Psalms

Psalm 119, Wine and Psalm-Roar

Psalm 119, Before Thee Let My Cry Near Near

From our 16th Wine and Psalm-Roar

The Abuse of Introspection

Some people dwell so much on their sinfulness that they find themselves constantly bombarding their status with doubt. Am I really a Christian? Am I worthy? These questions are not atypical of those who grow up in environments where internalized Christianity is emphasized. There is a healthy form of self-examination and Paul informs Pastors (II Corinthians 13:5) to encourage parishioners to examine themselves. At the same time, there is a difference between self-examination and introspection that is not often considered.

It is worth mentioning that God cares about our hearts. Out of it can flow the waters of destruction or waters of peace (Ps. 42). The repentant psalmist cries that God would create in him a clean heart, and that God would restore the joy of his salvation. Here again it is important to notice that this salvation has a face, a joyful one.

Martyn-Lloyd Jones wrote that a depressed Christian is not a good apologetic for Christianity. Whether there are physiological components at the root of this depression or not, it is still not a good presentation of the Christian faith. Depression is a form of despising God’s gifts and goodness. All of us are prone to it, and all of us must fight it. Schmemann once wrote that “Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.” Joy is not forced, rather it is the natural outflow of a heart saturated with grace.

But aren’t we all sinners in need of repentance? While Simul Iustus et Peccator is true, we can over-stress the clarity of our sinfulness. I am aware of pastors who declare with great boldness the sinfulness of men without declaring with great boldness the sublime fact of the justification of men through the act of the ascended Messiah. This latter part seems to be missing in our day. The doctrine of total depravity has had the effect of depriving many Christians from a life of common joy lived in the presence of the One who has become our joy. While stressing man’s condition as sinful is important, an over-use of this hermeneutical tactic can lead men and women to live lives of doubt and insecurity.

While we invest time in our spiritual journeys to reflect and examine our lives, and to see if there are any wicked way in our thoughts and actions, we must invest an even greater time nourishing the spiritual magnitude of our status before God. When we live our lives in a constant environment of self-mortification we will mortify not only our flesh, but also our joy.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes in his insightful Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures that “we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life (17).” When the chief end of man becomes self-examination there will always be a temptation to morbidity and spiritual depression. By constantly “putting our souls on a plate and dissecting it” we are showing the world a severe level of insecurity in our union with the reigning and risen Lord.

There are vast implications for all of this. Two examples will suffice to make this point:

First, introspective people–as I hinted earlier–rarely find time for others’ needs.  They have the immensity of their own depraved heart to occupy themselves. I have seen this played out throughout the years and, in fact, I speak from experience. When one delves deeply routinely into the many conspiracies of the heart he will sink in them. The heart is deceitful above all things, even deceiving us to think we only need to dwell in it.  The pastor may encourage his people to examine whether they are loving, desiring, and pursuing God as they should. But if this is the theme of his preaching and pastoral ministry he is building a congregation of morbid purists. This is why–I argue–there is legitimacy to those who call us to look to Jesus (Heb. 12:2). But generally when some call us to look to Jesus, they are in fact calling us to look back to our hearts to see whether we are looking to Jesus. Again, this is problematic and only exacerbating the problem. We do not look to Jesus as a lucky-charm, rather we look to Jesus because we reflect his glory and righteousness. Those who are united to Jesus become like Jesus. Those who worship Jesus become like Jesus. We look to Jesus, so that we move from self-examination to living out our faith with joy, peace, and abundant satisfaction (Ps. 16:11).

Ultimately, introspection is deadly. It is not surprising, then, to see those who walk about with defeatist spirits sporting their defeatist introspective theology.

Secondly, this motif plays out in the Eucharistic life of a church. At this point, I criticize even my own Reformed tradition. Though strongly committed to Reformed truth I am also aware that instead of producing joyful Christians, our tradition produces an army of introspective experts.

This is seen most clearly in the Reformed liturgy. Some churches justify their monthly or quarterly communion by stating that the congregation needs a week or more to examine themselves for the day (usually Sunday evening) of the Lord’s Supper. But what kind of vision are we perpetuating for our people? That the Lord’s Supper depends on our worthiness? That the Supper demands an environment of perfected introspection? That the Supper and somberness are part of the same context?

It is my contention that until we are able to undo the decisively introspective evangelical culture we are going to provide ammunition to non-Christians. We must recover a healthy self-examination, but also a redemptive display of over-abundant joy.

The King of Love My Shepherd Is, Psalm 23

Here is a lovely rendition of that splendid Psalm:

 

Satan Hates the Psalms

In an old lecture by James B. Jordan I founda this gem concerning Psalm 68 and its power:

The other thing the devil does not want is congregations singing the Psalms because the Psalms are full of holy war stuff. If you start singing the psalms, you start getting iron in your bones.

You know that Psalm 68, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered,” was the marching song of the French Reformation. They would sing it as they went into battle. The Huguenots in France would sing it all the time. Of course, they didn’t have air conditioning then, so the windows were open and all the Catholics heard it, and it made all the Catholics so afraid that eventually the king outlawed singing Psalm 68 in public. So they’d go around whistling. And they had to outlaw whistling that melody.

Now, people are not afraid when they hear us sing “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” They are not worried about you.

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Psalm 92, It’s Good to Thank the Lord

Psalm 92, It’s Good to Thank the Lord

Here is my recording of this psalm in the familiar Darwall’s 148th tune. 

Also, found on page #121 of the Cantus Christi.

On Feeding on the Word

On Feeding on the Word

C.S. Lewis observed in his Reflections on the Psalms that a Christian can’t always be defending the truth, sometimes he needs to feed on it. This is very appropriate for the people of God on this Lord’s Day. This is the day to receive the blessings of God in word and sacrament. This is a day to feed on the One who gave himself for us. This is a day to be renewed and encouraged to assume our roles in this world.

The Psalms and the entirety of Scriptures presuppose this nurturing role for the people of God. We cannot defend something unless we have been transformed and fed by it. The Psalter, in particular, calls us to see if there is any wicked way, so that we may be led to an everlasting life. The first step to being fed by the Word is to allow the Word to cut through us and exorcise our sinful habits and thoughts. We cannot be truly fed by the Word if our hearts do not desire the Word.

On this Sunday of Lent, as we prepare to confess our sins, let us receive and to respond to this pure Word spoken by our Creator and Redeemer, the Beloved of God, Jesus Christ.

N.T. Wright’s Plea for the Psalms

N.T. Wright’s Plea for the Psalms

Professor N.T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms is now available. The introduction is quite captivating. His personal plea is for a return to the Psalms. The Psalms are “full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope.” a But they psalms have been neglected. They have been used occasionally as a fill-in for worship services making its titanic role minuscule. Wright observes that popular worship songs sprinkle a few phrases occasionally, but overall, the “steady rhythm and deep soul-searching of the Psalms themselves” have been displaced. b This is not to say that churches should only sing Psalms. I personally believe it is unwise to neglect the beautiful theology of the Church put into music. Wright says, “by all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy.” c. Crazy indeed.

 

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Lots of Resources for Psalm-Singing (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

Lots of Resources for Psalm-Singing (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs)

My article entitled 10 Reasons Why You Should Sing the Psalms received a lot of attention and several days later it is still on the front page of The Christian Post. I am grateful for all the e-mails I received from pastors and parishioners alike seeking to benefit from the psalms for their own spiritual edification and the maturation of their own congregation.

In order to provide those resources to a broader audience, I will list many of them here and hope to update them occasionally.

I’d encourage you to visit the Genevan Psalter website. It will provide music and lyrics and a host of links to articles on the Genevan Psalter. This is my favorite Psalter.

You may also wish to visit this site, which will give you some ideas and a general introduction to psalm singing.

Another way to benefit from sung psalms is to simply start listening to psalms on your ipod or computer. For a more contemporary rendition of the Psalms, this CD by Greg Wilbur with Psalms and Hymns published by Ligonier is quite good. Nathan Clark George has done some beautiful versions of the Psalms with guitar accompaniments.

If you want to listen to some beautiful Scottish Psalmody, go here on Groove Shark.

One indispensable selection of psalms put into music is from a dear brother, Jamie Soles ( a CREC elder). Jamie has a wonderful gift of bringing psalms into easy and memorable tunes for children, but I confess I listen to them myself often.A great hymnal to get you started is Psalms for Singing. You can find audio samples on-line. You can also purchase the Cantus Christi, which is a Psalter-Hymnal. The Cantus includes about 75 psalms of the 150 (with several chants).  If you would like to hear some of the psalms sung and harmonized, you can purchase this CD. You can also find samples of some of the Psalms on the Cantus Christi:

Psalm 117 – Youtube

Psalm 98 – Youtube (Christ Church, Moscow, ID)

Psalm 148, Psalm-Roar – Youtube

Psalm 42, Audio Only (sung at Providence)

Psalm 45, taught and sung at Providence

Psalm 22 (audio only, Psalm-Roar)

Psalm 122 (Youtube, Christ Church)

Finally, for an award-winning website with more information on the Psalms and psalm-singing than you will ever need has been compiled by the saints of Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, AL.  called The Psalm Project.

NOTE: If you find any additional resources, please let me know.

 

Psalm-Roar, Psalm 40, Traditional Irish Melody (Fingal)

Psalm-Roar, Psalm 40, Traditional Irish Melody (Fingal)

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” (Psalm 40:16 ESV)

Introduction to Psalm-Roar

Introduction to Psalm-Roar

The Lord be with you.

The Church has sung the psalms for the first 1,800 years of her existence, but by the end of the 19th century it had become largely absent in churches. In the last forty years there has been a powerful movement that has sought to restore the Psalter to a place of honor once again in the body of Christ.

What we are doing tonight is joining many others in this psalm-revival and making our communities more aware of what it means to sing God’s 150 spiritual songs.

This evening, we have 11 selections. These psalms vary from lament and exaltation, and all point to and portray Jesus Christ, who is our Shepherd and in Him we will not want.

The tunes used tonight are simple tunes. The pianist will play through each of them before we sing them, which will provide us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with them in case you have not sung these before. We hope you enjoy these psalms, and we pray God will be delighted with our praise.

Let us pray:

O God of heaven, you have called us out darkness into the kingdom of light; and in this light we find your songs to heal and restore our weary souls. Be pleased with our singing and bring down principalities and power through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.