Pause – And Think About That…

The Hebrew word, “selah,” found repeatedly in the Psalms is thought by scholars to be an ancient musical term used in the Hebrew psalter meaning, in essence, “pause and think about that.”

The following is worth  pausing and thinking about.

In the first century, the church had no spot-lights, smoke machines, electric instruments or sound systems. Not once is it remotely suggested the leaders were concerned with fashion or creating an “atmosphere of worship” by dimming the lights. I could go on.

But, somehow – void of all modern-day trappings of Christian worship – and under horrifically intense persecution – the church exploded in growth and influence.

No soapbox here. Just an observation. nw

The Old Hymns – Why They Still Matter

The following was sent to me by a Youth Pastor friend of mine in the DFW area:

Hi Nick, I came across the statement below in a parenthetical paragraph about doctrine being passed down through hymns (a practice you know stems from the NT). The book is written for High School grads & college freshmen. As a side note, they challenged students to read a hymnal and look at how each song presented the gospel in capsule. Here’s the quote: “Did you know, by the way, that the hymns of the church throughout history were intended primarily for that purpose — to teach and reinforce sound doctrine? … These songs weren’t just to dance to. They were to learn from.”

In a Christian Worship Music world flooded with “new”, don’t be quick to abandoned the “old.”

nw

A Very Brief Theology of Christian Worship Music

One question I like to occasionally ask myself (and our lead team) as we lead the musical portion of our worship services comes from theologian, John Frame, who asks, “Does what we sing help our people think more – or less – theologically?” After all, I have no interest in our folks leaving thinking, “Wow! What great music!” My goal is that they leave, almost off-balance, due to a head-on encounter with Christ, hence thinking to themselves, “Wow…what a great God.” Music, in and of itself, won’t change anyone. Christ, on the other hand, sets people free.

All of that said, my friend, a friend of mine sent me the following quote from a resource of his regarding the rich history of hymns: “Did you know, by the way, that the hymns of the church throughout history were intended primarily for that purpose — to teach and reinforce sound doctrine? … These songs weren’t just to dance to. They were to learn from.”

Singing has been a spiritual discipline used to know God and His Word on a deeper, more mature level since ancient times. In Deuteronomy, God instructed Moses, “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for Me…” (31:19) Jesus (God with skin on) closed the Last Supper by (you guessed it) singing a hymn. (Mark 14:26)

I definitely believe it’s possible to dance a little while, at the same time, having your heart & mind engaged with sound doctrine & theology. But, nowadays it takes a lot of sifting through the “chaff” of what has become a behemoth of Christian Worship Music to find those songs that best make this possible.

Just my opinion, nw

Finding Jesus In an Asylum

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Romans 3:24-25)

It’s important to remember that every song in our hymnal is simply “someone’s story put to music.” The following story is from Robert J. Morgan’s, “Then Sings My Soul.”

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) is one of God’s gracious gifts to those suffering from depression. Like the Psalmist who cried, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Ps. 42:5), Cowper shows us that our emotional struggles often give us heightened sensitivity to the heart of God and to the needs of others.

Cowper, born in 1731, was the fourth child of a British clergyman and his wife. William’s three siblings died, then his mother died while giving birth to the fifth child. William was six when he lost his mother, and it was a blow from which he never recovered.

William, emotionally frail, was sent to a boarding school where for two years he was terrorized by a bully which further shattered his nerves. From ages 10 to 18, he had a better experience at Westminster School, developing a love for literature and poetry. His father wanted him to be an attorney, but, preparing for his bar exam, he succumbed to severe anxiety. Concluding himself hopeless, he threw away his Bible and attempted suicide.

Friends recommended an asylum run by Dr. Nathaniel Cotton, a lover of poetry and a committed Christian. Under Dr. Cotton’s care, William slowly recovered. In the asylum in 1764, he found the Lord while reading Romans 3:25: “….whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith….” (cited at the top)

Eight years later, Cowper would pen the following words which, today, are found in almost any hymn book:

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see, that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream, Thy flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be ‘till I die.