Our Journey in the Psalms: Dr. Timothy Tennent
Every time the Lord gave me a new assignment, whether it was to pastor a church, serve on the mission field, or teach in a seminary, I realized that I needed to grow spiritually if I was to meet the new challenges which the Lord had graciously given to me. However, never before was I hit with this need as profoundly as when I became President of Asbury Seminary. I had followed Christ earnestly for over thirty years, but somehow I felt that I was running on half of a tank. I was facing challenges which I never faced before, and I needed even more of the presence and wisdom of Christ to be faithful. In short, I needed more of Christ in my life if I was going to be an effective leader for Asbury. One night, my wife and I discussed it and my wife suggested, somewhat out of the blue, that we dedicate ourselves to getting up even earlier and spend an extra hour in worship and prayer focused on one psalm per day. That was almost seven years ago. For the last seven years, we have spent an extra hour or two in the Psalms before we begin each day.
My wife and I begin by reading a psalm, and then we sing it using a metrical psalter. For the first five years we used one of many psalters which are available. However, we eventually reworked all 150 Psalms into metrical form ourselves and we have produced our own metrical psalter. It is available in digital form for free on psalms.seedbed.com, (See, www.psalm.seedbed.com) but it is also available in a beautiful hardbound book which is also now available through Seedbed.
I cannot express how deeply and profoundly this has enriched our spiritual lives. The value of singing a psalm is that it puts you into an act of worship before the Lord. After singing, we then reflect on the psalm and share insights and thoughts about it. This often sends us to other parts of the Scripture, making the psalm our own prayer for the day, or praying about things which the psalm highlights in our meditations. Over time, we noticed a significant difference in our spiritual lives. One of the most amazing things which happened was that after several years of daily psalm singing with my wife we started hearing a third voice. I don’t mean that in the ordinary, audible way, but in a deeper spiritual way. When we sang our Psalm for the day, we started “hearing” the voice of Christ who was singing with us! The Psalms take on even more meaning as you hear the voice of Christ singing along with you. The Psalms were, of course, the only prayer book Jesus ever knew. It was also the prayer book of the early church. It has been the prayer book for most of church history until the emergence of hymns gradually began to replace the psalms between the 18th and 20th centuries.
I have always loved hymns–and I still do. In fact, one of the many projects we are currently working on in is a new Asbury hymnbook with the top hymns across history, especially Wesleyan ones, which Asbury is collecting together into a great new hymnal in preparation for the re-dedication of Estes Chapel in May of 2018. Many of the hymns capture the theology of who God is and what He has done in ways which are amazingly compelling. Charles Wesley was one of the greatest hymn writers in the history of the church–and he taught us to “sing our theology.” I also love many of the new choruses. They express the exuberant side of worship in powerful ways. But, as much as I love hymns and choruses, there is nothing which takes the place of the psalms for me. I estimate that my wife and I have dedicated over 4,000 hours to the Psalms in the last seven years alone. The amazing thing is that although we have been through the psalter many times, each time it keeps giving us more insights and more of Christ.
I love that line from C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew where Queen Lucy says,
“Yes, In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” Not only our world, but the psalms, and my life and your life, all have something inside which is bigger than that space which we occupy: Christ himself.
If you are longing for more of Christ, I encourage you to think about leaning into the Psalms in a fresh way. There is an awakening of the Psalms all across the world, and we feel like we are just touching the edges of it. But, it is rich and life-changing. You may be facing difficult challenges. You may be wanting to quit the public ministry. You may be feeling really discouraged. Take heart. The Lord is with you, and He has a deeper journey awaiting you that can bring you to a new place in Him. I cannot prescribe what that will look for you, but I know that He is summoning us all to walk more closely with Him in 2018 and beyond. The last seven years have been life-changing for me. I cannot even begin to think what He has in store for the next seven.
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