Make a Joyful Noise, Together

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

Psalm 96

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into
joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
 before the Lord.

Psalm 98

A little about singing.

In those verses, “sing” is mentioned 6 times and “joy” is referenced 4 times. As we know, when things are repeated in the Bible, we should probably pay attention.

God commands us to sing, as even He sings over His people (Zephaniah 3:17). If we are to be like Him, singing should be a natural response. However, in our human condition, singing is an action that can be separated from the condition of our heart; A joyful noise is different – it is a reflection of our heart. Our musical talent (or lack thereof), our comfort, and even our song preference cannot quench a joyful noise. A joyful noise can be made in any circumstance – a season of blessings or a season of sorrow – because joy is not dependent on our feelings, it is dependent on the finished work of Jesus. A joyful noise is our response to what is already done. Therefore, joy should be evident in our singing.

With that established, why do we sing together?

Imagine you’re at a concert of a major hit band. For example, my family went to see the Eagles last year. Guaranteed everyone knows at least one lyric to one of their songs. Picture the band coming out on stage, the first chord is played and the arena becomes alive with lights, sounds, and voices. You quickly realize the stranger to your left and right are singing the same words you are. What do you feel? Unified and excited – an atmosphere has changed. You don’t even know these people, but you’re all having a great time because you all know and love this band and song.

Unified voices are powerful, exciting, loud, and effective. An atmosphere changes when the Holy Spirit is present and we, God’s people, are singing together. We’re proclaiming the gospel, together. We’re lifting Jesus high, together. You’re making a statement to the people on your left and your right that you know and love the One we are singing to. Singing in unity encourages the entire body. Singing over one another is commanded.

Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Being committed to vertically focused, theologically rich songs here at Community Bible means we are also committed a congregation fully engaged and singing the Word over one another. Your singing is encouraging someone near you in a season of struggle. Your singing is reminding someone the truth of the Gospel. Your singing is a testimony in your own struggle that you can still make a joyful noise in sorrow.

So, how do we prepare to sing together at Community Bible?

Within the parameters of vertically focused, theologically accurate songs, we plan our worship each week to thematically lead us to response. Thematic planning gives us an entire morning to lean in to a specific aspect of who God is or a Truth He is trying to teach us. Each sermon series is planned out in advance and song selections are made based on the passage of Scripture we’re going to be studying. For example, our worship story two weeks ago looked something like this:

All the Earth sings of creation who was made to praise our Creator. Recognition of our sin that separated us from our Creator lead us to repentance and Jesus Thank You. Because of Christ’s sacrifice reconciling us to the Father, we are secure in our identity (Who You Say I Am). This set our hearts on a path of full focus on our lives hidden in Christ. Aaron preached on Obedience and in order to fully surrender our lives in obedience to Christ, we must let all worldly things Fade Away.

We don’t pick songs at random or just because they’re popular. They’re prayerfully considered and planned in advance because we want to steward the time we have together well. We want to sing as we are commanded, not only growing in our own relationship with Jesus, but growing in unity as we make a joyful noise, together.

Planting Seeds in a Hurricane

At the beginning of summer, I tried to set up a friendly, reading competition with my oldest boy. I wanted to keep his mind sharp and his nose in a book throughout the summer, so he would be ready for third grade this Fall.  We were going to see who could read a book a week for the duration of his summer break. There would be 9 weeks, with us taking a week off for our vacation. His books average 100 pages and mine are a couple hundred more than his. It seemed like a fair competition. 

The only problem is that my boy HATES to read. It is like pulling teeth to get him to do it. 

This week alone, he is supposed to read Chapter 4.  It’s 22 pages.  How long can that take him?!

But he has put it off and put it off. 

And now. He has consequences. 

No tablet. No TV.

Until his book is read.

And for an 8-year old, it’s the end of the world. And basically, the end of the world for my husband and I, too, because now our parenting really gets tested. 

As his Momma, I have been SO frustrated with him. “Just stop whining and pick up your book and READ.” “Just do it.”


And then the Holy Spirit gently pricks my heart.

I’m the same way.

When it comes to my Bible reading and time alone with God, I put it off and put it off. I let myself become distracted with everything else that I push my Bible reading to the side and don’t do it. I want to do SO many other things, than sit and read my Bible. 

Why is that?

  • I’m tired.
  • I’ve made other things a priority over my quiet time with the Lord.
  • I don’t love God’s Word.
  • I’m a sinner.

The truth is, we can’t live our lives for ourselves without consequences.

Same for my boy. Same for me. 

My boy has lost his tablet and TV time. I’ve lost my peace and joy and strength that comes from being in God’s Word. My brain is mushy, and I get emotional.  I don’t have right perspective on my circumstances or God’s character. I look to other things to bring satisfaction when my soul will only be filled through God and His Word. 

Spending time with the Lord is a choice. Same as my boy has a choice to obey or not, so do I. 

In the summer Bible study, Firmly Rooted, with Susan Black, she said, “being in God’s Word is like a marriage- there are not always fireworks, but we don’t pull away.”

Pastor Aaron prayed during our Leadership Meeting this week, “help us to fulfill our duties until our duties become joyful.”

Being in God’s Word often feels like a duty. There are not always fireworks or big “Ahh-ha!” moments.  But let’s not pull back. Let’s continue in our duty until our duty becomes our joy!

The beautiful part is that God is our Everlasting Father.  And unlike me, He is patient and long-suffering with us. He doesn’t grow tired or weary. He continues to work in our hearts to grow us and shape us into His image. Just as I feel like I’m planting seeds in a hurricane as I parent my boy, the same is true for God in my life- He’s planting seeds in the hurricane of my life.

If this is for you, if you are struggling to be in God’s Word- you’re not alone. I’m there with you.  But it’s not okay. We’ve got to make the hard choice.  Carve out time. Make God’s Word a priority. Let’s confess our sin to the Lord and safe people in our lives. Let’s invite others to hold us accountable. Let’s get into His Word and allow it to work in our lives.

Maybe I need no Instagram until my time in the Word. What about you?

You Won’t Get All of Jesus Alone

Hebrews 11 is one of the more famous passages in all of Scripture. Some theologians have called Hebrews 11 the “hall of heroes” or the “hall of faith”. I think we identify with this chapter in the Bible because it’s about real people who walked with God by faith. In addition, Hebrews 11 doesn’t sanitize the Christian experience. Following Jesus is, at times, very difficult. And we see that in Hebrews 11. Some people were imprisoned, mocked, tortured and died for the sake of the gospel. Yet, they kept following Jesus by faith because they were certain of future reward and future grace found only in Jesus. They believed they were promised a “better possession and an abiding one”.

One of the more interesting things about Hebrews 11 is that there is an incompleteness to our experience of Christ by faith apart from the community of faith. The author says that though Abraham, Moses, David and others were “commended through their faith” (11:39), they did not receive the fullness of what they were hoping for in Christ. In fact, they could not receive the fullness of all that was promised to them in Jesus until you and I receive “something better for us” (11:40) – which is Christ himself. Notice how the author ends this chapter: “… apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

What is the author suggesting? He’s saying that we all share in Christ, but that our experience of Christ will be different in two ways. First, our experience of Jesus will not be equal. In Hebrews 11, some – by faith – conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched fire, escaped the sword, are made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and received back their dead (11:33-35a). But some are tortured, mocked, imprisoned, beaten and murdered. Some Christians lose everything and die destitute.

There is an awful lot of comparing that happens in our world, and social media platforms only exacerbate the problem. What most of us see when we look at the lives of others is a highly idealized image of their actual reality. We don’t see people as they are, but as they want us to see them.

Yet, the gift of biblical community created by the power of the gospel is a context where people can be known as they are, not as we wish, or even they wish themselves to be. Living in community offers us the opportunity to see and experience first-hand the truth that the inequity in our life experiences is not a sign of forsakenness by God, but merely a different expression of our experience of Christ. The saints in Hebrews 11 who lost everything were no less loved that the saints who stopped the mouths of lions. Yet, unless the hungry, naked, and forsaken among us are walking with Jesus in community, they might be tempted to believe their circumstantial misfortune is evidence of God’s indifference, or worse yet, his punitive wrath.

Our experience of Jesus will also be incomplete apart from following Jesus in a community (i.e., what we call the local church). Notice how the chapter ends again. The Hebrews 11 saints were incomplete and imperfect apart from our faith. Our salvation is perfected through the community of faith. This means that you will not grow in maturity in Christ as you should apart from rooting your life deeply among the community of believers (i.e., the local church).

Individualism is not a biblical concept. In fact, individualism is an idol. It teaches us to be self-centered and self-focused without any consideration for others. Spiritual growth is not a personal and private matter. It’s a community project. That’s why the author says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:24-25).

None of us has an equal experience of Christ by faith, but if we choose to try to walk with him alone, we will also face the deficit of an incomplete experience with Jesus. Our faith will be jeopardized, especially in trials, because we will not have anyone around us to remind us that despite the inequity of our experience in Christ, we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

I want to encourage you to look for intentional ways to live in community with other Christians as you talk about your experience with Jesus. This can happen organically over a cup of coffee, breaking bread together, and practicing hospitality by opening your home. But I also want to encourage you to connect with one another through groups at Community Bible. Consider being a part of Community Groups (sermon-based discussion small groups of 10-12 people) or D-Groups (same gender discipleship groups of 3-5 people that meet for 12-18 months) this fall. Sign up for an Equip Group this January – February. Or plug into a men’s (Tuesday mornings) or women’s bible study (coming this fall). Whatever you do, take proactive steps to engage others and share in your experience with Jesus for the sake of your maturity in Christ, as well as theirs.

Grace to You,

Pastor Aaron

Seeing the Unseen

I went to China for a minute last month and stood on a dusty road at the edge of a field. Then, I headed to a very busy street in India in a town that I couldn’t find again if I tried. Next I popped over to the Sky Walk in Australia and almost had a heart attack when I looked down. Then it was off to France where I stood right underneath The Eiffel Tower, pinching myself to be so close to such a sight. I came back to America and stood on a red carpet in Hollywood, checking out Meg Ryan’s shoes and staring at her famous blonde hair as she chatted into a microphone while Billy Crystal stood off behind her. Finally, I went to the front row of an NBA game and shrunk back in my seat because the men were GIANT in front of me on the court.   

My cousin, who is a sound designer/insanely smart music producer person, laughed off to my right and said, “How amazing is this? Where are you going next?”

I slipped off the gear that was on my head and over my eyes and in a disorienting and dizzying whoosh I was pulled back into a kitchen chair in Marietta, Georgia. 

My cousin’s sound design team is working on virtual reality technology from an audio perspective, so that what is heard in the headset will accurately “travel” as the person wearing it turns toward or away from the source of the sound. He explained that in order to create realistic virtual reality, the brain must trick 3 of our 5 senses. So far, technology has the sight piece and now they are fine tuning sound and touch, which explained why it took me a few minutes to reorient myself in his kitchen after removing the headgear. My brain thought I was elsewhere. I eyed the technological brain-bender on the table before me and my fingers almost itched to put it back on. I felt the temptation to be tethered to this virtual world, my brain tricking  my own senses. I said to my cousin, “This is insane. I could sit here for a thousand hours. I should never own one of these – why would I ever leave my house??”

Verses began rolling around in my heart after that experience. I began to think about my life in terms of what is real and what is virtually real. I began to wonder if part of me has been “tricked” as I walk around on this earth. 

Since the beginning, the sin that rules human hearts has deceived us that what we see, hear, taste, touch and feel are what is real. But scripture tells us a different story. 

2 Corinthians 4:18 We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

Paul tells us that what “feels” like the long lasting reality of living is actually “transient” (Definition: lasting only for a short time; impermanent). Our ACTUAL reality is happening in things that are “unseen.” Those unseen things area are “eternal” (Definition: lasting and existing forever, with no end or beginning.) How far is the distance in reality from temporary to eternal!  It is unfathomably (Definition: incapable of being fully explored or understood) farther than the distance from a kitchen in Georgia to a crowded street in India. 

So how then do we set our eyes on this “unseen” reality? We have to:

  1. Seek it/Look for it
  2. Put something off/put something to death
  3. Put something on

Paul tells us in Colossians 3: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth….Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming…

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

That’s quite a list.  I’ll summarize:

  1. Seek Jesus. Set our minds on Him. Seek the things that are unseen. Note that these are active words that call us to move our eyes and hearts and minds and senses UP to where Jesus is seated with the Father. 
  2. Kill the things of the world that have tricked and betrayed our eyes and ears and hearts — those earthly things listed above that crouch at the door of our heart, engaging all our senses. Their job is to deceive, to bind us to temporal things, to keep our eyes down instead of up where Jesus sits. Their job is to lead us to destruction. Put them to death before they do.
  3. Put on (as God’s chosen ones) the things above: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Forgive, bear with one another, love, admonish and teach, sing together and be thankful — doing all this as one body in the name of Jesus. 

Let us not overlook how much of this seeking and putting off and on is done together as the body of Christ.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

 Hebrews 13:14-15

One day this vapor will be gone and our eternal reality will be before us.  Until then, may we seek, praise, forgive and bear with one another as Christ dwells in us richly. Together.