Monday, November 23, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Holy Spirit by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

The Theology of Worship Music – Holy Spirit
by Bryan Torwalt and Katie Torwalt

The Torwalts are relatively new to the worship music scene. Holy Spirit is one of the first songs of theirs that I heard. It quickly became popular with worshippers because the focus is clearly on the Lord.

The lyric does not quote, or even paraphrase, scripture but the message is clearly reflected in scripture. The words are simple utterances of a Believer to their God. Moses said similar words found in verse one when he conversed with God in the wilderness after leaving Egypt.

Exodus 33:13-15 (ESV) Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.

The phrase “living hope” is speaking of the Spirit of Christ living in us.

Colossians 1:27 (ESV) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Verse two describes further the relationship between the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church.

Psalm 34:8 (ESV) Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Isaiah 61:3 (ESV) to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

The bridge of the song speaks to the idea that it is the worshipper’s view of God that increases when we begin to focus on Him. God cannot increase. He already fills the earth. He is Omnipresent. This brings us to the chorus.

The chorus to the song Holy Spirit has the worshipper asking the Holy Spirit to “flood this place, fill the atmosphere.” That concept, while very common in song, is not New Testament in its origin. First of all, God cannot fill space that He is already in! Also, the prayer in the chorus for God to “overwhelm” is a cry of spirit to Spirit; our spirit yearning for more of God’s Spirit to shine forth through our life. The Holy Spirit was given to empower us to be witnesses, not so we could have “holy moments” in worship.

There is a fundamental difference in Old Testament and New Testament experiences of the Holy Spirit. In the OT, the activity of the Holy Spirit was external. Examples are the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness. Another is the “glory cloud” that filled Solomon’s temple. This is the experience cited most often by worship leaders. People are seeking another outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

The problem is that the activity of the Holy Spirit changed after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was sent to abide in the Believer. Now the work done by the Holy Spirit is internal. We no longer seek after glory clouds, but instead seek after a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. The pursuit for the Believer is to more fully yield our spirit to The Spirit of God in us. That should become the heart-cry of the Believer.

I know this will be misunderstood. It is difficult to fully express this in a brief blog post. Perhaps I can address it in more detail at a later time. Until then, I welcome your comments or questions.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Revelation Song by Jennie Lee Riddle

The Theology of Worship Music – Revelation Song
by Jennie Lee Riddle

Revelation Song is one of the first songs I recall singing that had a pure focus on Jesus Christ. Even though the song is not directed to Him until verse three, it contains such Word-filled praise that it leads the spirit of the worshipper to deeper places in God.

The imagery mentioned in the first verse comes from a book in the Bible called The Revelation of Jesus Christ. The book declares that even those who read the words contained in the book would be blessed. I believe that is one reason this song carries such a strong anointing.

Revelation 5:9-12 (ESV) And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!

The chorus follows with some very familiar song lyrics. I grew up in the Baptist church. In the Baptist Hymnal, hymn #1 is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” What a great way to start a series of songs about, and to, God.

Revelation 4:8 (ESV) And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Verse two continues with more imagery of Jesus revealed in The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 10:1 (ESV) Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

Revelation 4:5 (ESV) From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,

The final verse of this great hymn reminds me of another verse that contains the familiar words of the chorus, “Holy, holy, holy.” Consider this verse from Isaiah.

Isaiah 6:3-4 (ESV) And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

When you read this verse is so easy to just keep going without allowing the awesome event that just occurred to sink in. As the angels sang “to one another”, the foundations of Heaven were shaken. Heaven was shaken! The Hebrew literally says, “heaven suffered structural damage.” While worshipping face to face there is something that happens between us that is a dynamic powerful enough to shake Heaven. The presence of God does “fill us with wonder.”

The mention of the name of Jesus changes us. It changes the atmosphere. It changes everything. Let’s recapture the awe of God. He is worthy of praise.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin, John Newton, and Louie Giglio

The Theology of Worship Music – Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
by Chris Tomlin, John Newton, Louie Giglio

This worship song is based on one of the most beloved hymns of all time. John Newton, who wrote this great hymn, Amazing Grace, was a former captain of a slave ship. After he became a Believer he penned these words to which almost everyone can relate. It is believed the melody used in the original hymn came from songs sung by the slaves as they travelled the seas.

Chris Tomlin took some of the lyrics of John Newton, then added some from Louie Giglio, and also his own, to come up with this song, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). It introduced the original hymn to a new generation of worshippers and added a new sound for more seasoned worshippers.

Here’s a copy of the original lyrics written by John Newton.

     Amazing Grace (original version)

     Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
     That saved a wretch like me!
     I once was lost, but now am found,
     Was blind, but now I see.

     'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
     And grace my fears relieved;
     How precious did that grace appear
     The hour I first believed!

     Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
     I have already come;
     'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
     And grace will lead me home.

     The Lord has promised good to me,
     His word my hope secures;
     He will my shield and portion be
     As long as life endures.

     Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
     And mortal life shall cease,
     I shall possess, within the veil,
     A life of joy and peace.

     The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
     The sun forbear to shine;
     But God, who called me here below,
     Will be for ever mine.


As you can see, Chris Tomlin took verses one, two, four, and six, then added a chorus (or refrain), proclaiming, “My chains are gone!” It’s very easy to imagine John Newton expressing these same words when he became a Believer after seeing all the physical suffering endured by the slaves. Once saved, his spirit began to sing out of the freedom that he experienced in Christ.

This rewrite came in 2006 and it still sits at #12 on CCLI’s Top 25 Worship Songs. The reason is the timeless message and singability. The contrast used throughout the song gives a vivid backdrop for each thought to be portrayed.

            Sweet grace                                             >          wretched sinner
            Lost                                                          >          found
            Blind                                                         >          see
            Heart fear (reverence toward God)          >          fear (of sin) relieved
            Chains                                                      >          set free

The content of this song can clearly be traced back to scripture. There are so many references I didn’t take time to list them. Here are the basic tenets of our faith referenced in the rewrite.

            Verse 1 – redemption through the blood of Jesus
            Verse 2 – the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Believer
            Verse 3 – blessings that flow to the Believer when living a life of faith
            Verse 4 – the Blessed Hope of the Church – eternally in God’s presence

Interposed between the verses, Tomlin adds the refrain to remind us in each step of our journey in Christ that we have been set free from every weight and sin that would attempt to keep us from experiencing God’s best for us.

Sing, Church! The Lord’s grace is amazing!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stewart Townend

The Theology of Worship Music – In Christ Alone
by Keith Getty and Stewart Townend

In Christ Alone was written in 2001 and immediately became a staple among worshippers. It’s clear gospel message struck a chord with both traditional and contemporary worship styles.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend began years ago to write new hymns for the church that would contain sound theology along with inviting and singable melodies. If you have never taken a close look at their work I highly recommend it to you.

In Christ Alone tells the story of the life of Christ. The first verse describes Christ as Messiah. We find hope and strength in The Rock, the Chief Cornerstore.

Isaiah 28:16 (ESV) herefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

Ephesians 2:20 (ESV) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Moving from the image of an unmovable stone, Christ is then portrayed as love, peace, and comforter. He certainly is all of that.

Verse two then uses the text in John 1 to tell of how The Word became flesh in the form of a baby, then moves immediately to the reason He came – to die as the sacrifice for man.

John 1:1-5 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:29 (ESV) The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

I love the way they use contrast to show the diversity of Christ. It is impossible to truly capture the nature of Christ because of the many facets to His character and nature. But by looking at the extremes, you get a good idea of just how many ways that Christ can impact a life.

Verse three moves to the somber feel of the days between the crucifixion and resurrection, then quickly moves to the celebratory declaration of new life through Christ. We are no longer bound by the sin nature because of the blood of Christ.

The final verse describes the life of the Believer: no fear in death, the power of Christ in man (the Holy Spirit).

The next couple of statements speak to the theology of the writers that may not be shared by all. The idea of predestination is interpreted very differently. The main two camps of thought are those of the Calvinists and Armenians. Calvinists believe God is in complete control and nothing happens without His approval. Armenians believe that man has a freewill and can affect the outcome of circumstances. Those who teach pure predestination believe that salvation is determined before a person is even born. They will either be saved or lost based on the path that was laid out for them before ever breathing their first breath.

I don’t know the theology of these writers. I still sing the song because it speaks to the idea that “Jesus commands by destiny.” That is true. Because of Jesus, there is a destiny in God that has been made available through His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of the Father.

The next phrase is also a subject of great theological controversy. “No power of hell nor scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.” Some call this eternal security, meaning that once you are saved you can never lose your salvation. Again, I have no problem with this lyric. I do not believe that any attempt of satan, or any scheme of other men, can rob you of the redemption provided by Christ.

John 10:28 (ESV) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

There are others that feel man can become “lost” after being saved by either committing flagrant sin, knowing their actions violate the commands of God, or by renouncing their love for God, also known as grieving the Holy Spirit. I’ll leave that for other pundits. I would like to hear your comments.

The final phrase is what is known as The Blessed Hope of the Church: the promise of Heaven. It gives the Believer resolve to live a life that honors the commitment made to our God.

I love this song. It is so full of truth, and does not depend on repetitive lyric to get the worshipper focused on the reason we gather as Christians.