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Our purpose this week is to dive deep into the Psalter – singing it, studying it, and meditating upon it. We will explore the Psalter’s role in the church’s teaching, rebuke/correction, and training ministry (2 Ti. 3:16). We will investigate the various genres (types) of psalms with their intimate link to the rest of Scripture. We will explore the theology and Christology of the Psalter. We will recall how the Psalter has emboldened the Church during key periods of reformation, reading the letter of Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) to an ailing disciple named Marcellinus.
The Focus in 2014
The church of Jesus Christ has a long history of singing the inspired songs of God’s Word! These songs of the covenant have sustained the people of the covenant people throughout the centuries, including the Babylonian captivity (see Psalm 137), the earliest persecutions of the Apostolic Church (Acts 2:24-26), and the many trials Christians have face throughout church history. Often overlooked is how the theology of the Psalter shaped the missionary labors of the Apostles (Paul in Romans 1 and 15) and the evangelists (e.g. Hebrews 1 and 10). Jesus himself quoted Psalm 22 on the Cross, Psalm 110 during Passion Week, and viewed the Psalter as being “about Me” – its meaning being fulfilled in his Messianic ministry (Luke 24:44-45). Both our Savior and his Apostles cited the Psalter as an authoritative source of teaching more than any other Biblical document!

Lectures

Pastor Brad Johnston
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Lecture Audio

Pastor Stephen Roda
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Lecture Audio

Pastor Aaron Goerner
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Lecture Audio

Marc Drayer
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Lecture Audio

Weekend Conference
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Lecture Audio

Videos

Student Stories

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This week has been one of the best weeks of my life. I feel that God has really helped me grow in my faith. As I listened to the lectures and talked with the speakers, sang through the Psalter and fellowshipped with the other students I felt my faith being built up.

Before coming to LifeFocus I was at a point in my life where I was struggling. I was stressed and tired for months on end and had even begun to question the existence of God at times. But being at LifeFocus this week and having the privilege of spending time with God and digging into His Word has been a wonderful and uplifting experience.

Before I came to LifeFocus 2014 I sang the Psalms without really understanding why, even though I loved to sing them. But now, after studying them for a week, it has become clear to me that the Psalms are God’s Word and the best way to worship Him.
Emma Wood, Sterling, KS
My time at LifeFocus has been one of intense learning about the Psalms. I learned how the Psalms were used by other Christians in the past and how we ought to use them today. I learned how the Psalms of anger, sorrow, and joy are useful for me today and that they teach me how to come to God with these powerful emotions. I learned how to ask for His help and guidance with them using the Psalms. I was again reminded that I don’t know myself very well and that as we come to know God ourselves, we will understand our great need for God.

I learned that the Psalms are both beautiful histories and informative poetry. I learned that even the Psalms filled with cries for God’s righteous judgment of the wicked also carry the hope of redemption. And that Psalms filled with praise can carry a call for destruction.

I learned how much fun it is to sing large sections of the Psalter at one time. I was also reminded what a wonderful thing it is to gather with like-minded believers to sing the praises of our God and Savior.
Jacob Goerner, Floyd, NY
During the course of the week at LifeFocus, as we studied the Psalms, I was challenged to think beyond the mere words on the pages of Scripture. I was guided in seeing Christ in the Psalms and recognizing Him in each one was amazing.

I also saw how there are Psalms for every season and emotion. I never realized how personal the Psalms are, as I had always seen them as the words of the Psalmist and had not seen how well they reflect and guide my own emotions.

I am so blessed that the conclusion of this week was not the end, but rather the beginning of a lifelong journey deeper into the Psalms.
Rebekah Spitler, Stillwater, OK
I really enjoyed the lectures on the practical use of the Psalter. It is really amazing how applicable the Psalms are to my life at any given moment. This week I have grown in my love for God’s songs and have recommitted myself to singing them. Only now because of LifeFocus I will do so with more knowledge.

The highlights of LifeFocus for me were the lectures, the singing, and the fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was awesome to worship with the believers from the local congregation and from other parts of the world.
Abigail Parnell, Stillwater, OK
This past week has been an incredible time of learning and fellowship. The lectures were very useful and edifying and I learned a great deal about the emotions contained in the Psalms. I learned that I can use the Psalms to enable me to express and channel my own emotions and that they all point me to Christ. The Psalms contain every emotion known to man and I was taught many ways of understanding and studying them.

I was greatly encouraged through the many Psalms I sang this week. While I was unable to sing every verse in the Psalter I sang more in one week than I usually sing in two months.

I was also greatly blessed by the fellowship. I was able to reconnect with old friends as well as meet new people. There was so much to do and at any one moment of free time you could find people singing Psalms, playing games, or just talking. The church families were very welcoming and provided us with great food, and many opened their homes to us.
Will Parnell, Stillwater, OK
LifeFocus week was a wonderful, intense study of the praise of God through the Psalms. I had an amazing time learning from Pastors Brad Johnston and Steve Rhoda, as well as my own pastor, Aaron Goerner, as they dug into exciting new aspects of the Psalms that I had not known before. I found particular application in the lectures that dealt with how the Psalms had use in every situation and emotion in life, from joy to anger.

I found these lectures to be helpful for myself because I have somewhere to turn whenever I’m upset, depressed, or disappointed about things. I found the lecture on Psalms of anger helpful because anything that can help me control anger is a blessing and important for me to learn.

I enjoyed the fellowship with other believers around my own age immensely. Learning from their example was an awesome opportunity and one that I hope to enjoy again next year.
Michael Wold, Floyd, NY
..God blew my mind. And I mean: BLEW MY MIND! I got to sit down with Brad again to continue our conversation from before, and while again, I can’t go into detail, I can firmly say that I am assured that was one of the most important, if not the most important meeting of my entire life to date, and quite possibly the rest of it as well. I could never have seen nor predicted that anything remotely close to what God has done for me would have been done. Never! But here I am. Overwhelmed and humbled by the sovereignty, majesty, compassion, and love of my God. The one and only God. My father, Savior, and Comforter. My help in times of need, and lover of my soul. This experience has brought to bear the full weight of Romans 8:28, “28 Also we know that all things work together for the best unto them that love God, even to them that are called of his purpose.” Now, I usually hear this passage in times of suffering or trials, but it is all the more true in times of spiritual pursuits! If I hadn’t made the commitment to follow through on coming to lifeFOCUS inspite of my physical shortcomings, these mind blowing experiences would never have happened. And looking back now, I can’t imagine not having gone through them. They’ve been of critical importance to me in how I want to serve in God’s kingdom, and who I want to do it with.

I lift my eternal thanks up to God for this experience, and also thank all involved with lifeFOCUS for allowing God to work through them and speak into my life. I’ll never forget this week. It’s been quite possibly the most important of my life.

I encourage you, make the commitment. Whether it be to lifeFOCUS (which I endorse with my whole being, mind, body and soul) or another church event that can further you in your faith, JUST DO IT! When you commit yourself to Christ’s service, and being all you can be, and learning all you can learn in him, He will bless that.
Daniel Bloedow, Russell, Ontario, Canada
This was my first year at LifeFocus. I have had so much fun learning and studying the Psalms and I have learned so much from the speakers.

My hope is to take what I’ve learned home with me and apply it to my life. I have learned so much this year at LifeFocus and I hope to see what the Lord has in store for next year.
Elijah Goerner, Floyd, NY
LifeFocus 2014 was had incredible influence on my Christian growth this year. I was so privileged to be able to travel from New York and have this amazing experience.

The lectures and times of teaching were a wonderful aspect of LifeFocus and I was challenged by each of the speakers as they spoke on different elements of the Psalms. I was particularly impressed in learning how the Psalms apply to the wide range of human emotion. I have gained a deeper appreciation of God’s inspired hymn book, the Psalter, and am eager to share it and what I have learned about it with my friends.

I was deeply moved by the lecture on the imprecatory Psalms and gained an understanding of how both malediction and benediction are essential parts of the Gospel. Most Christians are troubled by the Psalms of Imprecation and I was no exception, but this lecture answered many of my questions.

During this week we also examined the structure of the Psalms in their historical context, as well as learning how to apply them personally. We also looked at the ways in which Christ is portrayed in the Psalms. As a result I have developed a greater love for this book of the Bible and a sense of gratitude to God for giving it to His people. I will not read, sing, or meditate on the Psalms in the same way again because the Holy Spirit has used the preaching and reading of them this week to strengthen my affection for them.

I was also greatly impressed by the hospitality shown by the members of the Topeka congregation and it greatly encouraged me as I spent time with them. It was refreshing to be able to join them for family worship. I was also blessed by the relationships that I formed with the other students as we studied God’s Word and sought His will for our lives. I look forward seeing how God will continue to grow these relationships in the future.

While LifeFocus was a challenging time, I am thankful that I took this week to refocus on my priorities and what I need to be doing in my walk with Christ. I spent time with God, reflecting on His work in my life. I attempted to sing through the entire Psalter with the other students and heard about the glorious things God is doing for His people. The Church Militant is much bigger than I have seen, but getting to know this piece of it was profound.

This week has reminded me of what’s most important and has made me more excited about eternity. Heaven will be much greater, but LifeFocus was a beautiful taste of what it will be like to worship God with other believers and sing His praises forever. God has worked in many hearts this week, including my own. May He be glorified and His Kingdom advance through the ministry of LifeFocus and by His grace may it influence individuals, families, churches, and even nations for many years to come.
Lydia Goerner, Floyd, NY
This week has been a wonderful experience for me. I learned much about the Psalms, and God’s Word. I have struggles in my life like every human, but this has helped me to understand more about the Christian faith.

Throughout my life I have had problems with singing the Psalms. I’m not a good singer and I used to think that it mattered. But what LifeFocus has shown me is that God is not concerned with how well I sing, but rather that I give Him glory through the singing. This conference has shown me that singing the Psalms isn’t “uncool”, or just for girls, but that singing the Psalms is for everyone, for all time.

The biggest thing I learned during this week was from Pastor Steve Rhoda, when he said that it’s not sinful to be sad or mad. I used to feel guilty, as I commonly experience these emotions, but I now know that there is no need to feel that way and I can express these emotions through singing the Psalms.

Suggestions: There is just one thing I would suggest for this conference and that is to hold two separate ones. One during spring break for college students and one during the summer for high school students.
Sam Goerner, Floyd, NY
This past week at LifeFocus has been one of the most influential times in my life so far. I was finally given the opportunity to attend LifeFocus after years of waiting and praying. The topic of this year’s conference, The Sacrifice of Praise, was far more interesting and intimate than I had expected. Some of the highlights, in my opinion, were singing large amounts of the Psalter, listening to all the lectures, having long conversations, and fellowshipping with fellow believers.

At the beginning of the week, Pastor Brad challenged us to sing through the whole Psalter in the week we were here. I aspired to the challenge and started off strong with many others. However, as the week wore on, we found that singing such large amounts of the Psalms consecutively was very tiring. I had never sung so many at one time! We sang in the morning, after breakfast, after the lectures, in the afternoon, and late into the night. I quickly found that waking up singing is a great way to start the day.

On average we had three lectures per day. My favorite lectures were from Wednesday, when Pastor Steve Rhoda spoke about “The Pastoral Psalter”. Specifically, his lecture on the Psalms of Sorrow touched my heart in such a way and extent that I wish I had heard this lecture months ago. They have greatly encouraged me and I look forward to putting what Christ has taught me into practice.

One last thing to mention is the fellowship. I had some of the most eye-opening and blessed interactions with fellow believers that I have had in months. Every evening a different family in the church opened their private family life to us to show us how being a Christian is lived out. Their grace and humility was a positive instruction to me and answered many life questions that I’ve had for a long time.

LifeFocus has changed a part of my life and I praying that God will use it to further His Kingdom. If you are ever given opportunity to go, seize it! LifeFocus is more than a trip during spring break; it is a life changing week filled with grace, wisdom, and faith.
Sterling Fulk, Indianapolis, IN
My experience at LifeFocus 2014 was unforgettable. I am so thankful that this conference was planned because it has had an enormous impact in my life. LifeFocus’ goal is to teach and train covenant children to walk in God’s ways, and it accomplished that in me this week. It was a blessing to be taught by wise older men and to do so with other Christian brothers and sisters I had not met before.

The theme of the lectures was the Psalms and they had a tremendous impact on my life. Starting the week off basic Psalter information and categorization was so useful. Next, I learned ways to practically sing the Psalms in times of need. This was helpful in my understanding my walk with God. Finally, I learned the Psalter’s historical importance, which gave me a foundation for singing the Psalms and made me feel like we had rounded out the discussion. I had recently been considering the Psalter and how to sing with understanding and sincerity. God answered this prayer by sending me to LifeFocus 2014.

The Christian fellowship was amazing, and I was pleased to have met so many wonderful fellow believers in such a short time. The encouragement and hospitality shown by the members of the congregation was such a blessing and gave true example of fruitful, covenant families. Their willingness to cook and open their homes to the students was something I hope to be like in the future. This week held many opportunities and I feel refreshed, rested, and restored because of what God has done for me through this conference.
Ben Goerner, Floyd, NY
LifeFocus is a one week conference designed to disciple high school and college age young people in their Christian faith. It certainly had its intended effect in my life. Every day was an enjoyable learning experience with many friendships being deepened and many lessons learned. While the first part of the week was the most intense, the tempo eased toward the end.

The lectures were excellent and were delivered by the pastors with confidence and clarity. The theme of this LifeFocus was “The Sacrifice of Praise: Exploring the Christian use of the Biblical Psalter. The lecturers emphasized Christ’s presence in the Psalter and also guided me in thinking through the proper interpretation, structural meaning, and practical application of the Psalms. The one Big Idea that has stuck with me is when Pastor Johnston said, “There’s a Psalm for that!” I’ve realized that the Psalms apply to every part of my life and every emotion I feel. I’ve also been struck by the poetic beauty and meaning in the Psalms.

LifeFocus has changed the way I live my Christian life. It taught me so much more about God’s Psalms. I will be striving with God’s help to sing the Psalms differently and be more sincere in my faith. I am looking forward to what God brings next year!
Samara Harper, Topeka, KS
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