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Archive | Psalm Singing

A Psalm Singer’s Sigh

Singing the psalms can make you sigh for a number of reasons. The psalms actually encourage us to do so at times. “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Ps. 38:9). On a humorous note (pun intended), hitting or hearing off-notes in the sanctuary as a congregation struggles to sing them acapella can create some sighing. Another reason for sighing is when I hear well-meaning brothers, zealous for singing David’s songs, try to convert others to their cause with bad manners, jabby comments, and red faces.

And one other reason I sigh – and the point of this particular article – is when men feel inclined to disparage exclusive psalm singing. For I have sighed a time or two as of late in seeing articles such as Lane Keister’s “An Argument Against Exclusive Psalmody.”

After all, it’s not like those singing psalms in the worship of God should present much of a danger. Praise choruses rule the day. Most people these days who walk into a sanctuary expect something more akin to a rock band up front rather than a lone precentor with a pitch pipe. We are few in number. Our congregations are typically […]

The Good Life

The following article is a guest post from Emily Moore, co-founder of Psalter Project, a community resource for singing the psalms with fresh arrangements of faithful translations. Emily and her brother, Pastor Derek Moore, desire to see the broader church know and sing the psalms. Their latest album The Good Life is now available – just click the link.

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Who doesn’t want to be happy?  “The pursuit of happiness” is such a basic aspect of human nature that it is considered an inalienable right in the U.S. Constitution.  So when we think of “the good life,” what typically comes to mind are some key ingredients to a pleasure-filled life: health, wealth, and popularity.

However, the psalms give us a radically different picture of what a truly good life looks like.  It’s not just a different means to an end; the goal itself is redefined.  Contrary to our natural instinct, the good life is not essentially found in happiness.  God is the fountain of life (Ps 36:9) and the source of pleasure that will last forever (Ps 16:11).  Our good depends on God’s nearness (Ps 73:28).

Psalm 103 puts it this way: God is the one “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your […]

Song of Moses: Song of Life

A few weeks ago, I attended an event at my alma mater, Purdue University. Emerging from our parked car that evening, I took in familiar sights and sounds of campus; impulsively, I began to sing the second stanza and chorus of our fight song, Hail Purdue, as my children smirked:

When in after years we’re turning
Alma mater, back to you,
May our hearts with love be yearning
For the scenes of old Purdue.
Back among you pathways winding
Let us seek what lies before,
Fondest hopes and aims e’re finding,
While we sing of days of yore.

Hail, hail to old Purdue!
All hail to our old gold and black.
Hail, hail to old Purdue!
Our friendship may she never lack.
Ever grateful, ever true,
Thus we raise our song anew
Of the days we’ve spent with you,
All hail our own Purdue!

Though I forget most of the details that were taught in the classes I took as an undergraduate, that song still evokes in me a sense of loyal friendship, of identity, of connection with the Purdue family, of warm memories with teachers and students, of respect for (most of) what I learned, and of aspirations the university instilled in us. Remarkably, even particular classes and teachings from those days come to life in my […]

The Psalter Project

Here at Gentle Reformation, we love the recent rediscovery of singing the Psalms among many Christians. So many have never experienced this great treasure and we are happy to promote efforts to see these words of God’s praise written on people’s hearts.

The following article “Why Sing Psalms?” is a guest post from Emily Moore, co-founder of Psalter Project, a community resource for singing the psalms with fresh arrangements of faithful translations. Emily and her brother, Pastor Derek Moore, desire to see the broader church know and sing the psalms. They have their first album “Highways in Our Hearts” now available. 

To hear a sample of the music, listen to “To Dwell with God – Psalm 15.”

http://gentlereformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/to-dwell-with-god-psalm-15.mp3

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Often when I introduce fellow Christians to Psalter Project for the first time, their response is “What a great idea!” The psalms contain some of the most beloved passages in the entire Bible.  Likewise, music is a form of expression so instinctive it’s considered “the universal language.”

However, too often initial interest is dampened by various difficulties.  The lyrics of the psalms may seem too foreign, too confusing, or too difficult to accept.  The psalms don’t naturally fit our familiar musical mold.  Many of us don’t […]

Why We Sing

Of all the things we do in worship, singing is the most mysterious to me. That’s probably not a great statement about my theology, but it’s accurate. I understand the why of our singing less than the other elements of worship. Why do we sing? Why not just recite Scripture out loud? Or why do we sing together? Why not just let one person sing (this tempts me sometimes…)? 

Of Christian Courage, Contemptible Candidacies, and COFFEE

How much of our Christian courage is a function of the comfort and convenience of our surroundings?  How much of our boldness in Christian witness would wilt if the cozy accoutrements of a wealthy modern culture were taken from us?

Imagine if our words in praise of Christ no longer had the internet as an outlet, if every word of public witness had to actually be spoken in public, or at least in private to a living, breathing, and potentially hostile human being.  Imagine if there were no more church conferences to attend, no more family camps, no more youth group outings at which to find Christian fellowship.  And, perhaps worst of all, imagine if there were no more coffee shops – !!!!!- at which to study Scripture, write sermons and do theological cyber battle with Christians from different denominations, all comfortably and anonymously as one among  many happy, well-caffeinated people.

A Little Help with the Psalms

A few resources to encourage your understanding of the Psalms.

Listen and watch David Murray explain briefly how the Psalms help us to sing to Jesus (as well as the Father and the Spirit), of Jesus, and with Jesus.

Tim Challies has a good reminder of why Christians can join David in singing as he did in Psalm 119, “O, How I Love the Law!”

In a catechism-style format, Pastor Brad Johnston has a helpful new book called 150 Questions About the Psalter: What You Need to Know About the Songs God Wrote.

The Bible Project released the video below with its vivid, engaging diagram that explains the structure of the Book of Psalms. The picture that emerges helps identify several important themes pointing to Christ that are carried through the Psalter. (Note: One error that somehow it maintains is that the Book of Psalms is not a hymnbook.)

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]