an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Worship

There’s this Thing about the Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of heaven does not and cannot come by being imposed upon others by human government. It cannot be legislated. The kingdom of heaven arises and grows when hearts and minds and spirits of humans are changed as they choose to trust and follow Jesus. The role of Jesus people is to follow Jesus so others see how good that is. Salt of the land. Light of the world. A city on a hill.

Lectio Divina for Resurrection Week

Back in 2020, I made a series of lectio divina readings for Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The title pages have 2020 dates; but there is nothing dated about the readings – except they are keyed to the scriptures that take us through that week leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. In the hope that they may be of use to you in worshipping through the week, I decided to make a convenient menu of links which you can use to refer to them.


Palm Sunday




Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

The links above are to Youtube videos that I made on my phone back in 2020 for the LBFC Devotions channel. (I intend to edit them into a podcast series also; but that’s not ready yet.)

Lectio Divina between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday

Well, I don’t believe any one week is holier than another, but here’s a set of links for the Long Beach Friends Church lectio divina readings from 2020 at the start of the pandemic, one for each day of the week leading up to the Sunday on which many Christians traditionally celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

What happened to Saturday? There are no videos to watch or audio tracks to listen to for Saturday, the day after Good Friday. Traditionally this is a day of silence to remind us of when Jesus was in the tomb. If you missed any of the week’s readings, Saturday might be a good day to catch up.

Is Music Joy? – a Lecture by Dan Chua

This is one of the most remarkable lectures I’ve heard ever, and it is on video at YouTube! It is Dan Chua, a scholar at the University of Hong Kong considering the question, “Is Music Joy?” He is speaking in the Bartlett Lecture Series at Yale Divinity School. Daniel Chua is a University of Hong Kong music scholar who studies the intersection between music, philosophy, and theology. The lecture proper begins after an introduction that introduces an introduction speaker who gives an introduction… Not bad, just not the lecture. These prelims take nearly 4 1/2 minutes. The lecture itself is about a hour. It was for me an hour well-spent! I found it deeply satisfying – even joyful! So, if you are into music in a serious way, or just enjoy thinking deeply, give it a listen. I mean, seriously. Joyfully even!

Quoting the blurb from several Yale Divinity School Bartlett Lecture announcements: “The Bartlett Lectureship was created in 1986 with a gift from the Rev. Robert M. Bartlett ’24 B.D. and his wife, Sue Bartlett. The purpose of the lectureship is to foster understanding of, among other issues, democracy, human rights, and world peace.”

This is the text of the link:

Lectio 365 – An App Recommendation

A number of us at Long Beach Friends Church have been using the Lectio 365 app for a few months. We really appreciate how it leads us through a 10 minute prayer and scripture devotional each day. I found today that they have a promotional video on Youtube.

Check out the video and get it from the Google play store or the iPhone app store. (That is, it’s available on both Android and Apple phones and tablets.)

It’s free. No ads. God’s people did something very good for the wider church here!

Writing a Psalm of Thanksgiving

At past LBFC Thanksgiving Celebrations, we have included times for expression of thanksgiving. In recent years, this took the suggested form of:

I am thankful to God for _____________because ______________

This was intended to help each of us form an expression of thanks to share in our worship celebration, allowing many to participate. This year, we are taking another step in structuring our Thanksgiving. This step is intended to integrate personal expressions thanksgiving into a sense of all giving thanks together – that is, corporate worship! The structure I recommended is taken from brief Psalms of praise or thanksgiving in the Bible. (This structure was explained and recommended to me and others at the recent Psalms Retreat that was led so well by leaders of Long Beach Grace Brethren Church.)

This structure is quite simple. It is in three parts:

  1. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise
  2. Reasons for Thanksgiving and Praise
  3. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise

Think of the first call as you speaking to others who are present as you speak or read your Psalm. You are inviting them to offer thanks and praise to God. The second portion of your Psalm is you giving reasons to those listening for your praise or thanksgiving. You may be speaking to the other people who are listening, or to God, or both. The third portion is you asking those who are listening, again, to join you in the thanksgiving – particularly now that you explained reasons for it.

Psalm 117 uses this pattern:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.

The first portion:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

is a call for those who are listening – in this case “all you nations”! and “all you peoples” – to praise God.

The second portion is giving reasons for this praise:

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

And then the call to the listeners to praise God is repeated as the third part.

And that’s it. We are encouraging our congregation to work on writing their own Psalm of Thanksgiving leading up to our Thanksgiving Celebration. Bring it with you – in your memory or written down somewhere. (I keep mine on my phone). Then, in our time for sharing, as God leads you, read it or repeat it to call others to praise and thanksgiving, give your reasons why, and call them again!

Your Psalm might be longer than Psalm 117. For example, Psalm 118 follows the three part pattern with more words. The first call is verses 1 to 4. Then the reasons are given in verses 5 through 28! That’s a lot of reasons! And finally, a call is repeated in verse 29.

We probably wouldn’t encourage anyone to read a Psalm as long and complex as Psalm 118 at the Thanksgiving Celebration, but the simple three-part structure allows you to give more than one or two reasons for expressing thanks to God.

What do you say in your reasons?

You can talk about God and what He has done. Your reasons can be personal or general. They can be based on corporate experiences of our church family or your biological family. Reasons do not all have to be superficially “good”. Job and other examples of faith expressed praise for God in the face of severe trials, praising God in spite of circumstances. As several of the leaders told us at the Psalms Retreat, “Pain makes your praise credible.” When we are not driven by external circumstances, but by a deep experience of God’s faithfulness in times of trouble and pain, this can be a powerful witness of faith.

Lastly, even if you think you are unlikely to read your Psalm at the celebration, I’d like to encourage you to write one, or work on one. Several people – just in the 24 hours since Sunday when we introduced this exercise – have expressed how spiritually beneficial it has been for them to work through writing a Psalm of thanksgiving to God. I found it very encouraging and spiritually engaging to write Psalms as we were instructed to do so at the Psalms Retreat I attended. It’s a good thing to reflect and work through your reasons to thank God, particularly in this season of Thanksgiving, and to call others to join you – even if it is only in your own personal interaction with God.

As another example here’s a Psalm of Thanksgiving that I worked on during our worship times on Sunday. I was thinking of our very diverse church family as I wrote.