Category Archives: My Church

My Church refers to things related to my spiritual life.

Hard to Believe or Impossible?

How would you address these doubts?

I am grading a Bible Lesson for an inmate in Tallahassee Florida Detention Facility. He has just learned how the Bible asserts…

  • God exists
  • God created us and the world
  • God is eternal, invisible, all-powerful, etc.
  • God has made Himself known

How would you address these doubts? (My answer appears in blue. Skip over it and comment your ideas.)

Sacred Seasons

For it is a statute for Israel,
An ordinance of the God of Jacob.
Psalms 81:4

The commands to sing for joy, raise a song, and blow the trumpet are neither shackles nor coercions, but keys that unlock the soul again and again from the relentless attacks of evil. Sin has no business worshiping God. Sin as a power in us holds captive those that do not worship God. But those that put to death the deeds of darkness delight in the light and worship the One who bestowed upon them such power that set them free. When those with such power act as slaves to sin, they need this call and they need this statute.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. It was a precept binding upon all the tribes that a sacred season should be set apart to commemorate the Lord’s mercy; and truly it was but the Lord’s due, he had a right and a claim to such special homage. When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, “Is this a law of the God of Jacob?” and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty.

HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER

The rule of ordinances and worship; pleas for going beyond it; instances in various churches; the sin and danger of such will worship.

Show Some Alacrity

Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
At the full moon, on our feast day.
Psalms 81:3

Before the game everyone gets psyched up and starts shouting. Is there something innate in us to want to do this?

Understanding the battle and knowing the victory should inspire each of us to show some alacrity when we come to worship. The mind set on the right thoughts can trigger the emotions to have it.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

Blow up the trumpet in the new moon.

Announce the sacred month, the beginning of months, when the Lord brought his people out of the house of bondage. Clear and shrill let the summons be which calls all Israel to adore the Redeeming Lord.

In the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

Obedience is to direct our worship, not whim and sentiment: God’s appointment gives a solemnity to rites and times which no ceremonial pomp or hierarchical ordinance could confer. The Jews not only observed the ordained month, but that part of the month which had been divinely set apart. The Lord’s people in the olden time welcomed the times appointed for worship; let us feel the same exultation, and never speak of the Sabbath as though it could be other than “a delight” and “honourable.” Those who plead this passage will keep such feasts as the Lord appoints, but not those which Rome or Canterbury may ordain.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Blow up the trumpet, etc. The Jews say this blowing of trumpets was in commemoration of Isaac’s deliverance, a ram being sacrificed for him, and therefore they sounded with trumpets made of ram’s horns: or in remembrance of the trumpet blown at the giving of the law; though it rather was an emblem of the gospel and ministry of it, by which sinners are aroused, awakened and quickened, and souls are charmed and allured, and filled with spiritual joy and gladness. — John Gill.

The trumpet. The sound of the trumpet is very commonly employed in Scripture as an image of the voice or word of God. The voice of God, and the voice of the trumpet on Mount Sinai, were heard together (Ex 19:5,18-19), first the trumpet sound as the symbol, then the reality. So also John heard the voice of the Lord as that of a trumpet (Rev 1:10; 4:1), and the sound of the trumpet is once and again spoken of as the harbinger of the Son of Man, when coming in power and great glory, to utter the almighty word which shall quicken the dead to life, and make all things new (Matt 24:31 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16).

The sound of the trumpet, then, was a symbol of the majestic, omnipotent voice or word of God; but of course only in those things in which it was employed in respect to what God had to say to men. It might be used also as from man to God, or by the people, as from one to another. In this case, it would be a call to a greater than usual degree of alacrity and excitement in regard to the work and service of God. And such probably was the more peculiar design of the blowing of trumpets at the festivals generally, and especially at the festival of trumpets on the first day of the second month. — Joseph Francis Thrupp.

In the new moon, etc. The feast of the new moon was always proclaimed by sound of trumpet. For want of astronomical knowledge, the poor Jews were put to sad shifts to know the real time of the new moon. They generally sent persons to the top of some hill or mountain about the time which, according to their supputations, the new moon should appear. The first who saw it was to give immediate notice to the Sanhedrim; they closely examined the reporter as to his credibility, and whether his information agreed with their calculations. If all was found satisfactory, the president proclaimed the new moon by shouting out, mikkodesh! “It is consecrated.” This word was repeated twice aloud by the people; and was then proclaimed everywhere by blowing of horns, or what is called the sound of trumpets. Among the Hindus some feasts are announced by the sound of the conch, or sacred shell. — Adam Clarke.

In the time appointed. The word rendered the time appointed, signifies the hidden or covered period; that is, the time when the moon is concealed or covered with darkness. This day was a joyful festival, returning every month; but the first day of the seventh moon was most solemn of the whole; being not only the first of the moon, but of the civil year. This was called the feast of trumpets, as it was celebrated by the blowing of trumpets from sunrising to sun setting; according to the command, “It shall be a day of the blowing of trumpets to you.” This joy was a memorial of the joy of creation, and the joy of giving the law; it also preindicated the blowing of the gospel trumpet, after the dark, the covered period of the death of Christ, when the form of the church changed, and the year of the “redeemed” began; and finally, it prefigured the last day, when the trumpet of God shall sound, and the dead shall be raised. — Alexander Pirie.

Anthems to Glory

Raise a song, strike the timbrel, The sweet sounding lyre with the harp. NAS
Psalms 81:2
Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. KJV
Ps 81:2

After years of slavery in Egypt would you not be happy on the day of your release and the day after seeing many signs and wonders leading to that freedom? The cause of all this good stuff? The One who created everything. That same Everliving God sets captives free every day. One day He stooped down and set me free and I broke out in praise.

This verse encourages a certain pleasantness and sweetness to be added to that song. God made the ear. He knows how to tickle it.

As a young kid of 15, I was developing my musical tastes. I was not a Christian and liked rock n roll. I had a friend in the Bowling Green Symphony Orchestra. Blake played the oboe. He invited me to come and I came and I listened. It was an enjoyable experience. Then, one day I remember him playing a new album by Dan Fogelberg called Nether Lands. This was soft rock but the first song on that album employed a full orchestra. So many instruments and so many sounds coming together perfectly to make a single statement. The music was majestic and the lyrics uplifting. Music with word amplified.

Off in the nether lands
I heard a sound
Like the beating of heavenly wings
And deep in my brain
I can hear a refrain
Of my soul as she rises and sings
Anthems to glory and
Anthems to love and
Hymns filled with early delight
Like the songs that the darkness
Composes to worship the light.

The darkness knows how to compose music to worship the Light.  How much more should this be true of those who are called light.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

Take a psalm.

Select a sacred song, and then raise it with your hearty voices.

And bring hither the timbrel.

Beat on your tambourines, ye damsels, let the sound be loud and inspiriting. “Sound the trumpets, beat the drums.” God is not to be served with misery but with mirthful music, sound ye then the loud timbrel, as of old ye smote it by “Egypt’s dark sea.”

The pleasant harp with the psaltery.

The timbrel for sound, must be joined by the harp for sweetness, and this by other stringed instruments for variety. Let the full compass of music be holiness unto the Lord.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Ver. 2. Timbrel. The toph, English version tabret, timbrel, LXX., ‎tumpanon‎, once ‎qalthrion‎. It was what would now be called a tambourine, being played by the hand; and was specially used by women. It is thrice mentioned in the Ps 81:2 Ps 149:3; 150:4. — Joseph Francis Thrupp.

Ver. 2. The Psaltery. It is probably impossible to be sure as to what is intended by a psaltery. The Genevan version translates it viol, and the ancient viol was a six stringed guitar. In the Prayer book version, the Hebrew word is rendered lute, which instrument resembled the guitar, but was superior in tone. The Greek word “psalterion” denotes a stringed instrument played with the fingers. Cassidorus says that the psaltery was triangular in shape, and that it was played with a bow. Aben Ezra evidently considered it to be a kind of pipe, but the mass of authorities make it a stringed instrument. It was long in use, for we read of it in David’s time as made of fir wood (2 Sam 6:55), and in Solomon’s reign, of algum trees (2 Chron 9:11), and it was still in use in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.

Sing and Shout

Sing for joy to God our strength;
Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
Psalms 81:1

I thank God for song writers and poets that capture and rephrase the acts of love that God bestows upon us. My heart would burst if not for the tunes and magical lyrics of others; they act like relief valves to a heart filled with joy.

“Sing. Shout”, thus saith the Lord.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

Ver. 1. Sing, in tune and measure, so that the public praise may be in harmony; sing with joyful notes, and sounds melodious.

Aloud.


For the heartiest praise is due to our good Lord. His acts of love to us speak more loudly than any of our words of gratitude can do. No dulness should ever stupefy our psalmody, or half heartedness cause us to limp along. Sing aloud, ye debtors to sovereign grace, your hearts are profoundly grateful: let your voices express your thankfulness.

Unto God our strength.

The Lord was the strength of his people in delivering them out of Egypt with a high hand, and also in sustaining them in the wilderness, placing them in Canaan, preserving them from their foes, and giving them victory. To whom do men give honour but to those upon whom they rely, therefore let us sing aloud unto our God, who is our strength and our song.

Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

The God of the nation, the God of their father Jacob, was extolled in happy music by the Israelitish people; let no Christian be silent, or slack in praise, for this God is our God. It is to be regretted that the niceties of modern singing frighten our congregations from joining lustily in the hymns. For our part we delight in full bursts of praise, and had rather discover the ruggedness of a want of musical training than miss the heartiness of universal congregational song. The gentility which lisps the tune in well bred whispers, or leaves the singing altogether to the choir, is very like a mockery of worship. The gods of Greece and Rome may be worshipped well enough with classical music, but Jehovah can only be adored with the heart, and that music is the best for his service which gives the heart most play.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Title. It is remarkable that as Ps 80 treats of the church of God under the figure of a vine, so the present is entitled, “upon Gittith,” literally upon the winepress. Whether the expression was meant to refer to a musical instrument, or to some direction as to the tune, is uncertain. In our Saviour’s adoption of the figure of a vineyard to represent his church, he speaks of a winepress dug in it, Matt 21:33. The idea refers itself to the final result in some sense, in a way of salvation of souls, as the same figure of a winepress is used in Rev 16 of the final destruction of the ungodly. — W. Wilson.

HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER

Ver. 1. Congregational singing should be general, hearty, joyful. The reasons for this, and the benefits of it.

Ver. 1-3.

1.    Praise should be sincere. It can come from the people of God only.

2.    It should be constant: they should praise God at all times.

God’s Goodness and Israel’s Waywardness

Psalms 81:1-16

History. Memory. Patriotism. Politics. All of these are given to us by God; they lodge in the mind and our heart and make up the very fiber of our nation. To alter or forget the past is to dissolve the ties that hold us together; it destroy the greater body we call nation that encloses us to protect us from evil.

What do you remember that encourages you today?

This Psalm exposes the goodness of God and waywardness of His people.  It begins by looking back at one most significant event in the past to be remembered and celebrated.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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PSALM 81

Title.

To the Chief Musician upon Gittith. Very little is known of the meaning of this title. We have given the best explanation known to us in connection with Ps 8 in Vol. 1 of this work. If it be intended to indicate a vintage song, it speaks well for the piety of the people for whom it was written; it is to be feared that in few places even in Christian countries would holy hymns be thought suitable to be sung in connection with the winepress. When the bells upon the horses shall be holiness unto the Lord, then shall the juice of the grape gush forth to the accompaniment of sacred song.

A Psalm of Asaph.

This poet here again dwells upon the history of his country; his great forte seems to be rehearsing the past in admonitory psalmody. He is the poet of the history and politics of Israel. A truly national songster, at once pious and patriotic.

Divisions.

Praise is called for to celebrate some memorable day, perhaps the passover; whereupon the deliverance out of Egypt is described, Ps 81:1-7. Then the Lord gently chides his people for their ingratitude, and pictures their happy estate had they but been obedient to his commands.

Psalms 81

God’s Goodness and Israel’s Waywardness.

For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph.

1 Sing for joy to God our strength;

Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.

2 Raise a song, strike the timbrel,

The sweet sounding lyre with the harp.

3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,

At the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel,

An ordinance of the God of Jacob.

5 He established it for a testimony in Joseph

When he went throughout the land of Egypt.

I heard a language that I did not know:

6 “I relieved his shoulder of the burden,

His hands were freed from the basket.

7 “You called in trouble and I rescued you;

I answered you in the hiding place of thunder;

I proved you at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

8 “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;

O Israel, if you would listen to Me!

9 “Let there be no strange god among you;

Nor shall you worship any foreign god.

10 “I, the Lord, am your God,

Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

11 “But My people did not listen to My voice,

And Israel did not obey Me.

12 “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,

To walk in their own devices.

13 “Oh that My people would listen to Me,

That Israel would walk in My ways!

14 “I would quickly subdue their enemies

And turn My hand against their adversaries.

15 “Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him,

And their time of punishment would be forever.

16 “But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,

And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

We Will Be Saved

O Lord God of hosts, restore us;
Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
Psalms 80:19

Hope. Pray. Wait. “We will be saved.”

I just finished grading a lesson from an inmate in the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown California. His answer to question 9 caught my attention.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if our turning to God makes any difference.

I responded with:

When God sets us free (John 8:34-36) something happened, something is happening, and something will happen. That single act has an immediate effect, an ongoing effect, and a future effect. When we first commit to following Christ, He frees us from the penalty of sin. At the same time He also transforms our heart and moves inside to break the bondage to sin that resides in our flesh. (Romans 7:23-24) Our success in defeating sin improves as we grow in Christ by feeding on God’s Word and by spending time with Him in prayer. Finally, we will be delivered from this struggle when we die or are raptured. We will leave behind this old body and take on one imperishable and glorious.

The following is taken directly from The Treasury of David by Spurgeon.

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EXPOSITION

Turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts.

Here we have another advance in the title and the incommunicable name of Jehovah, the I AM is introduced. Faith’s day grows brighter as the hours roll on; and her prayers grow more full and mighty.

Cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Even we who were so destroyed. No extremity is too great for the power of God. He is able to save at the last point, and that too by simply turning his smiling face upon his afflicted. Men can do little with their arm, but God can do all things with a glance. Oh, to live forever in the light of Jehovah’s countenance.

Turn us again.

How well that we can look to God when our face is set wrong, that he may turn us, and so his face shine on us, as to bring blessing and present deliverance to his people. — J.N. Darby.

During distress God comes; and when he comes it is no more distress. — Gaelic Proverb.