What is in a Song?

Each Sunday for forty-six years (give or take a few weeks here and there) an integral part of my worship experience in church was listening to and singing songs filled with words of praise, honor, and glory to God. With the recent interruption to our regular pattern of worship and now the gradual return to gathering again, I have been thinking about the songs that we sing. 

A little while back I was sharing a meal with a friend and one of our conversations about life and faith led us into a short discussion about the purpose and power found in the songs that we sing in church. With our generational differences and personal biases in check we agreed that many of the songs we sing (old & new) speak powerfully the words of scripture and their message of salvation. 

Consider for a moment the purpose of the worship songs we sing together. In many of the older hymns that we sing the words were written to communicate the incredible truths of scripture. As we sing, we need to ask ourselves questions like, to whom is our worship directed?  What is our hearts desire as we sing? What scriptural truths are being revealed in our worship through song? Do we sing because it makes us “feel good” or brings back nostalgic memories? Are we truly and humbly giving praise, honor and glory to our God who loves us through our worship?

In 1910 John Wilbur Chapman wrote the mighty words of the hymn titled “One Day” (Living He Loved Me). Over the years these words have been used by contemporary Christian artists like Casting Crowns to continue spreading the incredible timeless truth of what Jesus did for us.

“Living he loved me, dying he saved me,
buried he carried my sins far away.
Rising he justified, freed me for heaven.
One day he’s coming back, glorious day.”

The beautiful words of this hymn tell the incredible story of why God sent his perfect son into a world plagued by the power of evil and the grip it continues to hold in the lives of his people. Read the words of this verse again. He loved us so much, he died to save us. He carried the sins of the world upon his shoulders so that our lives could be set right (justified) before God. Let’s not forget about that glorious day when as promised Christ comes back and we can all live into the incredible promise of eternal life with him. 

Songs like this present us with the transformational message of the gospel found in the pages of scripture. The next time you are singing along to your favorite worship song ask yourself, what is in this song? When you find the answer to your question, I challenge you to share that song with someone. Don’t keep it to yourself as the message it holds is for everyone to hear. 

How Big Was That Fish?

Have you ever been regaled with a fanciful story of a fisherman’s retelling of the “big one” that got away? It seems like every-time the story is repeated the details get exaggerated just a little more. The fish is bigger, the fight to reel it in gets longer and the heightened leap out of the water and the seemingly impossible escape from the line is more dramatic. It might not be a fish story for all of us, but many of us can relate to the “size” of a story and how it can grow in its details. 

One of my all-time favorite verses in the Bible is found in John chapter 21:25. Throughout the book John writes about several miracles that point to Jesus’ power as the Son of God. At the conclusion of his book he writes, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Is John telling us a “fish story” here? In a way he is. He uses a literary device called hyperbole in this verse to help us understand two things. First, he recounts only seven of Jesus’ miracles to draw our attention to his sovereignty as the Son of God. As we read the other gospels, we hear of many more miracles that Jesus performed. So yes, there is more to the story of Jesus life that have been written down in this gospel. Secondly, it speaks to the infinite power and most certain point that God, through Jesus is never idle in His purpose for our lives. He leads us, guides us, corrects us, challenges us, grows us, teaches us, and forgives us. (the list could go on). What we have presented before us in this gospel and the others tells us of God’s story and his incredible love for us. 

John’s words in this verse also speak volumes to the praise, honor, and glory that we as Christ followers are to give to our Father in heaven. I am often reminded of the Psalms and the words of praise that are lifted to God; Psalm 150 is a great example:

“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”

When his (Jesus) story becomes a part of our story today we have opportunity to praise him for the work that he continues to do in our lives and the lives of others. The way we live our lives as followers of Jesus can also bring praise, honor, and glory to him. Praise is not limited to the sound of trumpets, tambourines, strings, or the sounding of cymbals. When we reflect God’s love, his mercy and grace to others this brings praise to his name. 

Let’s praise the Lord together for what he has done in our lives and pray for exciting new chapters in life filled with stories to share with those around us.