Friday, January 13, 2017

Singing, Silence, and Heart Songs

The other night I had the opportunity to share with my Creative Team the reason that we sing in church. I believe we easily forget why we actually sing when we gather as the Church. We become jaded by our personal preference, our stylistic choices, and the mundane and routine of church life. Before we know it we find ourselves no longer engaging with the corporate body through song.

Ephesians 5:18-20 says, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but 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

I want to take a few minutes of your time and share three reasons that I believe we should sing in our corporate gatherings.

Firstly, we sing because we are commanded to.
Christine Cain said at Passion 2017, “Obedience to the Word is not legalism”. Please hear my heart behind this, singing because we are commanded to is not legalistic, it’s being obedient to God.

Psalm 95:1-2 says,

“Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to Him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to Him.”

Psalms 96:1-2 carries the thought with,

“Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to Him; praise His name.”

Psalms 98:1,4-6 continues with,

“Sing a new song to the Lord,
For He has done wonderful deeds.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
Break out in praise and sing for joy!
Sing your praise to the Lord with your harp
With the harp and melodious song,
With trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King!”

The invitation to sing is scattered throughout scripture. The people of God have always been a singing people. It’s who we are! This is not a new thing we are doing, it’s the way that believers have responded for generations. I believe God commands us to sing because He knows that when we sing we are reminded of His faithfulness, His goodness, His sovereignty, and His authority in every season of our lives.

Can I encourage us to sing? Can I encourage us to move past our personal preferences and lift our voices in song to the One who is worthy?

Secondly, we sing because there is a horizontal spiritual impact taking place.
Paul says, “be filled with the Spirit addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”. The word Address means: to speak, preach, say, talk, tell, utter. We have an opportunity to build up those around us by the words we are singing together.

I’m going to make some assumptions about my readers right now.  My assumptions are that the majority of Christians who have taken the time to read this are not baby Christians.  My assumption is that you’ve been saved for years, that you’ve been baptized,  led a small group or served on a leadership board.  If that’s you - what a huge responsibility and privilege you have to encourage other believers around you.  And haven’t you heard? The  person two rows ahead was just diagnosed with cancer and they need to know that God is the healer.  Proclaim it for their ears to hear. “Our God is healer, awesome in power!” We sing because our brother fell back into sin this week. He needs to know that God still loves him and that the blood of Jesus covers his sin… “No secret, no sickness, no chain is strong enough to keep us from your love”. We sing because our sister  is struggling with an addiction or drowning in debt, and she needs to know that she is more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ! “We are more than conquerors in Christ.  You have overcome this world, this life..”  We sing because people around us are hurting, depressed, questioning if God is good, and walking through a valley of death.  If you’re not the one in that place, you have the great privilege and obligation to lift up the ones around you who are. By declaring the truths of God through song, your brothers and sisters are encouraged, and their faith is built up.

You never know the spiritual impact that is taking place when you make a choice to open your mouth and sing.

Can I encourage us to sing? Can I encourage us to move past our personal preferences and lift our voices in song to the One who is worthy?

Lastly, we sing because there is a vertical spiritual impact taking place.
Paul writes, “Making a melody to the Lord with your heart”. I believe God has placed a song in each of our hearts. I believe He has given us a melody to sing back to Him. I believe He delights in hearing the songs of our heart.

Here’s the thing, God doesn’t need our worship, He is not dependent upon whether or not we sing. But He desires to hear melodies born out of our heart for Him. I believe He desires to hear his Church, in unity, with one voice, lifting His name.  Not just a couple people who sing all the specials, or a well-rehearsed choir, but his Church. His people - excluding no one. He is not concerned with the quality of our voices, He’s concerned with the condition of our hearts. Jesus said,out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” What’s in our hearts? Are they the thoughts of God or the pride of flesh…?

I Believe we lack joy in our lives because we don’t sing. I really do. Singing, especially singing a heart song that God has given you, moves the heart of God. When God is moved, He responds. See, this beautiful exchange is taking place when children are singing to their Father, when the Bride is singing to her Bridegroom, when the saints are singing to their Savior. Intimacy is born out of those moments. Joy is born out of intimacy with God. If you want to grow in intimacy, learn how to sing the song of your heart.

Church, can I encourage us to sing when we gather? Can I encourage us to sing because God knows it will remind us of who He is? Can I encourage us to sing for those around us? Can I encourage us to sing the songs of our hearts? Can I encourage us to raise anthems of worth to the One who is worthy?

May we sing and not be silent about the glory and worth of Jesus!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Father's Table


I grew up in a rather large family. By “rather large” I mean there were 11 kids. Yes, my parents were crazy enough to have 11 children. And yes, they know about birth control. Seriously though, you would think that by the time the fourth child came along (me) that they would have gotten the hint that we were a strong-willed, rowdy bunch of kids. My dad jokes about the fact that they kept going for the perfect child… He said it’s yet to happen.

As our family grew, our dining room table became more and more crowded. As you can imagine, it takes a large table to host 13 individuals every morning at breakfast. At some point my parents realized the need for a larger table. I guess the alternative was to stop having children, but they were still under the illusion that perfection could be achieved, so a larger table it was.

It was October, and the plan for us to purchase the new table was to pick up walnuts as a family. So we packed up in the ole 15-passenger and went for it.  We’d drive around and Mom would spot a walnut grove or a tree in someone's  yard, so we’d stop and ask the property owners if we could pick up their walnuts. I was embarrassed embarrassed as a kid because it seemed so desperate. But we did it. We picked up 20,000 lbs of hulled walnuts. We worked in the rain, in the heat, in the fun, in the exhaustion. We didn’t stop until walnut season was over. Our hands became stained, our backs hurt, and we never wanted to see another walnut tree again.

Post walnut season the new table was purchased. It was like Christmas morning at our house, excitement all around! The chairs and benches newly stained. And the table large enough to host everyone with elbow room to spare. It was ours. The Kent family table. And we each had a place at our new table.


I love going home to my parents’. The rush of childhood memories is imminent as we pull into the drive. Everything from the  smell of pancakes and black Folger’s coffee to the crisp breeze in the air takes me back to early mornings, family devotionals, and movies on Sunday nights. It’s a fresh reminder of who I am: a Kent.

Names have the potential to carry weight with them. There’s power and identity in them. Sometimes we stand on the shoulders of the last generation and build.  One generation builds into the next, all with the same identity found in the family name. My family name has meaning and purpose to it. It carries with it the identity of a large family, hard workers, creative individuals, and a commitment to others. We have little choice in the imposition others place on us due to our family name. I am a Kent and proud of it. My parents carried the name Kent well.

Here’s the best part about being a Kent though: I belong at my parents’ table. Let that sink in. I always have a place at my parents’ table. I belong there simply because I am their son. I did nothing to deserve a spot at their table. They’ve never made me pay for a spot at their table. I naturally belong there because of who I am and knowing whose I am. I am the son of Bob and Jan Kent.


My mom is an amazing cook! Growing up I never wondered if she was going to burn our dinner, if breakfast would be awful, or if lunch would be fast food. She always had food prepared for us.

Growing up our table hosted many meals; meals my mom would prepare for us, meals we kids would help prepare. Breakfast and dinner we would gather, as a family around the table, and share a meal together. We would talk about the activities of the day while eating what was before us. Some meals were rushed, others would linger on for hours. This was life. This was our family, sitting around the table, eating, talking, singing, reading, praying, crying, sharing news, and speaking of the future.

As an adult, I love what my parents instilled in me. Family is meant to gather together and eat together. Sit. Be in the moment. Wait until everyone is finished. Be present and enjoy the food and the company of those around you.


I believe our Heavenly Father has a table as well.  At this table we, who bear His name, have a place. We gather and share a meal together, with the Father at the head sharing his  goodness, mercy, grace, love, peace. There is laughter at the table as the dishes are passed.  We share about our day, our brothers and sisters encourage us and the Father wipes our tears. He invites us to gather around and share with Him all that He has prepared for us. We come together because He has invited us, and we are His.

There are no limits as to who is invited or how many may come. It was not built by us. We did nothing to earn a place. We didn’t pay for the table, the meal, or our name. Our Father made the table. Our Father prepared the meal. Our Father made us His children through His son Jesus. We simply accept the invitation and come.

I like to imagine that our corporate gatherings (you may call it “Church”) are His table moments for us here on Earth. We gather because He has invited us. “Hey, come share a meal with Me. Come. Sit. Enjoy what I have prepared for you.” He invites us into a conversation with Him. “How’s life? What’s been going on? How is the job I gave you? How is the family I have placed around you?” You can almost hear Him saying, “Why didn’t you bring them? They have a place here too. I really wish you would have brought them.”

So we gather around the table, but we often sit there acting like there is nothing set before us  worth having. We fail to feast on His goodness, mercy, love, and grace. We act like we have all we need. We pretend He is not even there. We gather. We sit. We endure the hour and fifteen minutes gathered around the table and we can’t wait to leave and get back to our lives. And the whole time our Father sits there, excited that His children have come to share in what He has prepared for us.

What would our table moments look like if we came with a proper perspective and healthy expectation? I imagine excitement, joy, laughter, wonder, amazement, and transformation. I imagine a heart of service toward our brother or sister in the row, an understanding that all belong here regardless of (insert whatever your bias is) and an excitement to bring anyone and everyone with us!  We gather together, as brothers and sisters, and  eagerly wait to see what our Father has prepared. Our expectation becomes one of constantly knowing He will show us more of who He is and who we are in His eyes.

Everything changes when we understand we are sitting at the table of our Father; a Father who prepares the absolute best for His children and desires for us to just sit with Him. He never leaves us hungry but always leaves us wanting more.  And in the midst of our apathy, He continually says, “I love you. Are you listening? I love you. I love you for no other reason other than I just love you.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Audience With A King

Often some of the most influential teachings we hear are principles taught by someone further on the journey than us. Robert Fergusson is a teaching pastor at Hillsong Church and an instructor at Hillsong International Leadership College.  He is one of the wisest, passionate teachers I've ever had the privilege of sitting under; and he's not afraid to tell the congregation a hard truth that they won't like. These are some notes I took from one of his sermons, so I'm just the messenger here. I do not take credit for anything shared, but simply want to pass it on to you. 
"An Audience With A King. "
There are basic principles which potentially carry from one person's life to another. I believe this is one of those principles. It's a principle we can trace back to the Old Testament in the book of Exodus. The Israelites have been brought out of Egypt and were traveling in the wilderness. We pick up the story in Exodus 33 before the Tabernacle is built, before Moses writes the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets, and before the Law is clearly given.
"Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua  the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent." -Exodus 33:7-11
So here's the question we have to ask:  Why did Moses meet with God? Why is this story inserted into the story of Israel's exodus and becoming God's covenant people? I believe we find three key reasons Moses met with God. 
1. Moses was a pilgrim - Moses lived in a tent. He had a temporary residence which was on a journey towards the promise land. Moses' focus was on the destination. He didn't build a permanent structure to meet with God.
We meet with God because we are to fix our eyes on the unseen, the eternal, the promise of what is to come. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." When we read our Bibles, pray, and worship, we are reminding ourselves that we are a spiritual people. We are focusing on the unseen and what is to come. Philippians 3:20 reminds us, "But our citizenship is in heaven..." We are pilgrims in this world journeying towards the promise given.  
2. Moses was a shepherd - Shepherds live in tents. There is a big difference in the Old Testament between a shepherd and a farmer. Farmers built permanent structures and were self-sufficient with their lives. Shepherds were God-dependent.
Great leaders in the Bible were often shepherds; Moses, David, and Jesus himself said He was the good shepherd (John 10:11).We have to align our lives with The Shepherd. We have to become God-dependent not self-sufficient. Is meeting with the Shepherd a priority for you? Are you living out of your dependency on God? Or are you self-sufficient within your life?
3. Moses was a prophet - Moses was teaching Israel three essential truths in meeting with God. 
i. This is how you meet with God
ii. You dishonor God when you don't meet with Him
iii. The future of God's people is meeting with Him outside the camp. It's a personal relationship God desires from us. He doesn't want us to live off of second hand experiences in corporate settings. He wants to meet with us "outside the camp". 
We don't just meet with God for ourselves. When we meet with God we are setting an example for future generations. We are living past ourselves when we meet with Him and encounter Him personally. We set the example for our spouse, our children, our grandchildren, and anyone else looking to us. It's living with generational influence set in our hearts. 
This is a Kingdom principle. It's not an Old Testament thing or just a pastoral or leadership thing. It's a Kingdom truth. If you're in God's Kingdom you have to put the King first (Matthew 6:33).
So here's the how to all of this. It's simple, it's basic, and it's exactly what Moses did. 
1. Take your tent - take the time to meet with God. You don't tune up an orchestra after it has played. Take your tent and meet with God. Journal, pray, read the Bible, sing, do whatever it is, but take the time. 
2. Pitch your tent - find a place to meet with Him. Know your place and walk away from what is distracting you. Moses went outside the camp. Get away from the noise, the chaos, the cell phone, the things which are keeping you from God. 
3. Name your tent - naming something changes your attitude for it. Moses named his the tent of meeting. What's your meeting place with God called? Mine is simple, "my time with God". It's not complicated, just name it for what is is; meeting with God. 
When we meet with God we honor Him and empower ourselves. Oswald Sanders said once, "Every one of us is as close to God as he has chosen to be." Meet with the King. Have a daily audience with the King. He wants to meet with you.