Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Cornerstone

The Theology of Worship Music – Cornerstone
by Edward Mote, Eric Liljero, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan, William Batchelder Bradbury

This remake of a familiar hymn by the folks at Hillsong has many singing these lyrics for the first time, even though they were penned in 1834. This has become a common motif since the onset of modern worship music. Not all attempts to remake old hymns are successful, but they found a winner with this one.

Originally written by Edward Mote, it has several names, Solid Rock, My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less, among them. Hymns like this one were rarely named. They were most often referred to by the first line of the first verse.

Cornerstone uses the first, second, and fourth verses of the original hymn with a new chorus. The word “cornerstone” never appears in the original hymn, but is clearly the topic of the song. The original chorus eludes to this as “Christ, the Solid Rock.”

Paul uses this image to describe The Church, the Household of God, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ being the Cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:19-21 (ESV) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

The first verse contains a phrase that apparently is very misunderstood. I read many posts on possible meanings of “sweetest frame” and could not find one that captures the intent of the hymn writer. Look at the definition of the word.

Frame - basic structure that underlies or supports a system, concept, or text.

It seems to me that the author is using “sweetest frame” in reference to poetry, or at the very least flowery words. He’s saying that regardless of how pretty the words may be it must find its meaning in Jesus Christ. Paul warns Timothy with these words.

2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

We cannot be drawn away from the truth by meaningless words. This is one of the reasons I chose to start this thread on Modern Worship Music. There are many songs that have a great groove, a catchy hook, and really move people when they are sung, but fail the Truth Test. Just because it sounds good doesn’t make it Gospel. Edward Mote knew this, and thus he wrote the hymn.

The hymn writer continues with verses that speak to trials that come to everyone. When darkness, storms, and floods come we should not be discouraged or knocked off course. Our prize of Heaven awaits us, as expressed in the last verse.

I love both songs, the original and the new, and hope you get acquainted with both.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – This Is Amazing Grace

The Theology of Worship Music – This Is Amazing Grace
By Jeremy Riddle, Josh Farro, Phil Wickham

The #2 song on the CCLI Top 25 is This Is Amazing Grace. There is an obvious reference to the storied hymn Amazing Grace in this title. Deservedly so.

This song is Christ-centered from beginning to end. It is extremely evident this song is directed toward our Lord. The last line of the chorus nails it, in case there was any doubt: “Jesus, I sing, for all that You've done for me!”

The phrase “The King of Glory” comes from Psalm 24. It is used five times in the short ten-verse Psalm of David. The first six verses contain a clear call to worship from David.

Psalm 24:1-6 (ESV) The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

David gives a strong charge concerning approaching God in worship. Only those with “clean hands and a pure heart.” He gives great motivation for attaining to the status of a worshipper by stating, “He will receive blessing from the Lord.” He encourages us to “Selah”, or pause and think about that for a while.

Here’s the problem. Without the redemption provided by Jesus, and His bloodshed on the cross, we have no hope of “ascending the hill of the Lord.” That’s were the “amazing grace” comes into play.

David continues with his psalm:

Psalm 24:7-10 (ESV) Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

David knew that one was coming to redeem, not only Israel, but the whole human race from the grip of sin that kept them from true fellowship with their Creator. “Lift up your heads! The King of Glory is coming! He is strong. He is able. He will open the path for us to know God again.” “Selah.” Think about THAT for a while.

Drawing from that inspiration, the writers of today’s psalm, This Is Amazing Grace, pen the declarations, “Who breaks the power of sin, Whose love is mighty, Who shakes the earth, Who leaves us in wonder?” The King of Glory!

They continue: “Who brings our chaos into order, Who makes us sons and daughters?” The King of Glory!

The bridge brings us to a place of complete reverence and awe of “The Lord strong and might, the Lord mighty in battle. (Psalm 24:8)” “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave.”

It is amazing when you think of all that Jesus did to provide us with a way back to our Father. He loved us with a love that took Him to Calvary where He died for you and me, so that we could be set free from the bondage of sin. It is reason to worship The King of Glory, Jesus Christ!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Theology of Worship Music – 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

I love the music of Matt Redman. It is creative, heartfelt, and mostly Christ-centered. 10,000 Reasons is no exception. This is one of the great new hymns being written in our day. Besides being fun to sing, it gives voice to our grateful hearts to express how much we love and adore our God.

Drawing from a similar motif found in other hymns (Count Your Many Blessings, O For A Thousand Tongues, etc.) Matt uses a familiar number found in scripture to quantify reasons to praise God. Clearly this is meant to be a number larger than any we could ever equal; at least that’s them impression I have.

The chorus begins with a familiar phrase used by David in Psalms 103 and 104. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” This is self-talk designed to inspire our soul to obey the commands of our spirit. The saved part of us, the spirit-man, wants to cry out in praise but our soul (mind, will, emotions) are not motivated to do so. But, a spirit rebirthed by the Holy Spirit will override the laziness of the flesh and begin to sing in praise to the One That Loves Us Most.

The verses show a clear progression. Verse one is the body and soul responding to the spirit within: Get up an praise God. Jesus put it this way, “Take up your cross daily and follow Me.”

As we do that with regularity our soul is brought into conformity with Jesus. We begin to learn more and more about the God whom we serve. Verse 2 then lists a few of the attributes he’s learned thus far … rich in love, slow to anger, etc. … then declares, “I will continue in worship until there are 10,000 reasons to give you praise!”

The final verse speaks of man’s mortality. At the same time it speaks of the “blessed hope of the church – eternity with God.” We will continue the song we began on earth, for 10,000 years, then forever!

If there is any criticism it would be that it never mentions Jesus. That is not a problem for me, but for some they prefer explicit mention verses the veiled references of “Lord, His, Your (all capitalized to infer a reference to the Trinity).”

I hope you will introduce this song to your congregation if you have not already. It has been at the CCLI #1 for quite some time. And for good reason.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Ground Rules


As a worship leader for 30+ years I have seen many worship songs. I love the creativity of God that He placed in songwriters. Each song, and songwriter, expresses a facet of God’s nature and character that they have seen in their experience. It is not the same for everyone. I believe that is what leads to some of the divisions among the worship community. I believe it is also what has led to so many denominations being formed within the Christian faith.

Since Jesus left earth for Heaven about 2000 years ago there have been many “moves of God” recorded in history. Each “move” had some defining characteristic. More recently those have been labeled “Cane Ridge”, “Azusa Street”, “Healing Revival of the 1940s”, “The Toronto Blessing”, “Brownsville (aka Pensacola Outpouring)”, “The Lakeland Revival (aka Florida Healing Outpouring)”, and others. Before that there were others named “Welsh Revival”, “Moravians”, “Wesley Brothers”, and others.

One of the remnants from each of these has been music. A song, or musical genre, will typically be identified with each movement. Also, it is common for there to be a particular release of God’s nature and character during the season of revival. For example, healing in the 40s, repentance, baptism of the Holy Spirit, laughter, uncontrolled movement, etc. Because it came during “their” meetings these groups have a tendency to remain camped on that particular move of the Holy Spirit and refuse to move with a new wind that God might send.

Please understand, nothing of that was said as criticism. I’m just stating some observations from the vantage point of history.

Let’s get back to the subject at hand. In this blog we will look at what are considered “top” worship songs of the day. There are several sources from which to draw. One of the more reliable and authoritative is CCLI (Church Copyright License Inc.). They track usage of millions of worship songs in thousands of churches. If I don’t get to your favorite song then leave a comment naming the song. I’ll try to work it in as soon as possible.

I hope you enjoy these installments. I’ll try to post frequently to keep the content fresh for you. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback. I do not claim to have a corner on the market of revelation.