to myself, “My life has a special purpose.” That’s right, as I’m worshipping God I’m tempted to think about my life and its great purpose. #ironic

But when I encounter the glory of God a spotlight shines deep into my heart and reveals all the uglies that I hide deep down there. God takes my life and I’m first undone, it is too unbearable to behold.

God’s glory shouldn’t first lead to mission, but to confession. Or, it should. It might not be God’s glory if it doesn’t. It might just be emotions.

I wrote “If You Wash Us (Psalm 51)” years ago and have been too nervous to introduce it for two reasons. First, I’m a coward.  Secondly, the lyrical content is a tough pill to swallow. Every week I try and add an element of confession or an acknowledgement of sin, but usually it’s couched in the lyrics or a prayer. And usually I try and soften the blow – also cowardly.

As we were singing I felt the weight of my sin pressing me down. There was no room to think, “Hey! This past week I did alright. I’m a pretty okay guy. Aren’t you impressed God?” No softening the blow.

But as the bridge (“For the sake of Your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy and forgive us…”) built to its climax and released into the Doxology (“Praise God from whom all blessing flow…”) I felt the catharsis of the Spirit revealing my sin and showing me the Cross that removed it from me.

I was reminded of a scene from CS Lewis’ “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:”

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.  You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place.  It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

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Bryan Chappel writes in his book, “Christ-Centered Worship:”

We run to his arms with our sin-sick hearts because we know that there is grace sufficient, boundless, and free already there. We repent because we are forgiven, not to gain forgiveness. In our confession we experience God’s love because we confront out sin with the greatness of mercy that is already ours through faith in Christ, but we do not earn, gain, or force God’s pity by the words or weight of our confession.

So we sang “Forgiven Forever” to remember there is nothing we do, or leave undone, that can separate us from the love found in Christ Jesus. No angel, no devil, nor my best effort could. Because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross we are forgiven forever.

Worship Review 6.14.15 – Dragon Skin

Worship Review 4.19.15

If you’re curious about the songs we sang this past weekend check out this playlist on Spotify, and if you enjoy any of the songs please consider supporting the artists and purchasing the music.


Little-Angel-Wallpaper-angels-8047805-1024-768


Isaiah 6.1-8 is a touchstone in my life as a worship pastor and there’s a specific motion in the passage that I think is paramount to the motion of worship.

Isaiah sees the Lord in His glory. He hears the song of the angels – a song not about the angel’s worship, or Isaiah’s efforts, but about the character of God alone – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord almighty!” Because of the Lord’s glory Isaiah trembles and is sorrowful due to his sin. Isaiah is no slouch, he’s good dude. Isaiah is awarded audience with the Lord, and not just anybody gets that honor. So what chance do we have? But we must remember that no one is righteous, no not one and in the midst of the Lord’s glory Isaiah trembles. But, God makes a way. An angel of the Lord takes away Isaiah’s guilt and sin. Only then is Isaiah freed from his fear and able to do the work of the Lord.


How about bullet points?

  • God’s Glory
  • Realization of Sin
  • Forgivness of Sin
  • Sending

Keep this in mind as you read:

Any time you see in scripture something repeated three times it’s to indicate great importance. Of God’s attributes the one that is most oft repeated in triplets is His holiness. God is first and foremost holy, and all His other qualities flow from that. His justice, His love, His wrath, His kindness, His mercy, His gospel are all rooted in His holiness. Every song we sang this weekend was chosen to paint an image of God’s holiness and see ourselves firmly rooted in that holiness.


God’s Glory

When we consider the heavenlies and angels there’s a temptation to imagine domesticated, pastel, kitschy naked babies with adorable dove wings. And, Oooo! Oooo! I just want to pinch it’s cheeks. But, the images of angelic beings given throughout scripture should terrify us.

Angels are weird.

18130(From “A Wind in the Door” by Madeleine L’Engle)

Their song in Isaiah doesn’t make just make the ground shake, their song makes the very frame of Heaven shake and fills the throneroom of God with smoke.

Our worship of God should not begin with how much we love to dance, or raise our hands, or how loud we sing, or how undignified we’re gonna be.* Our worship of God begins with a healthy dose of fear and trembling at His character.

Each of the songs this weekend had imagery that should cause us to stutter and pause. We sang that God has “eyes like fire, face like the sun, a voice like thunder” and that He is “clothed in rainbows of living color, flashes of lightning, and rolls of thunder.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Our imaginations should be enflamed with visions of grandeur and wonder when we consider The Lord.

Realization and Forgivness of Sin

The cornerstone of the Isaiah passage is when he says:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

and then an angel removes Isaiah’s sin and guilt.

The angel makes a one-time payment for Isaiah’s sin but we have it even better. God himself, Jesus Christ, makes a once-and-for-all payment for the sins of the world. Behold! The Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world!

We entered into the story of Isaiah with song and we sang: “Once we were lost and so far away, wandering in darkness, covered in shame with out you. But now we’ve been found by a love that is stronger!”

Because of Christ’s blood shed on the cross and his ressurrection we’re forgiven – not just for the forseeable future but forever. All our past, present, and future sins have been removed from us and we have no right of ownership to that sin. It has been purchased with a love greater than the universe’s weight in gold.

Sending

Unfortunately, beyond mine and Ryan’s control, we were unable to finish the story of Isaiah. We were going to finish the passage and pray for a couple that our campus is going to send to our new church plant. But because of a health issue the couple we would be praying for were unable to make it to church.

But, every service we plan ends with Ryan sends out the congregation with a benediction based on the sermon.


The template laid out here is how I try and plan each service and it was a pleasure to get to do that in an obvious manner this past Sunday. I enjoyed singing and living through the passage with all of you!


 *To be fair, I’m a David Crowder Band fanboy and have enjoyed many worship service that included this song. There is obvious room in a service to sing about our participation in the gospel.

Worship Review 4.19.15