Good Works is the Christian’s Symphony

Good works are the melodies that non-Christians hear.  Nearly all of the time, they cannot read our sheet music.  They can’t understand what the notes and chords mean, but they know a good song when they experience it.


An Advent Hymn

The carol, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, is a 15th century German hymn that was translated to English by Theodore Baker in 1894.  The hymn is based on the prophecy that Jesus will be from the root of Jesse, David’s father.  Isaiah 11:1-2 says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”

The Lord Jesus descended from Jesse.  He came with the Spirit.  He came with a knowledge of our brokenness.  He came to save us.  This hymn reflects that, but O how especially sweet is the last verse!

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!


Church Tour Stop #3

Southern Baptist Convention
Congregation Size: 400-500

Our third Sunday brought a trip to an affluent suburban church here in Lincoln.  I had actually never visited a Southern Baptist church before, and after this Sunday, it doesn’t feel like I had ever visited one.  I assume that this church is affiliated with the Southern Baptists in name only (no doubt in practice as well, in some cases), but there was nothing distinctively “Baptist” about the service.

When Rylan and I walked into the church, it didn’t seem very welcoming.  There were lots of booths for ministries and Bible studies.  Then again, I didn’t go out of my way to talk to people and get into conversation.  We were here for the service.  So we went into the worship center as the singing began.

The service started out with singing.  A seven-member band played, with the leader being a male and playing guitar.  I noticed was that the only black person in the room was on stage playing saxophone.  I thought that was funny.  The first song they sang was “All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises.”  The song last for a while — like 8 minutes.  Throughout the service, as the band played, I couldn’t help but notice how happy (and fluffy) the music sounded.  It was very, how do I say this gently…chickified.  There, I said it.  What didn’t help was the feminine designs on the PowerPoint behind the song lyrics.  I was distracted by the moving colors and figures.  After a few announcements, the band played a few more songs: “Friend of God,” “Too Wonderful,” and “Better is One Day.”  When I looked around the room to see whether or not men were singing, my heart grew sad.  Not a lot of men were singing.  Perhaps this was due to the fact that the music was kind of girlie or the fact that dudes just don’t like to sing.  I don’t know.  I should have asked.

The pastor walked on to the stage after the music finished.  He was speaking on Romans 7.  I’ve listened to some really good sermons and commentaries on Romans 7, so I was excited.  The title of the sermon was “Free in Christ.”  The church is working their way through Romans and the series title is called “Foundations.”  I noticed when I walked into the worship center that they had brick-like panels on the walls of the sanctuary, as if to give some substance to a “foundation.”  Some people are more visual, but I thought it was a little gimmicky.  There were also two doors on the stage that the person would not allude to until the end of the sermon.  Again, they seemed unnecessary, but maybe for someone they were edifying.

During the sermon, the pastor talked a lot about Jesus.  I loved that.  He talked about killing sin (though he didn’t use that vocabulary).  I loved that.  You probably know what Romans 7 is about, but his main idea was that our sin and the world compete for our lives even after we are saved by Jesus.  A helpful thing he pointed out was that so often Christians refer to “Jesus coming into my heart.”  He said that biblically, we should say, “I am in Christ.”  That changes our identity.  It makes our perspective shift from us toward Christ.  So I give huge pluses for talking about Jesus, sin, repentance, and being in Christ.  One thing that was less than stellar was that he preached from The Message.  I don’t think that’s an adequate version of Scripture.  It was written by one man as a commentary.  Further, I think The Message can be awkward and confusing anyway.  Still, I don’t think it took away from the point of the sermon.

When they announced that it was time for tithes and offerings, the congregation cheered.  How awesome is that!  That encouraged me.  I think this church is a good church.  It’s not one of those that should be shut down.   There are a lot of people who love Jesus here.  I can’t speak for the church as a whole, but after seeing one service I got the feeling that the depth of teaching and learning could increase a bit.  Perhaps this is the case only in the sermons and the home community groups go very deep — relationally and theologically.  I hope so.

After you read this post, remember to pray for this local body.  Pray for masculine men who engage during the church service and are bold for truth and affection for Jesus.  Pray that this church would continue to give lots of money to missions and justice.  Pray that their heart for truth would grow and that they would dive deep into the whole counsel of God, longing to know him more and more.


Top 10 Ways to Write Bad Worship Songs

From Bob Kauflin:

1. Aim to write the next worldwide worship hit.
2. Spend all your time working on the music, not the words.
3. Spend all your time working on the words, not the music.
4. Don’t consider the range and capabilities of the average human voice.
5. Never let anyone alter the way God originally gave your song to you.
6. Make sure the majority of your songs talk about what we do and feel rather than who God is and what he’s done.
7. Try to use as many Scriptural phrases as you can, and don’t worry about how they fit together.
8. Cover as many themes as possible.
9. Use phrases and words that are included in 95% of all worship songs.
10. Forget about Jesus and what he accomplished at the cross.


The Regulative Principle and David

The Regulative Principle is a term used to describe how God and the Bible order public worship.  This is espoused by various Christian denominations (including hyper-Calvinists and Anabaptists).  In layman’s terms, we can say the regulative principle, at its conservative extreme, says that Christians should not sing anything other than the Psalms in church (with a few exceptions in some groups), should not use instruments because there is no clear use of instruments in the New Testament church, and should not dance at all.

I wonder if they ever studied David’s worship style.

And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals…And David danced before the LORD with all his might.
– 1 Samuel 6:5, 14

I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you.
– Psalm 144:9