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December 15, 2019 - No Comments!

Pilgrimage Psalms: Part 2

Years ago I toured around the United States with music and improv comedy ministries (I know…random). We hit 47 states and drove 60,000 miles in 9 months. It was a special chapter in my life. (read: bare-bones, sweaty, 15-passenger van with an exclusive diet of fast food and sweet tea)

Music is a vital part of any road travel. There was a pretty short list of albums my touring buddies and I could agree on (available here and don’t you judge me for a second), and those songs have a special place in my music library and heart today. Those songs remind me of the friendships that formed along the way, national landmarks I got to see with my own eyes, and all the crazy antics on the road. 

Those were in a sense, my pilgrimage songs. Many people don’t realize that some of the Psalms we have today were the pilgrimage songs God gave his people…both then and today.

I want to look at the pilgrimage Psalms through the eyes of a father and son, unpacking two perspectives. These two poems are going to give us vital information about the journey you and I are on. We begin with the son, Solomon, as he writes in Psalm 127:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.

SOLOMON WAS A REAL GUY.

This pilgrimage psalm was written by Solomon, a real historical figure who lived and ate and slept like you and me. But the Bible says Solomon was the wisest man to live. That wisdom came from delighting in God and from God’s discipline through the catastrophic failures in his life. Whatever wisdom I have today is in part from time with Jesus and also from the failures, large and small, in my life.

My church is full of a lot of very smart people. They are up the ladder at Microsoft or Amazon or Boeing. They have degrees from renowned schools, and accolades in their industry. I’ll never forget the time I met an exhausted and disheveled Mom wearing sweat pants with an infant snotting down her shoulder, and learned later that she was one of the top biochemistry researchers in the United States.

Maybe you know people with a lot of power or influence, or you yourself have those things and those are all good things. Maybe you make good money, or have changed whole markets with your innovation and hard work. You might be really smart.

But you aren’t Solomon.

We aren’t as smart as he was (1 Kings 4) or as wealthy as he was. 
His wealth adjusted for modern times lands somewhere between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. If Solomon lives in Seattle, Gates and Bezos can’t afford his neighborhood. He ran the rat-race that defines so much of our culture and actually crossed the finish line that escapes the rest of us. Can we learn from someone that actually lived the life we’d ask for if we had three wishes? All of the things you want, he owned it, tasted it, or touched it.

Solomon begins the poem with a pretty provocative statement that without the Lord’s blessing, human effort is worthless. 

The examples he uses covers work-life, city-life, and home-life. Didn’t miss much did he? Solomon is warning us that if we aren’t careful, we’ll spend our whole lives working and building and not end up where we wanted. It’s possible that we work really, really hard in this life and completely waste it. Sheer effort is not a guarantee of a life well lived.

I know we all feel the tension between church stuff, family stuff, friend stuff, dating stuff, work stuff, school stuff. It’s a lot to figure out, isn’t it?

But there’s a very real danger that we spend our whole lives with a loose connection to Jesus but never putting our best energy and effort where He commands and where He leads. This is marked by a life of never listening, never waiting on Him, never obeying, never resting…but always building, always toiling. God is not opposed to you building, He’s opposed to you building where He has not led you, and toiling without Him.

How do you know what you’re building? Tune in for part three.

November 18, 2019 - No Comments!

Pilgrimage Psalms: Part 1

When we read our preferred news source, or a email from a friend, or our favorite song lyrics, we treat those kinds of writing a little differently. They differ in purpose, and so we read them with different eyes.

The whole bible is true and helpful, and yet the books of the Bible are no different. The different genres are to be read differently and with different considerations

So then…what are the Psalms?

The Psalms were poems to be sung in community. The weren’t sermons or theological treatises but they are incredibly helpful in our understanding of God and how God’s people saw Him in the Old Testament.

We can gain fabulous insight into our everyday discipleship by paying attention to them. The pilgrimage psalms in particular (Psalms 120-134) are some of my favorites because I see my own journey with Christ in these words.

These 15 poems were sung in community three times a year during the three festivals that happened for the Jews up in Jerusalem. Each festival required that everyone make the haul from their homes up the hill to the city. Scholars tell us that the three festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Day of Atonement, had different customs and procedures, but all three meant a road trip for the Jews and that meant these songs were pulled out. It was a significant journey because Jerusalem sits above the neighboring regions, thus an uphill climb from most directions.

Jesus’ parents made these trips (Luke 2:41)
Jesus himself would have made these trips.

The parallels for God’s people then, and you and I today are easy and obvious. We too find ourselves on the road. Perhaps a bit cliche, but our lives are a journey. We’re all hurling through time and space and heading somewhere. Between creation and recreation. Between the Garden as it was and the garden as it will be.

We, too, and moving towards the Heavenly city. We too, are heading toward a time when all of God’s family will be gathered as one. Regardless of what you think about God, or whether you even think he is real, your life is a journey.

I love the Psalms because there’s so much heart in them; not just heady facts about God, but an invitation to find God himself. I need the Psalms because they remind me that GOD sees everything in my chest.  And that includes the hard and heavy stuff.

The psalms say over and over and over again, that God sees all of it, He sees us, and He is with us in the midst of those honest prayers. I need the Psalms. And I suspect you do too.

June 20, 2019 - No Comments!

Many Parts

We’re about 75% of the way through the book of 1 Corinthians at Doxa. The last few weeks we’ve spent time looking at the ways in which God gifts his children for the revealing of his character, the benefit of those around us, and witness to the world. For the “call to worship” these past few weeks, I asked the room to extend their hands in a posture of receiving as I recited prayers for a subset of the giftings we see in scripture. Some of those prayers are below.

TEACHING
Help those with the gift of teaching communicate your perfect truth with care and precision. Help their joy for your words to us move them toward obedience. Spirit, fill them with the ability to help our hearts understand your will. Help them love those they instruct, and always maintain a posture of learning for themselves.

GIVING
Thank you Father for the generosity of this church. Bless those that give sacrificially and let their willingness to make your kingdom first be contagious for all of us. May the freedom they experience remind us of the temporary nature of most of what our hands hold.

MERCY
In light of the brokenness we see outside of us, and feel inside of us, help those with this gift to minister to us. Give them the care and concern of your son Jesus, to weep with those that weep, and mourn with those that mourn. Many of us need a friend to speak words of mercy, so raise up more of us to mirror this aspect of your perfect love.

ENCOURAGEMENT
Give them the words we need to hear from you. Help them speak into the deepest wounds and bring healing to us through words of kindness and empowering grace. Help those of us who lean towards the critical to receive from them.

PRAYER / INTERCESSION
Father help those with the gift of prayer find you in their quietness. Help them pray for what you desire for our lives, instead of things we substitute for you. Help them lead us towards greater dependence. We have so many needs in this season, yet you are our supply.

SERVING
Many hands are required for the thriving of your local church. Thank you for those that use their gifts today. Help them see their service as a beautiful act of worship. Help them see how their service looks like your kingdom. That your hospitality extended, your truth taught, your family cared for is our very purpose for living.

EVANGELISM
You have sent us into the world to love others and share with them who you are. Give them courage. There is nothing the world can take from us that lasts. Give them the words, forgive them for ever treating others like projects, and may our own humility and sacrifice be attractive to those around us.

DISCERNMENT
For those with this gift let their discernment lead them to deep care for others and not judgement. Give them the patience to watch your plans unfold. Lead them to ask questions that encourage your saints towards greater obedience and lives of holiness.

November 27, 2017 - 1 comment.

MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS

Worship leading is a beautiful privilege and massive responsibility. I have found it is a struggle to hold both of these truths in tension all the time. This past week reminded me rather pointedly that both of these statements are equally true and essential. Godly leadership requires that you have to maintain humility and an open posture for feedback while keeping a thick skin and expecting scrutiny.

Inside of 24 hours this weekend, I had a congregation member attack me via text while another one gift me something very thoughtful as a gesture of appreciation. High mountains and low valleys are part of being in ministry to be sure, but I so desperately need grace and Christ’s presence to level the terrain. I don’t often respond the way I want to. I weather one storm to be spun around by the next. And then in his kindness, God sends an encourager, an ally, or a grateful word.

Feeling a bit beat up and rattled, I wrote this confession for our gatherings on Sunday, mostly because I needed it:

Though made in the image of a giving God,
we have withheld from others.

Though made in the image of a patient God,
we have lost our patience.

Though made in the image of a Savior that willingly took our punishment,
we defend ourselves and demonize others.

Though made in the image of a God of kindness,
we consider our own needs above others.

As always, I’m thankful for a God who is for me, who never provokes us, puts words in our mouths, or assumes the worst. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that he is for me…a truth I’ve known in my head for two decades but a “heart belief” I’ve found slippery. My faith is small and my Savior is great.

January 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Jesus Is the All-Wise

 

Most worship leaders I know are balancing a lot in their lives. Working full or part-time, going to school, church activities, touring, families, kids, travel, etc. Just getting through Sunday can feel like the win. This dictates how we as leaders approach liturgy at times.

When I think through the liturgy for the upcoming Sunday each week, based on margins, I frequently reach for an established resource; a creed, a prayer, a psalm etc. On occasion, I feel like I need to spend the time to write out myself what I want our people to know and hear.

This past Sunday, we looked at God as the source of wisdom, as we walked through part two in our series in the book of James. I wrote and then read this confessional prayer with the congregation. Feel free to use it if it’s helpful in your context.

 

LEADER: When our days are darkened, and trouble surrounds us.
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When others sin against us, speaking unkindly, betraying, or minimizing us:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we grasp for what we falsely believe is rightfully ours, and attempt to control or manipulate our circumstances or relationships:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we isolate and hide from community, in an attempt to protect and defend ourselves:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we kneel before Fear, paying homage to an abusive king that robs us of life, and neglect you the True king that brings life:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

LEADER: When we receive your blessings with entitled hearts, recognizing the gifts but not the giver:
CONGREGATION: Your wisdom is true and right. You are the all-wise God.

CLOSING:
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6

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January 13, 2017 - No Comments!

VIDEO RELEASE: Sunken Pages

Nine days before we traveled to Austin to join up with Kyle Lent and make our last record, I was running through all of our songs that had made the cut, plinking them out on my piano at home. In that moment, I started playing with chords that don’t normally get played next to each other, and then the chorus lyrics showed up.

I sat on the whole thing for two days, because “we were past the point of new material”. I couldn’t shake the melody, so I finished writing lyrics for two verses and recorded the whole thing on my iPhone. I listened back once. If I was honest, the lyrics were some of my favorite I had ever written, and the timing couldn’t be worse. As I nervously composed the text to our producer, I thought, “this is dumb. This is really dumb.” I hesitated. Then I pressed send.

A few hours later Kyle texted back, and said that if we didn’t include this song on the record, “he would refuse to produce it”. I think he was kidding, but his point was made.

After recently stumbling on the video recordings from the album release party for “Hopefully Broken“, I decided to share a few of the songs from that night. The first one I’ll post is from the “Sunken Pages”. Hope you enjoy.

October 19, 2016 - No Comments!

VERGE – Seattle 2016

vergezim

Doxa recently hosted the VERGE West Conference, an event helping churches implement missional communities in their context. Jimmy Mcneal from Austin Stone came out to join us and we had a lot of fun leading together. He’s a talented and godly leader, and I recommend you check out his latest album here. Seeing leaders from all over the country encouraged to make disciples in the everyday stuff of life is exhilarating.

My favorite part of conferences like this is leading breakout sessions for artists. Our time of Q&A was fantastic…some great leaders asking great questions. I hope to make the audio from that time available here soon. Stay tuned.

dznjimmy

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May 16, 2016 - No Comments!

Not Strong Enough

notSTRONG

One of my favorite parts of leading worship in a local church is getting to articulate what God is doing in my heart for the congregation to process and identify with. The hopeful and messy parts, strewn together. It’s helpful for me because it forces me to remind myself constantly that I am a sheep before I am a shepherd. I believe it to be helpful for those in the room because they are given an out from the pretending and posturing that everything in their own chest is fine and clean.

aweBOOK

Last Sunday, I read an excerpt from Paul Tripp’s new book “Awe” that I recently picked up. I found the following section helpful in setting up our worship time together:

“As it is true of a street sign, so it is true of every jaw-dropping, knee weakening, silence-producing, wonder-inspiring thing in the universe. The sign is not the thing you are looking for. No, the sign points you to what you are looking for.”

This is a perfect description of how the good things in our lives that we commonly elevate to supreme over our lives (i.e. work success, influence, romance, family, recreation) can actually redirect our affection to God rather than replace it. Replacing God is something we’re quite good at, even if it is only our own perception change and not a positional change. It’s a perfectly understandable and flawed habit we humans have.  We want to place our hope in something we can wrap our arms around or pay for online. The tangible feels trustworthy.

Simply put, the weight of our hopes and hearts can not be held up by other things. It just weighs too much. These smaller things are not strong enough.

Thankfully, He is.

may8

May 10, 2016 - No Comments!

An Interview with Gospel Song Union


I recently got to share my thoughts on why creatives in the church can learn from baboons over at GospelSongUnion.com. Zach Bolen from Citizens and Saints is helping lead their efforts. We talked about why artists in the church need to rest as much as anyone else.

They also did a quick interview on my current role at Doxa Church in Bellevue. Have a look here:  http://www.gospelsongunion.com/blog/2016/5/9/who-is-donald-zimmerman

Thankful for Gospel Song Union and there desire to see encouragement and unity among arts leaders in the Pacific Northwest.

April 25, 2016 - No Comments!

Speed Kills

speedKILLS

If God offered to change anything in your church, would you ask for numerical growth? More leaders? More people giving? More people arriving on time on Sundays? Would you ask for something to be removed or added so that you could experience growth?

These are obviously good things and many a godly man and woman has sought God to bring these changes. But I am reminded this week as to the dangers of believing that growth defines your ministry as worthy, faithful, or godly.

I reached out to my friend Matt Boswell recently and asked what his highlight was from the recent Together For The Gospel conference was. The video below is what he passed along. After watching it, I completely understand why he picked this as significant.

Having worked for a church that made the “fastest growing churches in America” list a few times, I can tell you first-hand that rapid ministry growth is not to be coveted or idolized. It’s not sexy or fulfilling.  While not antithetical, it’s also certainly not a metric for faithfulness or maturity. The leaders that I served with look back on those seasons of soaring numbers  with a mix of gratitude and sorrow. It took a lasting toll on each of us and we’d certainly navigate things differently given another chance.

It is perfectly possible (and I would even argue, perfectly common) that your church may not be exploding in weekend attendance and you could be doing exactly what God wants you to be doing. It’s also possible, and common, that you could be blowing up on Sundays, with spontaneous baptisms falling out of your pockets and be missing God’s call almost completely.

Doxa Church where I serve has grown slowly and steadily over the past year. Our challenges are many. A replant is a very unique animal. That said, I am both grateful for the new life and the rate at which we are experiencing it. The logistical demands and painful choices that naturally spill out of a church experiencing “explosive growth” is something

Watch the video and see what the Spirit tells you as you listen.

“Endurance Needed: Strength for a Slow Reformation and the Dangerous Allure of Speed” — Mark Dever (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.