Monday, December 28, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Everlasting God by Brenton Brown and Ken Riley

The Theology of Worship Music – Everlasting God
by Brenton Brown and Ken Riley

Worship ministry is prophetic in nature, meaning it is intended to edify, exhort, and comfort those who engage in it. This song is certainly one that fills the bill where exhortation is concerned.

Everlasting God has been a staple among worshiping churches for a decade, and still counting. Its theological content is rock solid, and the worshipper is encouraged by declaring dependence on our God.

Isaiah declared the truth about God being One who empowers those that wait (serve) Him. He is the Everlasting God.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV) Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

The Hebrew words used for “Everlasting God” is “El Olam,” which means, “The Ancient God.” The word “ancient” does not mean old and decrepit as our Western culture has come to understand it. The word “olam” means, “before time, or timeless,” hence, Everlasting God. He is not old; He is outside of time. Before time began, He was. After time ends, He will still be!

The first time I remember hearing Isaiah 40:31 was at Freshmen Orientation at Samford University in the Summer of 1977. I was raised in church and was a Believer, but I had never heard anything regarding God’s desire to strengthen me as described in this verse. It was a turning point in my walk with the Lord. I realized that if I would serve Him, He would strengthen me for the task. The good news is, He still does.

Michael Tharpe, from IHOP-KC, introduced this song to me during a worship workshop. I used it often from that point to lead our congregation in declaring the truth about who God is, and who He wants to be in us.

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – How He Loves by John Mark McMillan

The Theology of Worship Music – How He Loves
by John Mark McMillan

How He Loves, by John Mark McMillan, has been on the CCLI Top 25 for a long time. It is a song that gives voice to the heart-cry of many worshipping Believers. His creative imagery, while not expressly Biblical, allows us to see the effect of God’s working in our life. Phrases like “loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His glory” brings both a sight and sound experience.

Many have altered one phrase in the original lyric because they can’t seem to imagine God giving a “sloppy wet kiss.” This phrase has been changed to “unforeseen” by those that want a little more dignified view of God. Personally, I’m ok with either. God’s not afraid to get messy!

There are several references to scripture used in the song. The opening line is a statement made about our God taken from the dialog God had with Moses on the mountain while giving the Ten Commandments. God spoke, “The Lord, your God, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:5)

The phrase about being God’s portion is mostly Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:9), but I think it is applicable to the Believer as well.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The mention of Jesus being our “prize” is a little misstated. I know it fit the rhyme scheme, but we do not “win” Jesus. The prize mentioned in the New Testament is the reward we receive in Heaven based on our works here on earth. I know that is a little specific, but too many try to earn their way into Heaven, and it is just not possible. We receive Jesus through grace alone.

The chorus of this song cannot be sung enough. If we could ever get a revelation of just how much God loves us it would change us forever. So, sing this song often; “sloppy wet kiss” and all. We need to declare the love of the Father over ourselves, and others worshipping with us. “He loves us!”

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I Think We Have Missed It

I Think We Have Missed It

The American Church is filled with cries for revival. We see God moving in other parts of the world. Places like China, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East are experiencing salvations at a rate unparalleled in history. Yet in America, the cry for revival is loud, but the response to the Gospel is waning. Why?

As I pondered this thought yesterday I saw something that might be relevant. I’ve heard the stories of revival for years. People tell of Charles Finney, and some of the amazing things that occurred during his ministry. One story seems to recur more than others. It goes something like this.

As Finney walked into the Cotton Mill, one of the opponents of the meeting, a young lady employee, saw him. Looking at her co-employee, she began to laugh. Some writers say she made a cynical remark about Finney and his meeting. In a spirit of prayer, Charles Finney simply looked at this young lady without saying a word. As he kept looking at her, being grieved by her criticism, the lady stopped working as she had broken her thread. She became so upset that she couldn't repair the thread and start again. The Spirit of God mightily convicted her of her sin to the point that she began to weep. Soon her companions were convicted and began to weep. A chain reaction occurred as hundreds began to be overcome by their lost condition.

The factory owner, seeing this, was deeply moved and said. "Stop the mill, and let the people attend to religion, for it is far more important that our souls be saved than the factory run." All the workers were assembled in a very large room and Finney said, "a more powerful meeting I scarcely ever attended." Within a few days nearly every employee was saved (some accounts say all were saved. Several authors say there were 3,000 employees in this factory.

More recently I have watched videos titled “Transformation” that tell the story of revival in various places, including certain cities in the United States. One of the more famous stories is that of Almalonga, Guatemala. This place was totally changed by people’s response to the Gospel that all the bars closed and became churches. They no longer have a need for a jail because crime is so low. Their crops have increased dramatically, causing a financial blessing for the farmers in the area. I know people that have visited there and were in awe at what they saw.

But here in America we are left wanting. We long for God’s touch like what occurred in Almalonga. We long for the anointing of Finney, where people begin to weep in our presence because they sense God in us, or of the Apostle Peter, where people were healed when his shadow crossed them. The desire is real. The need is real, but why are we still left wanting?

This is what I saw yesterday. When the American Church hears these stories we become focused on the outcome: revival. We see “bars closing.” We see “factories brought to a halt.” We see “financial increase from God’s blessing.” But instead of focusing on allowing God to change us, we begin to cry out for Him to change our circumstances. We form political parties, nominate candidates, lobby legislatures, and march in the streets. We preach sermons railing against the evils of sin (bars, factories, poverty) and condemn anyone that dares stand in the way of revival.

This is exactly what happened with prohibition. The American church wanted revival but alcohol was seen as the impediment to God moving. Instead of focusing on Jesus, the church politicized and “changed society.” The only problem is that nothing changed except the law. The hearts of men were still depraved. Sunday blue-laws were the same thing. “The Sabbath is holy!”, was heard so loud that laws were passed making it illegal to “work” on Sunday.

Name any current “ill” of American righteousness: drugs, alcohol, sex outside of marriage, abortion, LGBT rights, etc. If tomorrow the church could some how bring about an end to any of these things through political means would it accomplish anything for the Kingdom of God? What if tomorrow every abortion doctor was put out of business and Planned Parenthood was shut down, how many souls would be added to the Kingdom? If every LGBT person renounced their lifestyle tomorrow and vowed to remain heterosexual for the rest of their life, would the Kingdom of God have increased? The answer to all of these is, “No!” Absence of sin is not salvation.

Regardless of how “righteous” America becomes by enacting laws against sin, we will not be a Christian nation. It is only by individuals becoming identified with Christ, by the Holy Spirit, that our nation will change.

Charles Finney never set out to “close down a factory.” He was too focused on dealing with his own sin to think about anyone else.  I’ve heard first-hand accounts from Almalonga. Their purpose in gathering was not to combat poverty or close down bars. They began meeting to pray. The various churches came together and prayed. They dealt with their own sin first. They asked God to change them, and He did.

We long for an upper-room experience. Perhaps we need to do what those in the upper-room did: pray. They did not know when they gathered in the upper-room what was coming. They did not form focus groups to study the needs of the community, or form political action committees to elect a more “spiritual” government. They simply gathered for prayer. They joined together for a common purpose: pray.

This will never happen in American if the politically charged rhetoric continues in our churches. We can not cooperate in any spiritual encounter because we’re worried about who will get credit, who will pay for it, or which church will someone attend if they do get saved. We can try to affect change in our communities and our nation all we want, but until we become concerned with our own sin it will never lead to revival.

Better music, more thorough training, up-to-date facilities, and bigger budgets are great. All of things keep us in a place to help the people that are being saved. As a citizen of this great country we need to vote wisely. But as the Church of Jesus Christ we need to keep our focus on one thing: making disciples. This will only happen when THE Church stops fighting each other, stops organizing political movements, and gets on Her face to repent. America does not need any more prophets to declare that God has passed judgment. We need those that dare to be Finney, or Wesley, or the Moravians, or the monks at Bangor, Ireland, or the monks at Clairvaux, France, or Count Zinzendorf in Germany, or Dr. Cho in Seoul, Korea. These men and women gave their life to prayer. They were not seeking revival. They were seeking God; to know Him in every way.

Let us begin by praying for grace to even have the ability to pray. Like the disciples asked of Jesus, “We believe. Help our unbelief.” We need to pray, “Lord, we pray; teach us to pray.” That is a prayer that God can, and will, answer.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman and Beth Redman

The Theology of Worship Music – Blessed Be Your Name
by Matt Redman and Beth Redman

Matt Redman has been writing songs for many years, with many of those becoming staples in Christian worship. Blessed Be Your Name is one of those songs.

The lyrics reflect the state of being in which we find ourselves, abundance vs. desert place and sunshiny days vs. dark suffering, and the offers the response that Believers should give: Thanksgiving to God.

Philippians 4:10-13 (ESV) I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Ephesians 5:18-21 (ESV) … but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This song flies in the face of the name-it-and-claim-it hyper-faith segment of Christians. I have attended churches that have had “blessings” as the focus of Christ’s sacrifice. Even though I do not agree with everything they teach, I also do not find myself in the camp of those that wallow in poverty as a sign of their Christian humility. I just agree with what Paul wrote: “I am content in any situation.”

That being said, I also agree with Paul when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can overcome circumstances that attempt to hinder the purposes of God.

I believe that God wants to bless us. It has nothing to do with a luxury automobile or designer clothing. It has everything to do with God supplying the needs that I encounter pursuing His plan for my life.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I take issue with the use of the passage from Job that is featured in the bridge of the song. It is very clear from the previous verses in Job chapter one that God was not the one that took from Job. It was satan. Job also had not yet gotten the revelation that he had by the end of the Book of Job concerning God’s blessing. This is a topic that needs more explanation than can be given in a short blog post. Perhaps later.

When I used the song in times of worship I changed the lyrics to the bridge. We sang: “I live to give You praise”, instead of “You give and take away.”

Please know that if you sing the original lyrics I do not think less of you. If I’m in a service and they use this song I do not walk out in protest. It is just something that I have issue with because of the extreme teaching of the poverty preachers I encountered growing up.

So, sing the song. Give praise to God. Bless the name of the Lord. He is worthy of our praise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Theology of Worship Music – Here I Am to Worship by Tim Hughes

The Theology of Worship Music – Here I Am to Worship
by Tim Hughes

If you listen to most people, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman wrote just about every worship song being sung today. That is not the case at all, but people usually don’t take time to find out who really wrote a song. They just know who they heard perform it first. Today’s song is one of those songs.

Here I Am to Worship was written by Tim Hughes. He is not well known, but his music is being sung around the world. This song has a clear Christ-centered focus. It brings the worshipper before the throne of God where he is then encouraged to “bow down, and say that You’re my God.” It is one of my favorites.

The lyric is that of the Bride (the Church) singing to her Bridegroom (Jesus). Verse one begins with the picture John paints for us in his gospel, of Jesus, the Light, coming to a dark world to bring hope.

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.

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.

Verse two speaks of the King of Kings, Jesus, humbling Himself by taking on the form of man so He could become the Redemption for mankind.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

The chorus is our response to what was shared in the verses of the song. When we realize who Jesus is, and what He has done for us, our only response is to fall down and worship Him. Tim Hughes uses language from the Song of Solomon to tell the Lover of Our Soul what we think of Him.

Song of Songs 5:16 (ESV) His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

When we encounter the bridge of the song it causes the worshipper to consider the great cost Jesus paid on the cross, and the reason He went there was because of our sin. This is not to bring condemnation, but instead is to be a reminder that we are forever grateful for the price paid for our freedom.

If you haven’t sung Here I Am to Worship in a while, pull it out. Use it often. It is a great hymn of remembrance for the Body of Christ.