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. 

Electrician, Musician, Physician…

The English language has some interesting ways of connecting words, ideas and thoughts together. The “-ian” attached to each of the words in the title is borrowed from the Latin iānus, which forms adjectives of belonging or origin from a noun. Electrician, musician and physician describe the role belonging to a person who might specialize in a particular area of expertise. Electricians work with all things electric, musicians’ study or play music and a physician as we know, is someone who is qualified to practice medicine. Knowing this, what comes to your mind when you think about the word Christian?

Acts chapter 11:26 is where we find the introduction of the expression “Christian” in relationship to those who follow Christ. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. Known between themselves as “brethren”, “the faithful”, “elect” or “believers” the title Christian was given to followers of Christ by the community of unbelievers among them. 

Jesus, during his ministry among humanity called his followers disciples. The term disciple in the New Testament is used approximately 230 times and gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. A disciple in this context is defined as a “leaner” or “pupil”. It was the task of the disciple to learn, study, and pass along the sayings and teachings of the master. 

I am not sure about you, but I feel like we have seen the meaning of the title “Christian” change over time. Today many people call themselves “Christians” because they go to church and live a good moral and ethical life. While that is good, I think there is a much deeper connection to our faith in Christ when we identify ourselves with him as one of his disciples. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to worship him, serve him and be a witness to the transforming power of his mercy, grace and forgiveness in our lives. 

First, our worship of Jesus is all about how we live our lives, Romans 12 says that we are to “offer up our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”. All that we do in life, yes all, should bring honor, glory and praise to God, that is how we worship him. 

Second, we are called to serve him by serving others. The love that we show to one another through serving is one of the key elements that identifies us as true disciples to the world around us. 

Third, as disciples we are called to be witnesses for him. Jesus, sent by his Father was on mission to reveal himself to us so that we might know him and save us from sin and death. This mission was accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Since then, as his disciples we are called to carry on the mission by telling others about his love for them so that they too can become a part of his eternal family. 

I am not proposing we discard the title “Christian”; I would suggest that we continue to work at learning to live out our faith as true disciples. Like the first disciples we should be set apart by our actions, our words, and our witness. Let’s pray together for a renewed commitment to the mission Jesus commanded us to carry forward; to worship him, love and serve others and be a witness to the world for his glory. 

“The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side”

Cattle_eating_grass_through_barbed_wire_fenceHave you ever been driving through the countryside or nearby a local farm and come across the following scene? You must wonder, is the grass really that much better on the other side? This familiar idiom tries to capture the thought that people (or animals) are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better. When we consider our circumstances, when we compare our experiences with that of others we tend to think that we would be better off or happier on the other side.

Mankind has been struggling with this thought pattern for centuries. In Psalm 73, we are introduced to the thoughts of Asaph and his struggle to “jump the fence” and run free on what looked like the “greener” side of life. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”. Asaph continues to describes the appearance of a better life, “They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong. They are freed from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. He sees them (those who have turned away from God) and sees a life “free of care” and prosperity.

It is through the experience and power of God’s love that Asaph is able to stay on the right side of the fence. He describes a moment when he “enters the sanctuary of the Lord”,  a place where he is able to ground himself in knowing that without God, those he looks over will one day be destroyed. Asaph makes the choice to enter into a place of worship with the assurance that God is with Him and that God will protect him. “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart… But as for me, it is good to be near God.” The experience of God’s love through the story of Asaph is the same love that God has for us today. Our lives, our “sanctuary” or place of worship needs to be found in all areas of life. Through personal prayer, song, scripture reading, working diligently, serving humbly or building Christ like relationships, we are called to worship God. As we stay connected with God he will keep us on the right side of the fence. God gives us the ability to see clearly that what He has given us is good and what He has prepared for us in heaven is even greater.


70 Questions…

interrogationYour sitting in a dark room with only a faint light above your head, there are no windows. It is cold and damp, you feel like you have been through a storm, you don’t know how you got there and can’t see a way out. Unexpectedly out of nowhere you hear a loud thundering voice call out to you “Brace yourself like and man; I will question you, and you shall answer me”. Your heart is pounding, the questioning begins. One question after another, questions you don’t have answers for, questions that force you to examine who your really are.

Job was in the hot seat. God questioned Job about things that surpassed his knowledge and understanding. Each question had a grand purpose, not just to put Job in his proper place but to reveal the ultimate glorious power of a sovereign God. Job may have felt like he was on trial and really I believe he was, God used these questions to draw out the ultimate truth in Job’s life, the truth that he was nothing without God, the truth that God was in full control of everything in heaven and on earth.

As I read through these questions it makes me feel small and insignificant in comparison to God. These questions help draw me into a place of worship. Reading, seeing and hearing of the magnificent wonders that God has created and controls in and above the earth leaves me in awe and wonder. Genesis records the account of how God created the world, an inspiring story on it’s own but here in Job 38-41 we are given details of the very nature of God’s hand in the mechanics of the world today. This moment in history, these questions should inspire us to worship God. Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2). God has a plan, a purpose for our lives. That plan might include suffering, trials, temptations or on the flip-side it could include joy, peace and happiness. Whatever the circumstance of life, we are called to worship God in all his glory, splendor, honor and majesty.


inspiration-coverLeonardo da Vinci found inspiration from the study of nature. He was fascinated by the fluid motion of water as it moved over and around obstacles in its path. He observed the intricate patterns etched into the face of leaves and was intrigued with textures and colors. Today we can find inspiration in nature just as he did or we can be inspired by the words of a great speaker, a powerful song, or a beautiful piece of art. But can we find inspiration in something difficult, hard or even devastating? The tough, difficult things of life typically bring us down but sometimes we can find a spark of inspiration or hope through these times.

The story of Job is one of those life stories where someone might find inspiration. I find inspiration in his personal faith and trust in God. His story reveals the strength of a solid foundation in God, as well as revealing the weaknesses in the structure that is built upon it. Like us, Job was only human. His limited knowledge of who God is and how He works brings him to a place where he questions God’s motives and actions. I don’t think there is any doubt that Job wrestled with questions like these: Why pain and suffering? Why death? Where is God? What have I done to deserve this? Is God in really in control?

I can also find inspiration in Job’s discernment as he endured the well intentioned but misdirected arguments of his three friends. In a time where he could have easily followed the direction and counsel of his friends, he knew deep down in his own heart that they were wrong. Job was able to maintain his integrity before God and his friends as he faced his trials. Ultimately in the end Job humbly acknowledges his unworthiness, and gives honor to God’s sovereign power and control over his life.

Finding inspiration in something difficult may not be easy. God made us intelligent and emotional human beings, His plan for our lives calls us to come before him when we are angry, frustrated, scared, burdened, happy, joyful and confident. Like Job, God knows our limits and will walk with us without giving us more that we can handle.


lifelineDo you remember the show “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, the game show that has a contestant answer multiple choice questions that progressively get harder and harder? The person has “lifelines”, (phone a friend, 50:50 and Ask the Audience) an opportunity to ask for help when they are stumped on a question. When crisis hits, what is your lifeline? A lifeline can be a rope or line for life-saving or could be someone or something you depend on to provide a means of escape from a difficult situation. That something could be finances, technology or relationships, can these things help us in difficult situations?

I didn’t have to read to deep into the book of Job to understand what his lifeline was, despite losing everything His lifeline was his faith in God. Chapter 1 of Job introduces us to the beginning of a brutal journey of physical and emotional suffering and loss; while at the same time it draws us into the life of a man who exemplified the true meaning of being blameless and upright before God. I have read and heard the story of Job many times and each time I still have a difficult time understanding Job’s first response to the terrible reports of loss. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship” (1:20). Job was a one of a kind, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. (1:8) Today I believe that we would be hard pressed to find another “Job” among us, it is my hope and prayer that as the Lord leads and directs our lives He would help us live blameless and upright lives in His eyes.

We are called to worship in the midst of suffering. The life story of Job should be an inspiration for us to find our lifeline in Christ, not in the objects of this world. In Christ we have the “phone a friend” lifeline through prayer, we just have use it. Suffering and loss are never easy and Job’s life reflects that as well as his commitment to his Faith in God. I am encouraged by this thought today: The God that Job worshiped and served is the same loving God that we serve and worship today.

Worship & Song

hymn1God in His wisdom and discernment gives all of us gifts and abilities that we can use to bring glory and honor to his name. In the design for my life God did not bestow on me the gift of music in any way shape or form. One thing that God did give me is the gift of three wonderful budding musicians that play a myriad of instruments and sing like life is an endless musical. Each day our home is filled with a variety of melodies and harmonies along with the occasional squeal and high pitched screech.

The Psalms, also known as the “Book of Praises” are both inspirational and instructional for our own personal and corporate worship. “Therefore [I] will praise you, Lord, among the nations; [I] will sing the praises of your name (Ps 18:49), “Be exalted in your strength, Lord; [we] will sing and praise your might” (Ps 21:13). After reading through the psalms and you don’t get the picture of praise and worship I would have to point you to one verse that sums it up pretty well, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Ps 47:6). One of the great things I appreciate about the Psalms is how the authors bring praise to God in the difficult times and the good times. The words are written as if we could walk in their shoes; the events and circumstances in our lives may be different, but the living breathing act of worship we offer is being lifted up to the same unchanging God.

Whether our worship comes through song, repentance, prayer, remembrance or thanksgiving our God hears and sees everything we say and do. Our worship must come from the heart and soul of who He created us to be. Like the budding musicians who squeal and screech, we too can struggle in our times of worship; there will be valleys to come out of and mountain top experiences to celebrate. Our worship, no matter where we are must be a response to God’s love for us.

Worship & Remembrance

stringHow is your memory? Do you have the capacity to remember names, dates, numbers or historical events? Numbers are my nemesis, phone numbers, addresses, lock combinations, alarm codes, they all give me trouble. In addition to the cognitive confusion someone decided to mix numbers and letters together; it has been over four years since I last moved and still to this day I have trouble remembering my own postal code.

The psalmists repeatedly bring us to into a place of remembrance (approx. 45 times) as we read through the psalms. One of the powerful messages I read in regards to remembrance is this: as we reflect (remember) on what the Lord has done for us it encourages us to rejoice in His power and glory. In Psalm 66:5-6, the Psalmist recounts the awesome story of God’s provision for his people in the parting of the red sea, this is an experience that caused the people to rejoice and give thanks. David, in Psalm 13 says that his heart rejoices and sings for the good things that the Lord had done in his life. Asaph, in Psalm 77:11 remembers the Lords “miracles of long ago” and continues to write about how great God is. In each of these Psalms and others we here the voice of fellow believers rejoicing in what God has done for them, their remembrance leads them into a place of rejoicing, a place of worship.

The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines remembering as this:The process of recalling the past, especially the presence and activity of God in the history of his people. Remembering God’s work in the past can lead to praise and rejoicing, and to hope for the future”. As I reflect on what God has done in my life and where He has brought me I am thankful, it reminds me of the power He has to lead and guide my family and I through all areas of life. Remembering and accepting what the Lord has done to help me grow, I can only wait with a feeling of anticipation for what He is going to do next.

Worship & Repentance.

RepentHave you ever broken a bone in your body? If you haven’t, I can tell you from personal experience it hurts, a lot! What is the first thing we do when something like this happens? Under normal circumstances we go to the hospital. When you arrive there is a process: first, we sit in the waiting room while the person next to you says “wow, that looks like it hurts”, then we see the doctor, go for an x-ray, and most often have the injury casted then get sent home with a bottle of pain medication.

As I read through the Psalms I found many references to bones. (6:2, 22:14, 31:10, 38:3, 51:8) David is not talking about physical broken bones in these passages, they are expressions of “personal distress”, they are the feelings of a burdened heart because of the sin in his life. Much like the process described above, when in our life we experience “broken bones” we must go before our God, the great physician. Like David we must go before Him with a repentant heart asking for healing (forgiveness). When I read through David’s experiences I can feel his sense of guilt because of the sin in his life and at the same time I get a picture of his confidence for God’s grace in his life. I know that he hates the pathway of sin (119:128) that life often falls into and through that I see him turn toward God, striving to live a life holy and pleasing to Him.

Our confession, our coming before the Lord is an act of worship. As David seeks forgiveness he gives God glory and honor because of His grace and mercy. Other than the time and place in history our lives are not that much different that David’s. We face many of the same temptations and trials as he did. As believers we know today that our sins are covered by the death of Christ on the cross. As we seek to live a life pleasing to God He is waiting patiently for us to come before Him through His son with a repentant heart.

Worship & Thanksgiving

Psalms-1014“I will give thanks because of his righteousness…” (7:17). “I will give thanks to you Lord…” (9:1). “…give thanks to him and praise his name” (100:4). “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good…” (106:1). “Give thanks to your holy name…” (106:47). “Let them give thanks to the Lord…” (107:8,15,21,31). “I rise to give you thanks” (119:62).  “Give thanks to the God of heaven His love endures forever”. (136:26)

Riding on the heels of a long weekend focused around thanksgiving I had to ask myself two questions: Who did I give thanks to? Did I come humbly before my God in worship, praise and thanks for all that He has provided in my life?

The Psalms provide us with some powerful words that can help draw us into worship. David pens many of the Psalms that point to the core of worship. He reminds us that our worship, our attitude of thanksgiving needs to come from our heart and soul (the core of who we are). Psalm 103 reads: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The benefits that David is talking about are forgiveness, healing, deliverance from death, love, and compassion. He reaches deep into his soul because he has experienced God’s goodness in his life. Our God wants the best for us; at the same time, He wants every part of us as we give Him honor and glory.

Did you forget to thank God for something this past weekend? The great thing about our God is we can come to him anytime, anywhere. As you humbly go before him follow in David’s paths in Psalm 103, go before him with all you heart and soul.