Worship Review 10.18.15 – Rejoice! Again I Say Rejoice!

I just realized something: These worship reviews are functionally digital mullets. Business in the front, party in the back?

The Mullet Strategy. https://www.flickr.com/photos/heyjohngreen/2570368211/in/photolist-4V8NVi-t99cj-XHNLt-3xHUE-j7Ng1-boAPeo-5taRd3-4Ep8A6-5afA4M-rYNtdX-5taS7A-joXEFN-9n6gju-68i6ur-erMrM-xDA8T-5ZyQrM-5ZyPdp-4thQKZ-naqY-824Gv6-pTXcU-5EoC9b-61vzjv-5ZD1rE-eijVLU-dhpQRr-7xjQP-2q1Tc-3xHU5-eguVnD-brJziW-68i5rD-okHt9-okHsZ-4xGtEv-6KC2PA-2q1Td-4kcRd-jmT-deDL8s-3zUN62-9vYm3D-3a94u-yQEQG-okHta-okHt2-okHt5-spRyq-2LjAKn John Phillip Green. https://www.flickr.com/photos/heyjohngreen/ Some Rights Reserved. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
The Mullet Strategy.  John Phillip Green. Some Rights Reserved. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Business

The setlist from this weekend:

  • Unstoppable God by Elevation Worship
  • Dear Refuge by Trinity Grace Church
  • Open Up Our Eyes by Elevation Worship
  • Rejoice by Dustin Kensrue
  • God is Able by Hillsong

Here’s a Spotify playlist but do me a favor, please, please, please buy these tunes (if you haven’t already) to support the artists who have worked so hard crafting, recording, and producing songs suitable for the Church to sing.

The Party?

I promise the work of a worship pastor is very spiritual and I spend most of my days praying, reading the Bible, communion with angels, my mind and heart in the Heavenlies, getting direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. But, last week when I was planning the service I most definitely Googled “Unfailing Love Bible.”

Love birds. https://www.flickr.com/photos/zenera/328109446/in/photolist-uZDvq-oSUutM-5VWdMG-gKKxZo-ar3QGR-3cAmr9-7EqoXr-8595jX-4JxCEv-sb5DK-5ZWARQ-4N7Fi6-o78vsN-gZ4bQW-4sVWqR-7M7srS-M3GX1-6wFLyi-58LCPB-HmeFe-49xMrS-btQb8i-5dnhTf-9g6KJP-PLPEH-nFLc1t-brFYn9-ogvnRE-dKgYpb-7nMGGC-6wAGxs-479qoc-BfXbH-xcy6ii-kw1tHs-byRb2Z-5uzXz4-8brwuo-9vGgyu-8tbisc-gwvftp-4xkNK2-4mD8g9-tU36rF-k5Pm2D-3cChwg-hQhq8V-phUwwv-8yFR6r-d5Vz6L Serena. Some Rights Reserved. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Love birds.  Serena. Some Rights Reserved. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I found this picture and a bunch of Psalms with that particularly frutiful Google search.

God is good.

As I read through the Psalms I noticed a recurring theme with each instance of “unfailing love.” All the Psalms I was finding were wacky depressing. Each Psalm had a pattern of love being the climax or the culmination, but very rarely the motivator. The motion wasn’t from glory to glory, joy to joy, but rather crushing sorrow to unfailing love.

Psalm 13 landed particularly hard of my heart, and I don’t like to use the platform I’m responsible for to minister to myself, but I decided to give myself some grace and plan a personal setlist this weekend.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13.1-2

As a person prone to naval-gazing introspection, and the occasional nostalgia induced melancholy I read this and was like: “Oh yeah! How long do I have to wrestly with my thoughts?!” It’s hard to admit this, since in some regard my spiritual life plays out on the stage – more on that in a future post, but I’ve been feeling dried up for awhile. Like God is far away, and if not distant, hiding.

We introduced a few weeks back a hymn by Anne Steele, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” (Music by Kevin Twitt, additional chorus/arrangement by Zac Williams), that has been my prayer in this dry season: “Dear Refuge of my weary soul/ On thee when sorrows rise/ On thee when troubles roll/ My fainting hope relies/ To Thee I tell each rising grief,/ For Thou alone canst heal/ Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,/ For every pain I feel”

Though my emotional reality has been dour “Thy Word has been a sweet relief.” Opening up the Scriptures to find God’s man David begging God the same as me has been a comfort. To be instructed in prayer: How long? How long? In God’s timing, but while wating beg and claw towards mercy and relief.

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Psalm 13.3-4

I’m always strucked by the tenancity of David. It is preposterous of David to demand, “Look on me and answer, Lord my God.” But, the demand is awesome – “Give light to my eyes.” Look on me and give me light. David, me, you, we’re unable to look up of our own volition. We need God to remember us, to light up our eyes that we may see His love endures forever.

As we sang in “Open Up Our Eyes” we need God to open up our eyes and surround us with His light so that we can understand that His love never fails. Otherwise, without the hand of Divine Providence peeling back our eyelids it’ll seem that our enemies of self, emotion, and circumstance will surely defeat us and rejoice in doing so.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13.5-6

I’m not saying that when all around looks gray that the antidote is to try harder, never that, never try harder but always persevere. When the enemy is prevailing, do not retreat but charge in. Trust in his unfailing love, rejoice in his salvation.

Rejoice! Again I say rejoice!” Paul instructs the church in Phillipi. It’s not a slight “Cheer up, everything is gonna be a-ok” or “You should feel bad for feeling bad, so feel better”… It’s rejoice because “The Lord is near.” Rejoice in the good, rejoice in the bad, rejoice always because God has not forgotten you, he’s not hiding, he is near.

Though it may seem foolish, or impossible, when the enemy is pressing in on all sides trust in His unfailing love, rejoice in his salvation, sing the Lord’s praise, because “There is blessing in the battle,/ so take heart and stand amazed.”

Worship Review 10.18.15 – Rejoice! Again I Say Rejoice!

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

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

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