There is a Sound

The CCLI top 25 is a list that shows the top 25 songs used in churches today during their worship services. While there a number of songs on here that are great musically, lyrically and theologically. However, I believe that there are better songs still. I must emphasis that this is my opinion, and nothing more. I may have good logic behind my opinion, but it doesn’t make it the right songs for this list. My hope is that some churches will come across these posts and think about using these songs.

The second song on my list is “There is a Sound” by David Crowder*Band. For those that know me there is no surprise that I have a number of DC*B songs on the list. DC*B has long put together a stellar set of songs both musically and theologically. What I have always loved about them, is that their lyrics make you stop and think, they change the way you see your faith and the way you think about God and who God is. This song has similar lyric.

“There is a Sound” has a few lines that I just love and for me make a song that should make the CCLI Top 25 list. First lets look at what I believe is the most important set of lyrics:

“He alone is holy,

He alone most high

To God be the glory

To God be the glory

Spirit, Father, Jesus Christ”

There are three reasons these lyrics are so important, first: the trinity is clearly mentioned. Currently zero CCLI top 25 songs mention the trinity. Second it mentions that God alone is Holy and separately that we should give God glory. I don’t think that Christians really think about the difference between God’s glory and God’s holiness. Holiness is who God is, it is as much of God as Love is. God’s glory is what is seen or heard of God. This could be by His own doing, like His creation, or His revelation or His appearance before Moses and others. It could also be His work in our life and our testimony to that.

Lets look at a few other lyrics now:

“Behold the Lamb of God

Who takes away our sin

Have Mercy”

This is the pre-chorus for the song, it communicates a knowledge and understanding that our sin is taken away by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, but that mercy is still needed. Our sins being taken away is a free gift of grace. We should never take it for granted, God’s mercy and grace is something we should always cherish and hold in high regard. Which, to me, is what the lyrics say.

Ok last set:

“There is a love, like the brightest day

When all is glowing

In unending praise.”

This communicates the brilliance of God’s love, and the unending praise that results because of that love. This song is so great! I hope you take the time to listen to it.

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O Holy Night . . .

“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas Carole. Musically it rises and falls beautifully, draws you in, and takes you on a journey. Lyrically it is thoughtful and well written. Theologically, this is why I really love it. This song lays out a great worship theology. “Fall on your knees, hear the angel’s voices.” These lines speak deeply into what worship is. The Greek word for worship is proskynein which translates into bow down, or a kiss toward. We don’t often see worship as this, we normally think worship is singing songs. This is just a part, the word proskynein does not indicate a physical reaction but an action of one’s heart. Your heart and soul are to bow before God in worship, what it be. In addition, hearing the angels is an indication of eternal worship. When we worship today, we are to look back at what God has done, worship Him in the present and for what He is doing and finally, perhaps most importantly, worship God for what He will do and the eternal worship we will enjoy with the angels and Jesus Christ in the New Earth, “forever and ever and ever . . .”

This song is not my normal worship song pick, it isn’t my style, nor is it written more recently. My second point comes from this. Style and era of the song shouldn’t matter, the author of the song shouldn’t matter either. We shouldn’t select songs because they are the most popular Hillsong songs, or Tomlin, or Redman, or Crowder, or Jesus Culture and we can hear them on the radio. We should pick them because they are musically compelling and easy to remember and more importantly because their theological and doctrinal language edifies us and glorifies God!! The song should cause us to proskynein (worship) God, not think “Oh this song is so cool and I love the author.” I am just as guilty as this as anyone, I freely admit that I have bias toward DC*B. My challenge to myself, and other worship leader, pastors and worshipers is to find songs that truly worship God, and don’t just give you the warm fuzzies. Our worship tells the story of God in a way that glorifies Him, make sure we strive to do that as well.

Focus

A few weekends ago I was sitting in a worship service enjoying singing worship songs and Christmas carols with my fellow Christians at the church I attend. Now this church is not a large church by any means. It can’t afford to have the best technology, the sleekest auditorium, and the best trained volunteers. What makes this church wonderful is the people! Many of the people that attend this church feel called to be a part of it, they weren’t attracted to it because of it’s smooth presentation and state of the art facility, they were attracted to this church because they felt God was doing something there, and that they were called to be a part of it. Well on this particular Sunday morning a video was to be shown. I have always lamented the fact that changing from PowerPoint, to video was not as smooth as it could be, but the church just doesn’t own the tech. On this Sunday there was about a minute of awkward shuffling and panic from the computer/video tech guy as he attempted to sort out the issue. I patiently waited with most of the congregation for things to sort out, as they always do. I was shocked and saddened to hear the gentleman sitting right behind me say, “Oh what a surprise technical difficulties!”

I am well aware that technology and the ‘seeker sensitive’ movement has created a mass of Christians who are consumerist in their thought toward church. I am not condemning the seeker sensitive movement it did some good stuff. What I am ashamed of as a Christian and worshiper of God is the consumerist attitude many Christians have. Despite all of this, I was surprised that someone with this attitude, someone who expected everything to go off without a hitch and as smooth as a hollywood production was sitting in our church that morning. What surprised and shocked me and saddened me the most was that this person was a long time member of the church, and a person that appeared upfront on numerous occasions to give announcements and pray. At that moment I wanted to turn around and confront the gentleman, and rebuke him for his attitude and try to correct his thought process. However, I did not in that moment, because I also became angry at this gentleman for his attitude. I never did get a chance to talk to this gentleman, which I regret.

However, it got me thinking. What is most peoples focus in worship? Do they focus on the quality of the music and production? Do they focus on whether they feel their needs are being met? Or do they focus on the worship of God and the revelation of God to us through His written Word? I am the first to admit that my focus is not always as it should be. I do get lost in some of the trivial details of church sometimes. However, the Church I attend normally does a great job in their music and video production, and more importantly they always do a great job of focusing on God, and not themselves.

My question is: What do you focus on in church? Is it what you can get out of it? Or is it how you can serve and worship God best?

Worship “Concerts”

This morning I was watching a video of a Hillsong concert. Worship concerts are one of those things that I have always wondered if the experience was authentic or just some high energy emotional deal, that the crowd was manipulated into. Well recently I was reading on the importance of the Temple in the Israelite faith in the Old Testament. Allen P. Ross in Recalling the Hope of Glory emphasizes that to the faithful Israelite the Temple was where they wanted to be. They would go there as often as they could. Not just once a week for an hour and a half service, not on the sabbath and then on a mid-day service time. They might go there everyday, more than once a day. Why? Because that is where the presence of God was. Now here is where the connection between the modern worship concert and the temple occur (for me at least). If someone was to pray, they could do it in their fields while harvesting grain or tending the sheep, but someone who really was faithful to God and love them with all their heart, strength and all their soul, would go to temple. “They could pray at any time and in any place, but they preferred to go to the sanctuary [temple] to pray, for in that holy place their prayers were both inspired and confirmed as they hear the prayers and thanksgivings of others in God’s presence” (Ross 2006, page 277.)(emphasis mine). The temple was a place where the faith community met. Here is how this correlates to today. When we gather in a place, we carry the sanctuary, or temple of God with us. So as we gather to pray or praise God we make a place holy. In those moments, just as in the Temple of Old, our worship is more inspired, not because we are there, but because God is pleased with the faithful and makes His presence more felt.

No Void

I am reading a book for my class on the Theology of Worship. The statement was made by the author “For human beings there can be no vacuum of non-worship . . . The error . . . is not the neglect of worship, but the exchange of worship” Noel Due in Create for Worship. The point that Due is making is that, if we are not worshiping the God Yahway, we are worshiping something else, and that worship is not correct. You may think that you are not worshiping anything, but in fact we all worship something. Money, iPods, celebrities, sports, sex, food, or maybe even ourselves. I can look at this list and admit that I have fallen into the trap of worshiping one or more of these at a time. The more aware I am that I am not worshiping God, the better I can combat worshiping something else, and refocus on worshiping the one true God. I’ll be the first to admit that more often then I should I worship incorrectly something I should not. However, with this knowledge I can refocus my worship back on God.

My challenge to the reader is to not be deceived into thinking you are worshiping nothing, if not God, but to realize that you are worshiping something. Don’t let shame and guilt keep you from worshiping God, seek forgiveness and redemption and refocus on worshiping God!

Leading the Middle

Early on in my ministry at my last church, the Sr. Pastor there asked me to read a chapter out of a book called Courageous Leadership, this book is now a text-book for my current class at LU. I just finished reading that chapter again. The chapter is on self leadership. It talks about how a leader can lead in four directions. South, to those below them, North, to those above them, and East & West, to their peer group. However, the author says that a leader must lead in the middle, to self! The chapter gives a number of specifics and areas of self that we are required to lead ourselves in, in order to be a good leader. At the time I chose one area of my life to work on, and when I thought I had successfully done that I celebrated internally, and then, did nothing more. If I had taken the chapter to heart then, and worked harder, a great many difficulties in the past year and a half or so would have been avoided.

However, the great thing about mistakes is that you can learn from them, and God always has a plan to help and not harm, regardless what we do. So I am not getting a Grad degree, which to be honest is less about getting the degree and more about learning and disciplining myself to me. What I realized this time around is that self leadership is true for everyone, and is also true in worship. Sure we have that ‘one guy’ up front who asks us to stand, sit, clap, and sing along to the songs he is playing. That leader may be the ‘Worship Leader’ but if you don’t want to worship, you won’t. As a worshiper I must lead myself to worship in order to authentically worship. I am not saying that I don’t need the worship leader or anyone else to get me there, but there is always the choice we have, we can have a bad attitude, or critique every little thing about a worship gathering, or any other things in a long list that we choose to do instead of worship, or we can choose to worship, and in an act of self worship leading, worship truly and authentically. This act is even more difficult (but rewarding) in churches that are unfamiliar and have different worship styles then your own, but still the choice is yours! So I choose to be a self worship leader and choose to worship God with all that I am on Sunday morning and everyday!

What is your worship choice?

To call God your friend?

In John Chapter 15 Christ tells His disciples, and us, that we are His friends, no longer slaves, but friends. What He doesn’t say (and is never said in the Biblical text) is that God is our friend. God is our Lord, Savior, and Father, and a multitude of other things, but He is not our friend. We are His friend, but only when we do as he commands (John 15:14). The Israel Houghton song, “Friend of God” has the right of it. The chorus repeats “I am a friend of God,” and ends with the line “He calls me friend.” It is an important distinction to make. There are those that say Jesus is my best friend. This is theological heresy (yes I believe that to be so.) No where ever in the Bible does it say God is our friend. Only that we are His friends. My wife and I were discussing this idea. It’s a hard one to grasp, because I can say I am friends with Billy, but maybe Billy doesn’t say that about me. Friendship is something that we normally think goes both ways. But our God is to great for Him to be our friend right now. I am not saying we are not on friendly terms with God. Here is what I believe, and this is pure opinion and something I am still sorting through, our sin nature keeps us from having God be our friend. I believe that once we pass into the next world, at the end of time, we will then be friends of God and He our friend as well.

Amy (my wife) described it like this. God is our father. When we are young we may have a friendly relationship with our earthly father, but he isn’t our friend he is our father, he must discipline us, take care of us, make sure we grow up to be a responsible adult. However, now that I am an adult, my father and I are friends, I would argue that my Dad is one of my best friends. This is how it works with God as well. The more mature in our faith we become the closer to having God be our friend, but sin always keeps it from happening.

Much of our faith seems paradoxical. We have a Father in heaven who loves us, and gives us grace and calls us friend. But we also have a God of wrath and judgement who must condemn the world for their sin. A God who is omnipotent and we should bow before Him. The danger of becoming too ‘friendly’ with God is that we lose our reverence for Him, and this is something we cannot do, for then it becomes easy to just treat Him as a friend and not worship Him. On the flip side if we become to formal with a God that wishes to have a real relationship with us, it becomes more about religion and ritual and rules then about freedom in faith.

All this to say, we are God’s friend, celebrate that, and praise God for it, but God is not our friend, he is our Lord, Savior, Father, Shield, Fortress, Sustainer, our Banner and Victory, and so much more! Praise His name, and strive to make Him more your friend through being more and more like Christ!