Psalm 8 in Family Worship

Our family and friends are starting to memorize and study Psalm 8.  Here are our initial questions and ideas. We'll have to see what we learn along the way.  

Study it

  • How does this Psalm begin and end?  Psalm 8 has a question. What is it? Where is it?
  • What word pictures can you find in Psalm 8?
  • How is God described?
  • How does God defeat his foes?
  • What does God give man?

Pray it

  • I praise God because of his majestic name.
  • I praise God because of his beautiful creation.
  • I praise God because he knows me.
  • I praise God because he made me.

Draw it 

  • Try drawing one big mural of everything in Psalm 8.

Words to learn 

(I'm trying to be aware of words that may be more difficult for my children).

  • LORD -

  • Lord -

  • Majestic -

  • Glory 

  • Dominion -

From the Book Shelf: Leeman on Preaching That Convicts

A couple of years ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Leeman's Reverberation: How God's Word Brings Light, Freedom and Action to His People.  The book was applicable to a class I'm currently teaching, so I picked it up again.  This quote stood out to me a few weeks ago and keeps coming back to my mind.  On preaching and application he says:

The language of application works when we regard words as little vessels of information that sail from one brain to another through the act of speaking. Give me data that I don't have, and I will apply it. Notices the emphasis is on the preacher and the listener's activity. It's on the human half of the equation.  The preacher applies the text, the listener applies it to his life. It also treats the human problem as one of ignorance. In the Bible, God encounters us, and he changes us. 
Ignorance is indeed on of our problems, but even worse is the stiff neck and puffed-out chest of our self-rule.  God gives us new information in the Scriptures, but He also confronts us with His crown.  He confronts our idols and false gods. He confronts our pride and fear.  He confronts our pain and weakness.  He confronts our autonomy and impulse to self-help.  He confronts the lies and false realities that we dearly love.  Most fundamentally, He confronts our self-rule.
And then--amazing grace!--He breaks that self-rule. I was blind, but now I see.
God does all this when we pick up His Word to read by ourselves. He also this through the Sunday preacher...
...That is why our churches must be utterly centered upon God’s words.  If our basic problem is self-rule then we must be confronted again and again.” (142-143).


Weekly Favs - February 6

Anyone who reads this blog (all six!) certainly follows other blogs where this article was mentioned.  But in case you haven't been on the (Christian) internet this week, it's a great little read.  The "Plus One" Approach to Church by Kevin DeYoung.  

Al Mohler discusses, no grieves, over the disturbing arguments of abortionists in the Thursday, February 5th edition of The Briefing.  

Dating advice from Matt Chandler.  The Ask Pastor John podcast asked Matt Chandler to weigh in on several questions about dating and marriage.  His wisdom was kind,clear, and--I fear--too often just ignored.  

I am a Theology Nerd.  Apparently this is what my coworkers think of me.  Guilty as charged! Yes, I will be getting the T-shirt!



Book Review: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Having just finished Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, I shall attempt my first review of fiction.  Actually, "meanderings" may be a better word than "review." 

Cry, the Beloved Country is the story Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest from a small village in South Africa who spends all his savings to track down his prodigal son in Johannesburg.  It's a beautifully written story of humanity, suffering, and hope.

I love that Paton's writings are from a world (literally) different from my own. It's not simply the geography of strange land or even different language (he preserves much Zulu) or even lives full of trials so foreign from my own that are captivating.  It's that the rhythm and cadence of the book are entirely different than my own experience and anything I've read.  It has a different feel to it. I think other people have used the word "lyrical" to describe the book and I would agree. 

Even though the world and language and suffering are alien to me, the book is still compelling because the complexities of the human soul are not.  Paton beautifully captures the turmoil of humanity, the tension between the evil without and the evil within. As Kumalo plods through the nearly ubiquitous injustice in South Africa  (racism, prostitution, corrupt politics, etc.) and reach of sin into his own family, it is often his own soul that plagues him most.  His temper.  His deception.  His lack of faith. Where many books attempt to be "real" they end up with characters that are somehow subhuman.  But Paton's characters and dialogues do not suffer from this.  In fact, it is his exposition of human suffering that is the most real and one of the reasons I find the book so beautiful. In the book, Stephen Kumalo's life becomes eternally intertwined with white man James Jarvis, who is mourning the loss of his murdered son, Arthur. One of the most moving moments in the book is when Jarvis reads the last writings of his son. Arthur (whom we never meet in the book) was an activist for reconciliation between black and white South Africa and wrote passionately for the cause. Only minutes before his untimely murder Arthur penned some of my favorite words, "I shall no longer ask myself if this or that is expedient, but only if it is right...I do this not because I am courageous and honest, but because it is the only way to end the conflict of my deepest soul. (198)." The scene sums up the weightiness of the whole book. Jarvis, who had more or less ignores his son's activism seems to realize that when his son was murdered more than a man died. Hope died.  

Yes, God save Africa, the beloved country. God save us from the deep depths of our sins. God save us from the fear that is afraid of justice. God save us from the fear that is afraid of men. God save us all
— Cry, The Beloved Country, p. 249.

But true hope cannot die. New hopes are born even in suffering. This hopefulness is what makes the book so beautiful.  It is not a naive hopefulness but a hope shaped deeply by understanding the world and the cross. Near the end of the book one of Kumalo's friends says to him (another of my favorite lines), "I have never thought that a Christian would be free of suffering, umfundisi [Zulu for priest]. For our Lord suffered. And I come to believe that he suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering. For he knew that there is no life without suffering (p. 251)."  

I read Cry, the Beloved Country on my wife's recommendation because it is one of her favorites.  I'm glad she made me read it. 

Guest Post: Tyler Giesel

One of the unfortunate recipients of my many musings is my coworker and friend Tyler Giesel.  He is my pastoral assistant at church where one of his unofficial duties is "listen to Zach ramble."  In addition to working at church Tyler is a student, husband, soon-to-be father, and social media guru. It's that last one that I'm interested in today.  When he asked me to write something for his blog ( I agreed on the condition that he would answer a question for my blog.  I think my question was something like this:  How do you successfully promote yourself on social media obeying the biblical virtues of humility and selflessness?  Where does Philippians 2 fit in? Or maybe I could have asked it like this:  would John the Baptist have been a blogger?

Follow Me

When you get on Twitter or Facebook now-a-days it seems like everybody is advertising their website or blog or their friends website or blog. I do it pretty often, but there are some people who don’t do it at all. Zach is one of those guys who doesn’t typically promote his site.  So, in today’s blog I’m going to explain why I unashamedly promote my blog and my friend’s blogs on social media. 

I was totally going to bank on using Paul’s usage of “follow me as I follow Christ” until I researched it a little better and saw it is better translated as the ESV puts it “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” However, that doesn’t mean that the blog topic is completely scrapped! Why do I consistently tell people to check out my blog or to follow me on Twitter? It’s because I have good news. It is because I have news that can literally change the way you experience life and how you interact with everything in life and I don’t want to keep it just to myself! I have written more on this topic here.

The topic of our blogs are generally theologically driven with posts that are good-news-centered. Our blogs are simple ways for us to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

I recently had a discussion in my Growth Group about ambition in the work place and in this particular case we were wading through the murky water of ambition in the work place. Seeking to advance at our jobs, climbing the corporate ladder as they say. The conclusion that we came to was that ambition is great if we are ambitious for God’s fame and not our own.

(I know what you’re thinking, where are you going with this? Can you please just get on with your point?)

Okay, I will. When I seek for people to come to my blog, twitter feed, or my church’s website and twitter feed, I don’t do it for my own fame. I do it for the fame of the good news that is the gospel! I will continue to unabashedly promote my site on social media not because my website is the best website in the world. But because it is gospel centered and my Savior is the only Savior in the whole world! I must be excited about people hearing/reading about my God, no matter who the author is!

Jesus, the Psalm 1 Prototype.

Imagine little boyJesus, seven or eight years old, running off to school. What was it like?  Did he have to study hard or did he have a photographic memory?  Did he have to learn everything or did he just know because he was God? Theologian Bruce Ware explores this question in his book The Man Christ Jesus. Ware asks the question like this: "Was his knowledge of the Bible automatic?  Did he 'just know' all of it due to his being fully God?" His interest (and ours) in the question of Jesus' learning abilities isn't merely academic.  There is an important truth for us and our lives.  While we can't satisfy every curiosity, Scripture does tell us a little.  The answer is in Luke 2:52 which says that Jesus "increased in wisdom."  In his human nature he had to learn about nature, and biology, and yes, even Scripture.  Here is Ware's answer to his question:

"Again, Luke's affirmations that Jesus increased in wisdom lead us to think this is not the right answer.  Yes, he surely was God, and in his divine nature he knows the Scripture perfectly, since he knows all things perfectly.  But if Jesus 'increased in wisdom,' then his knowledge was not out of his divine nature per se. Rather, his human nature had to acquire the knowledge and wisdom that he later evidenced, whether at the age of twelve or thirty.
"So again, how did Jesus acquire such knowledge and wisdom that even at the age of twelve he could converse with the most learned men of Israel?  Here is what must be the core of our answer: Jesus was what might be thought of as the Psalm 1 prototype.  He truly loved the love of the Lord and meditated upon it day and night.  Because of this, he was like a tree planted by rivers of that that yields its fruit in season; its leaf did not wither, and in whatever he did he prospered.  Out of his love for the law, he learned and mastered that law, and the Spirit within him illumined his mind and enflamed his heart to long to know it better and better as he grew.
"There is a reason why Psalm 1 is the first psalm of the Psalter.  It not only describes the wise and the wicked as general categories of human beings; it describes in particular the Wise One, whose wisdom surpassed all others as we all others as he grew in wisdom through the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit, then worked in the mind and the heart of the young boy Jesus to grant him a hunger for the Word of God and insight into that Word as he was taught and as he meditated upon it in quiet study and reflection" (pages 52-53). 

Bruce Ware's point, which was also Luke's point, is that in his humanity Jesus had to learn the same way we did.  That should encourage us to follow the example of Christ in our own meditation on Scripture.  That means we have every tool available for us that Jesus had to become a Psalm 1 man.  

Psalm 1, Isaac Watts

Happy the man whose cautious feet 

Shun the broad way that sinners go,

Who hates the place where atheists meet,

And fears to talk as scoffers do.


He loves t' employ the morning light

Amongst the statutes of the Lord;

And spends the wakeful hours of night,

With pleasure, pondering o'er his word.


He, like a plant by gentle streams,

Shall flourish in immortal green.

And heav'n will shine with kindest beams

On every work his hands begin.


But sinners find their counsels crossed:

As chaff before the tempest flies,

So shall their hopes be blown and lost,

When the last trumpet shakes the skies.


In vain the rebel seeks to stand

In judgment with the pious race;

The dreadful Judge, with stern command,

Divides him to a diff'rent place.


"Straight is the way my saints have trod;

I blessed the path, and drew it plain;

But you would choose the crooked road,

And down it leads to endless pain."


More Psalms of Isaac Watts can be found here.

Manly Men Sing

In a home where the boys are outnumbered more than two to one my son and I are always conscious of doing "guy stuff."  Ninjas, guns, camouflage, football.  That stuff. We have to intentionally fight the tidal wave of dolls and dress-up, lest we be swept away in all things pink.   But while I want to raise my son to be a man, I do not want him to succumb to a caveman-like understanding of masculinity.  Too often books, music, poetry, and art are viewed as antithetical to manhood.  Thankfully, I didn't grow up in a home or community where that was the case.  In my high school, the top musicians were also the top athletes.  Nevertheless, too often the never-said but oft implied sentiment I get from Christian men is "Real men don't sing.  That's for girls."  

A real man would never say that.  One of the "manliest" men in the Bible also wrote the most songs.  David, who killed lions, bears, a giant, and armies, also wrote many of the songs of the Bible.  He was warrior, a general, a king, and a poet.  He exposed his own soul in poetry.  Any view of masculinity that has no room for music is not biblical masculinity.

Therefore one of the phrases we say in our house a lot is, "Manly men sing."  Sing loud and clear! 

In his book on raising sons, Doug Wilson wrote:

The fact that the church has largely abandoned the singing of psalms means that the church has abandoned a songbook that is thoroughly masculine in its lyrics. The writer of most of the psalms was a warrior, and he knew how to fight the Lord’s enemies in song. With regard to the music of our psalms and hymns, we must return to a world of vigorous singing, vibrant anthems, more songs where the tenor carries the melody, open fifths, and glory. Our problem is not that such songs do not exist; our problem is that we have forgotten them. And in forgetting them, we are forgetting our boys. Men need to model such singing for their sons (Future Men, kindle 1089-1094).