It’s The Great Pumpkin, Tommy Welty!

I’m trying out a different format, the song titles and playlist are at the end. All the fun stuff first. It’s like dessert before dinner.

Next year Cubs fans! Amiright or amiright?!
Next year Cubs fans! Amiright or amiright?!

Dear Great Pumpkin,

I’m looking forward to your arrival on Halloween night. I hope you will bring me lots of presents. You must get discouraged because more people believe in Santa Claus than you. Well, let’s face it. Santa Claus has had more publicity. But being number two, perhaps you try harder. Everyone tells me you’re a fake, but I believe in you.

P.S. If you really are a fake, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

There I was Saturday night sitting in the most sincere pumpkin patch, not a single hypocritical pumpkin to be found, hoping that the Great Pumpkin would choose my patch – the sincerest pumpkin patch – to visit and give me lots of presents. But, to the shock of no one, I awoke Sunday morning without having seen the Great Pumpkin. Despite the ridicule of my friends and family I’m pretty hopeful that next year will be the year.

My favorite of the psalms is Psalm 126:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
We were like those who dream
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126, a psalm of ascent

A psalm of ascent is a song that worshippers would sing as they approached the temple. It’s a road song. A song on the way. This particular psalm was written to commemorate the Jew’s exile to Babylon, when they hung their harps on the willow branches. This song remembers when they had no song.

For an exile hope can seem of no use. What’s the use in trying? Things are as bad as they’ve ever been. For 70 years, a whole generation, the Jews were exiled from their promised land to Babylon. God, through his prophet Jeremiah, told the hopeless exiles to take up shop, that they were going to be there awhile and that they should “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29.5-8 NIV)

The exiles were comissioned to make the best of a bad situation. But, what about their promised land? What about home? Like Linus in the pumpkin patch waiting on that elusive Great Pumpkin, home was a dim dream for the exiles in Babylon. Maybe next year? For 70 years they waited, and planted gardens. They sowed their sorrowful seeds, their fading hope a harvest of joy.

But the promise of Psalm 126 is that what was planted would indeed become a bountiful feast. Because this is what God does. He brought the exiles home, and what a sweet homecoming: Those who wept, now laughed. Those who were filled with sorrow, now sang joy. Those who planted in sadness, reap with glad hearts in Isarel.

This is the way of God: the poor of spirit inherit the kingdom of Heaven, those who mourn are comforted, the meek inherit the earth, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are satisfied, those who are merciful are shown mercy, the pure in heart see God, peacemakers are called His children, those persecuted for His namesake will never be destroyed. The last are first, the humble are exalted, the exiles come home.

As we lead up to Thanksgiving later this month, and – at a distance – celebrate this year’s harvest we remember that “those who go out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carring sheaves with them.” Psalm 126 reminds us of our former exiled state and points us forward to a future kingdom of dreaming and joy and laughter.

Photo Credit: Terri Van Grol.
Photo Credit: Terri Van Grol.

We sang a new song this Sunday based on Psalm 126, “We Will Feast In The House Of Zion” before and during communion and Terri Van Grol reminded us that: “The bounty on your [Thanksgiving] table will never compare to the bounty that was on the table during the last supper.”

We approached the communion table as exiles in our sin, wanderers on this earth. And at the table we remembered that Christ sojourns with us, that he has sown in sorrow on the cross and has harvested joy in resurrection. We remembered him as we ate the bread and drank the wine, waiting until he returns when we’ll “feast in the house of Zion, singing with our hearts restored.”

At the table, as exiles, we declared that the Lord has done great things for us and that we are glad.


The songs we sang this week were:

  • The Mighty Hand of God by Citizens & Saints
  • Open Up Our Eyes by Elevation Worship
  • We Will Feast In The House of Zion by Sandra McCraken
  • Thank You God For Saving Me by Chris Tomlin & Phil Wickham

Attached is a playlist of most of those tunes, except for the new one. Sandra McCracken has opted not to put this album on Spotify – maybe in the future, but not yet. For a limited time “We Will Feast In the House of Zion” and the album it came off, with bonus material, is available at Noisetrade where you can name your price – or download it for free. Seriously, this is one of the best albums of 2015 – easily the best worship album. It’ll make your heart happy. You’ll be angry if you don’t follow this link: Psalms, Sandra McCraken http://noisetrade.com/sandramccracken/psalms GO DOWNLOAD! FAST!

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It’s The Great Pumpkin, Tommy Welty!

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 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 8.2.15 – Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief

What a great service this weekend! I’m excited about what God did in our midst and am looking forward to Oasis this coming week. If you haven’t yet registered you can regsiter at newsongchurch.com/oasis.

This weekend we sang a bunch of really great tunes:

  • At Your Name by Phil Wickham
  • Come Thou Fount by Norton Hall Band
  • The Mighty Hand of God by Citizens and Saints
  • You’ll Never Let Go by Matt Redman
  • Unstoppable God by Elevation Worship

Here’s a playlist! But, if you like the songs we sang please purchase them to support the artists who are providing so many excellent songs for the church to sing. Especially the Citizens & Saints album. That stuff is real good.


Last week, I went in to get my hair cut at the same place I’ve been going for over a year now, to the same lady who who has been cutting my hair quite fantastically in that time. Because it’s been some time I showed a picture of the last hair cut she gave me and said, “Give me this.”

IMG_2276

Quite nice. Long on the top, combover, short on the side, beard in prominence. Just the way I like it. So, I take off my glasses – making me essentially blind – and she turns the chair around so I can’t squint at the mirror. She begins cutting and trimming. When she finishes, she gives back my glasses, and lets me look. And it wasn’t quite the above haircut. So, I give further instruction, “Just a bit shorter on the sides please, and because of the way my hair grows take up the sides all the way to the part.” And I show her where exactly I mean. Glasses go off, she cuts, gives the glasses back and my hair looks like this:

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And, well, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. Awkwardly, I paid and left. And I drove straight home. Alyssa laughed out loud when she saw me; she LOLed at my new haircut. So, into the bathroom I went and buzzed what little hair I had left. And now I look like this:

Les Miserables (To be fair, I do sing most of my dialogue.)

What does this have to do with worship? Maybe, not much.

I opened up the worship set with a pretty brutal confession, although I tried to make it light hearted. Deep down, unfortunately, I believe God to be as fickle as myself. I’m addicted to Good Work so I think God must be too. Every week my spiritual tempermant is dictated by how much good or bad I do.

For the past two years I’ve had the great pleasure of being coordinating our Oasis conference and this year especially I’m proud of the work we’ve done – God must love me more, we’ll see.

And now that the logistics and behind the scene stuff is done, I’m avaiable to focus on the music we’ll sing and being on stage. Thus my new hair cut.

The anger I felt after I buzzed my head wasn’t proportionate to the offense. I’ve worn this hair style before, most people who’ve seen it have liked it, and it’ll grow back. Actually, less grows back each time, but that’s a different post.

Deep down I thought that if I looked good people would like me more and sing out at Oasis (and Sunday), which is crazy. And if I do my job well I think God will love me more. And who doesn’t want that? So, as much as I preach: “There’s nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less than He already does” my emotional and spiritual experience suggests otherwise.

And, I know, it may sound like a light hearted conversation, and maybe the shaved head example is frivolous but… Every week I interact with people who seem to think they don’t qualify for God’s love, or worship, or church, or reading their Bible, or prayer. They know in their minds that God’s love is constant and that He is faithful, but they and I don’t know it in our hearts.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard, “But, Tommy, you don’t know what I’ve done…” After uttering this phrase some disappear unable to handle the weight of their guilt, others try and assuage their guilt with behavior management, and others yet lean in to truth that they do not feel.

One of my favorite instances in the scripture is Romans 7 when the Apostle Paul admits:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:15, 18-19

When I share this scripture with folks, and read it myself, I feel a sigh of relief, “Oh, I’m not the only one.” But, what I love even more than Paul’s confession in Romans 7 is his follow up in Romans 8:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,… but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies…  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:1, 23-39

Last week I picked the set list really quickly, which never happens. Normally, I labor and labor over the songs we sing. But, in a serendipitous moment I felt like the set was given to me, and I couldn’t tell you why but I chose to ride that wave. Only very late Saturday night driving home by myself from an event did I come to understand why we would sing about God’s unfailing faithfulness in the morning.

Lately, I’ve not felt like I believed the truth of Romans 8, that my story ends in Romans 7 – but my feelings do not determine truth. There’s a classic prayer: “Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief.” So as I said when I asked you to stand and sing yesterday, “I’m gonna sing precisely because I don’t believe.”

My prayer this week is that we’ll remember that though our hearts are prone to wander there is, “No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Worship Review 8.2.15 – Lord, I Believe Help My Unbelief