Hallelujah! Oh What a Savior!

Walking off the platform after we were done singing in Sunday’s service my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. There was much joy in the room.

There was an attempt to write a nice devotional review with thoughts about theology and scripture and all that but it wasn’t any good. So instead I’d like to to confess some sin, no joke, and give you a sneak peek into what goes on in the heart of this worship pastor, particularly this past weekend. Don’t continue reading if you’d rather not see me at one of my many worsts. Remember this is basically my diary. Except manlier. Much manlier. I have a beard.

There’s been a lot on my mind lately and a frenetic sort of anxiety behind the scenes so coming to Sunday morning I was not totally spiritually or emotionally ready. The service felt prepared in haste and though Thursday’s rehearsal went well and the tunes that were picked were enjoyable I wasn’t expecting much of the service. It had fallen to the periphery.

So showing up to church to set up and rehearse Sunday morning I was unprepared for what would happen. I was a bit curmudgeonly as we practiced and we worked our way through the tunes quickly. “It’ll be a good service if not a bit forgettable,” I figured. When there are 52 services a year they can kind of blur together. The biggies stick out – Christmas Eve, Easter, Baptism Sundays, etc. – but typical weeks can be a bit rote. Not that there’s a problem with that, one can appreciate a good routine. But, God’s surprising grace – and isn’t grace always surprising? – took me this past week.

We read the first five verses of Psalm 105 to begin our time singing:

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

Psalm 105.1-5

Let those who seek the Lord rejoice. In all the frenzy and worry I’ve not done well seeking the Lord. The work that needs to be done, the calls that need to be made, the plans that need to be executed, the meetings attended have crowded out what God has been doing in our midsts.

But, trusting the band this week eased some worry about how the team sounded. Usual worry quenches the Spirit’s work faster than a speeding bullet on Sunday mornings. Playing music and leading a band is an incredible task. If I can whine for a moment: At any given moment my hands are doing opposing tasks at the same time akin to rubbing you stomach and patting your head, my feet are as well – one is keeping me balanced so I don’t fall over and the other my pedal work – it’s a bit like hopping on one foot for 20 minutes; I’m reading music while reading lyrics while reading the crowd; I’m singing – which means not only am I thinking about what notes I’m playing and when I’m playing them I’m also thinking about what notes and words I’m singing and when I’m singing them and I’m thinking about what each band member and vocalist is doing and cuing them telepathically; all the while I’m supposed to be thinking about just how swell Jesus is.

Sorry for complaining, really sorry, all that is to say that a worship leader can be like a duck kicking my legs beneath the water. When I let my prideful heart take over – which is 99.99999999% of the time – I get consumed by the physical and mental task. And it is sinful love of Self doing that. I think the success of any given Sunday is dependant not on the finished work of the cross and the Spirit ministering to us through song, word, and deed but on mine and the band’s musical performance. And that our performance as a team is dependant on my musical and leadership skills. It’s not, but my heart is so addicted to the sin of Self that I think it is.

But like what was mentioned earlier I gave into trusting the band and not worrying so much this Sunday. It wasn’t a noble trust, more just a distracted giving up. So – still sinful. But in giving up my worry we played excellently. Not that the music ultimately matters. What matters is that in our singing we were able to remember God’s wonders, miracles, and judgements as Psalm 105.5 directs us to.

Before each service the band gathers on the stage to pray and because I like routine we pray some version of the following:

Father, thank you for the gifts you given this band. Let the work of our hands not be to our glory but to the glory of Your Son. Open our eyes and lift our heads to behold your glory.

Something like that.

And this past week – like He does every week, even though I may not be paying attention – He did just that.

The Holy Spirit took shocking advantage of my inattentivness to Self. He took what was unintentionally meant for ill and used it for His good. He answered that usual prayer loudly. He yelled in my ear – God is so good! God is so good! God is so good! Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always and He pried open my eyes that I would look on His wonderous deeds and rejoice.

And it was perplexing. Flummoxing. In light of who God is and what He’s done little is left to say. The songs we sang this weekend gave life to this flabbergasted amazement that is best expressed simply – Grace, what have you done? Too much to make sense of it all! ‘Man of Sorrows’ What a name! Hallelujah! What a savior! Hallelujah! What a Savior! Thank you, God, for saving me! THANK YOU GOD FOR SAVING ME! THANK YOU GOD! THANK YOU GOD!

There is great joy in Self-forgetfulness especially when the object that replaces Self is God. It’s too much to make sense of it all. It’s overwhelming. Like that first kiss at the altar it leaves you breathless. In His grace and kindness is inexplicable joy. There duty and work become play and dance. It makes you smile. So what left is there to say?

Hallelujah! Oh what a savior!

[073/365] Joy. August 25, 2009. Leland Francisco. Some Rights Reserved.
If you’d like to keep singing, and who could blame you, here’s the songs we sang this weekend: 

  • Say the Word by Hillsong
  • Scandal of Grace also by Hillsong
  • Man of Sorrows by David Potter
  • Thank You, God, For Saving Me by Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham
  • Glory is Yours by Elevation Worship

Now go buy the songs and may God cause His face to shine upon you.

Hallelujah! Oh What a Savior!

All of this?! Mine! All Mine!

I can remember the first time I heard God of Wonders sung in church.

I hated it.

This was around the time I started questioning why we sang what we did in church and my young, untrained mind was particularly offended by singing about universes and galaxies.

“Sacrilege!” I said to myself in my best Lewis Black impression, “God isn’t in space! That’s preposterous!


Eventually I grew up and God of Wonders became one of my favorite worship tunes but the desire to say God isn’t somewhere is tempting still. “That’s Christian, that’s secular,” the old refrain goes. It’s easy to guess that the song with no minor chord, or the book cover with heavily-clad Amish girls  are “Christian” and what’s “secular” is actually entertaining.

Sorry, that’s an obvious oversimplification but I think you get where I’m going with this without my continuing rudeness.

It’s easy to divide up pop-culture and say what belongs to God and what doesn’t. But the divide shows up subtly in the rest of our lives too. Rushing rivers, storms on the oceans, purple mountain’s majesty – all God’s. Nebraska? Nope, completely Godless. Joy? Ecstasy? Outrage at Starbucks? Godly emotions. Boredom? That’s got nothing to do with God.

But Psalm 24 begins, “The earth is LORD’s and the fulness thereof” (KJV) which Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, rephrases this way:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

The angels in Isaiah 6 were singing around God’s throne: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” God’s reach is, sorry Little Tommy, beyond the heavens and spinning galaxies and it reaches down, claiming every atom as his own. Poet Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

All things great and small; all the beasts of the fields and all that swims in the sea; every creeping, crawling bug in the dirt and every blue jay nesting in the tree; each bored moment checking Facebook again and each work meeting that could’ve been an email; every song on your iPod and every movie on Netflix; each wedding, each funeral, and each moment in-between; you, your family, your neighbor, your enemy; all of it, every last bit of it, belongs to God.


We opened our time of singing by not singing but by watching a video my friend Aimee showed me called “YHWH” by the YHWH Project. It’s an animated spoken word piece that I think stretched my image of God and what is His or isn’t. Listening to it sounded like reading the last few chapters of Job or the Psalms. From there we moved to singing God of Wonders: “Lord of all creation”, “God of Wonders beyond our galaxy”, “Hallelujah! To the Lord of Heaven and Earth” ending at “Hallelujah! Oh what a savior!” when we sang Man of Sorrows.

It would be easy, easy, easy to say everything is God’s, the earth is full of His glory, that the world is charged with His grandeur and yet actually lose sight of God. His transcendant qualities making Him seem distant, far-off, and abstract and though He is those things He is also not just that. The Lord of All Creation who spoke and set all things in motion, the God of Wonders who has told the mountains how high and the valleys how low they will go, who by His very nature demands praise, wonder, and awe, this same God can be pinpointed at an exact moment in human history. But unlike the old gods sitting up there on their mountains who only meddled in human affairs when they had something to benefit the God I’m speaking of enterted into the human story when there was only sorrow to gain.

Our time together singing/watching that video began with a time to engage our imaginations and enlarge our view of God and then narrow in with each song until we ended singing the praises of a particular person, Jesus Christ – the man of sorrows, who existed in a particular moment in time in a particular place on Earth and did a particular thing.

You can learn more about the YHWHproject at yhwhproject.org. There you can read the actual poem. In this instance, I think the poem yields more rewards when read instead of being simply heard. Or, at least different rewards. The more I’ve watched and read it the more I’ve enjoyed it.

We sang the following songs alongside the video:

  • Open Up Our Eyes by Elevation Worship
  • God of Wonders by Third Day (and everybody else from 20 years ago)
  • Man of Sorrows by David Potter
  • God is Alive by Fee

Attached is a playlist from Spotify but why don’t you just go ahead and give these songs a purchase.

All of this?! Mine! All Mine!

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:


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:


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 4.26.15 – Lord of the Storm

This weekend we sang:

  • “Rejoice” by Dustin Kensure
  • “Behold Our God” by Sovereign Grace Music
  • “Man of Sorrows” by David Potter
  • “Grace Alone” by The Modern Post

Below is a playlist of the four songs we sang this week. Each song is written and produced by independant artists and guys who work for the local church. If these are songs you enjoy please consider purchasing them so that these artist will continue to write great songs for God’s children to sing.


Normally, I’d like to write something about how our songs fit together and how they played with the sermon in a harmonious way. But, not today.

Yesterday was a special service, due to circumstances beyond our control – ah, the life of the renter – we had a lovely outdoor service.

I never seriously considered rain (I’m certain Ryan did, he tends to thinks these things through) because we live in Southern California and we’re currently exeperiencing a severe drought. And when the sun shines constantly you begin to forget it. But, lo and behold, we had Weather this weekend.

In Southern California just the threat of rain feels apocalyptic. All weekend the clouds towered above the earth. As they grew larger and darker they loomed threateningly. They swelled beyond capacity with rain and burst. Some time on Saturday night I texted Ryan: “What’s our Plan B?”

On that day, when evening had come, he [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Mark 4.35-38 ESV

“Do you not care that we are perishing?” When I’m feeling bruised and tired, when the candle has been thoroughly burned through on both ends, when I feel like giving up it’s beyond tempting to demand of God, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

It’s not tempting, it’s reality. I assume a defiant posture shaking my fists at the heavens. I begin to believe God is up there without a care in the world and we’re down here stuggling to no end. “Why have you forgotten me?” I cry, joining the Psalmist:

Deep calls to deep
as the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the LORD commands his
steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?”
Psalm 42.7-9a ESV

Is God sleeping below deck and the boat filling with water? Does He not realize? Is He not paying attention? Does God not care?

We’re drowning down here.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4.39-41 ESV

The power and glory of God is a terrible and awful thing to behold and should cause us to tremble. AW Tozer writes in his book The Knowledge of the Holy that “…what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” The question that we all must answer: “Who is this man?”

Jesus Christ is the unchanging Lord of the Storm. He always has been, he is currently, and will always be. He is the Lord of the Storm when we the skies grow so dark we can no longer see and we forget. He commands the wind, he commands the rain, at his voice there is calm.

When I fell asleep Saturday night I fully expected to wake to dark skies, I fully believed that I would spend the majority of the morning scrambling to figure out how our church would gather to worship. I assumed that it would be my responsibility to manage the storm.

But I peered out the window when I woke and the sun was beginning to poke his head out over the hills in the east. The sky was painted with reds, yellows, and graciously with bright blues. A beautiful day was chasing me to church.

Before we gathered to remember the gospel and let the message of Christ dwell among us richly by the singing of songs the Holy Spirit was reminding me that it is Jesus, not me, who is Lord of the Storm. That it is Jesus who works all things together for the good of those who love God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42.11 ESV
Worship Review 4.26.15 – Lord of the Storm