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Special Thursday Blog Post

What Do You Want from Your Music?

This is simply a personal testimony.

As a lifelong evangelical with an eye on history, I see nothing new in our current struggles over praise and worship music. As I observe its emotional appeal, I am reminded of much of the music I’ve heard in the church over my 69+ years. It reminds me of the big “anthems” of Sandi Patti, Larnelle Harris, and others. Before that was the “Jesus Music” movement of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. Consider southern gospel music. And before that was the traditional gospel hymn, largely popularized by the Moody-Sankey revivals of the 1870’s.

All were highly emotional expressions of song within the evangelical movement. All had roots in popular culture. All were highly controversial in their day, being vehemently criticized by more conservative sectors of the church. And honestly, not without reason. None of our music is perfect. Even our most meaningful music has its limitations and flaws. In the case of these emotional styles, perhaps…just perhaps…all were too exclusively and too uncritically practiced by their proponents. But isn’t that the nature of such new movements? Objective reflection and thoughtful editing usually come later.

But the issue is broader than music. During my brief lifetime, I have observed that with both individuals and institutions, our stronger qualities also tend to be our weaker qualities – or at least our more troublesome ones.

For the evangelical church, one of those strong-but-troublesome qualities is the place of emotion. Read back through church history, and the issue never seems to go away. It just continues to resurface with different names and different faces. During my lifetime, the strained relationship between two theological siblings, the Wesleyans and the charismatics, is just one example.

Our problems with emotion are not a surprise. Emotion is inherent in our marvelous, thrilling relationship with our Magnificent God. But like all stimulations, emotional stimulation easily becomes habit forming. It feels good. We want more. We begin seeking more.

I grew up in a church culture where too often, the quality of our religion seemed to be measured by its emotionalism. A good service was one that stimulated our emotions. A good song was one that stimulated our emotions.

Please understand me: I’m not belittling emotion in religion. But I came to realize that if the transcendent God we preached was real, our religion had to be more than emotion. My religion had to be more than emotion.

Speaking for myself, I have found what I was seeking. I have found a God who is very real, very personal, and marvelously constant, moment-by-moment; One who is both transcendent and immanent, One who has planned a beautiful destiny for His people as well as for each of His children. I live and move and breathe in Him.

He is the One I worship. He is the One I trust. He is the One I seek – through music and through silence, through thought and through action, through the everyday and in profound crises. He is completely real, all-encompassing, and the source of all meaning and satisfaction.

I want music that draws me to Him. I want music that helps me know Him and serve Him and glorify Him, not just through singing but through every breath I take; not just for one hour on Sunday morning, but for all 168 hours of the week. I want music that helps me love God, not just with my mouth and my music, but with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength – and my neighbor as myself. It is good and vital that we tell God how great He is. But I want music that also fosters faith, love, and self-sacrifice, learning, growing, repentance, and holy living. I want music that helps me live like Jesus, worship like Jesus, love like Jesus, and die like Jesus.

Our music is good as far as it goes, but I hunger for more.

Hymn: The Reason We Sing

Ken Bible

Psalm 16

Almighty, all-encompassing God,
my Father,
You are my hiding place,
my only God,
my greatest delight!

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Hide me, Almighty God!
Fierce storms arise.
Clouds gathering all around
Darken the skies.
You are my hiding place,
My safe, secluded space.
How peace is shining through
Here, Lord, in You!

You are my highest good,
O glorious Lord!
Life’s great inheritance!
Love’s rich reward!
Shallow and passing joys
Shout out their empty noise.
All that is good and true
Flows, Lord, from You.

Bless You, my guard, my guide,
Heaven’s pure light!
You bless and shepherd me
All through the night.
Fullness of love divine,
Pleasures profound are mine,
Joys ever fresh and new
Here, Lord, in You.

 

by Ken Bible, © 2018 LNWhymns.com

Father and Son

A Hymn based on
John, chapters 14 – 17

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In joy and in grieving, in love and in loss
I share in the Father and Son.
Reflecting their glory, enduring the cross,
I walk in the Father and Son.

Refrain:
One with You, Father,
One in Your Son,
Breathing Your Spirit, our union begun,
Rich in Your blessing,
Secure in Your grace,
Glimpsing the heaven that shines in Your face.

In speaking and doing, I’m never alone –
I follow the Father and Son.
When needing a strength far exceeding my own,
I cling to the Father and Son.

Embraced and empowered by all that You are,
O Father and Spirit and Son,
I share in Your fullness, Your mind and Your heart,
O Father and Spirit and Son!

from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for Easter

Father, as I celebrate this Easter season,
teach me what it means to live as
an Easter person
in this present world.

Everyone here is facing
inescapable death.
Help me live Your resurrection life among them,
glowing with
hope,
purpose, and
joyful anticipation.

Here sin seems inescapable.
Failure is considered inevitable.
Help me live as one set free from sin,
fully forgiven and
fully empowered for triumphant living.

Here, as we face the future,
we are gripped with
helplessness and
despair.
May I walk in the bright confidence of Easter.
Help me live as one whose eternal, glorious life in You
has already begun, and
will never end.

Father, may lost and hopeless people
sense the beautiful reality of Easter
in me.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Alive in You
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Only a Seed

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, NIV)

We dream of building empires. We like to think of ourselves as becoming strong oaks, or perhaps lush, glorious gardens of accomplishment.

But we lose sight of our smallness. We are only one tiny part of a people that together – and only together – are a holy temple, a fruitful vine.

My accomplishments will not be an empire, an oak, or a garden – only a seed. But God will make that seed grow. In His time it will take root. It will blossom and flower and produce fruit. And in that fruit will be more seeds. Some will fall nearby; others will be carried far away. God’s garden will grow richer and broader, spreading out into all eternity.

My Lord and Savior, deliver me from an exaggerated image of my importance as Your servant, no matter what part I am assigned in Your work. Deliver me from the hope that I will be honored above others. I only want to be one with You and one with Your people.

Thank You, Lord God, for the beauty of Your truth, for the beauty of living and growing in You. You are wonderful!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Touch a Life through Me
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More

I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do I measurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

Jesus, I am finding You
more than a promise,
more than a hope,
more than a thought.

You are
more than I have let You be,
more than I can imagine You to be,
more than all the dreams
that have cluttered by mind.

You are all the “more”
of my restless desires,
all the “more”
of God’s restless love for me,
all the “more” of eternity,
ever here, ever flowing,
ever full, yet ever growing,
ever satisfying and
ever surprising.

Jesus,
to You be all my love and trust,
all my hungering and hoping,
all my living and rejoicing and aspiring,
look by look, Lord,
more and more.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Beyond Imagination
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Father and Son

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER 

John 14 – 17 

Father, I was attracted to Your Son Jesus
because of You.
I sensed in Him something more than myself,
something more than I could ever be on my own.
I sensed You in Him,
the Almighty God,
the absolute,
the transcendent,
the pure,
the impossibly holy.
Yet Your purity was now human,
seeable,
touchable, and
relatable.
I saw “human” and “holy” joined
in one Person.
I was drawn to
love Him and
trust Him
because I saw You
in Him.

Now, I find Him drawing me back to You.
Through Him I am learning to know You.
Through Him I am brought into Your holy presence.
I am finding Him to be
the way to You,
the truth about You,
the life that flows from You.
In Him I hear all Your heart wishes to say to us.
In Him I begin to see all You are doing for us.
In Him I share Your Father-Son relationship:
I receive a Father’s deep love for His holy Son.
I return a Son’s worshiping love for His pure and perfect Father.

In Your Son I breathe
Your Spirit,
the same Spirit that made Your Son so beautiful.
In Him I breathe
Your wisdom,
Your holiness,
Your love.
In Christ,
through Your Spirit,
I breathe the peace and perfect union of
Father and Son.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Father and Son
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The Father’s Only-begotten Son

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read John 1:1-18

In the Old Testament, we first hear God calling Himself Father in relationship to the whole people of Israel. Then when the nation of Israel is formed and becomes a monarchy, God’s fatherhood is applied specifically to the king. God blessed the king as His “son” in order to bless all His people. This father-son relationship began with King David, then was extended to all David’s descendents on the throne. It reached all the way to Messiah, the Ultimate King. He would be a Son of David, and in that sense a Son of God, like His predecessors.

However, when Jesus Messiah arrived, He proved to be God’s Son in a deeper and richer sense than anyone had dreamed. He had not been created by God, then adopted as His Son, as David and all his descendents had been. He was the only-begotten Son of God.

John 1 affirms that Father and Son were together at the very beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (vv.1-2, NASB)

There was never a time when the Father existed that the Son did not also exist. The Nicene Creed states their relationship well:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The term “only begotten” refers to a son or daughter who is “unique,” “one of a kind”. John uses it to describe Jesus’ father-son relationship with God.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14, 18, NASB)

Because Jesus had spent an eternity in intimate, undivided fellowship with the Father, He revealed Him to us in a unique, complete, and beautiful way.

Made Holy or Becoming Holy?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Deuteronomy 7

At times, God told Israel that they were a people holy to the Lord. They were holy because He had chosen them and made them so. For example:

You are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6, NASB)

At other times, they were commanded to be a people holy to the Lord. Being holy was their own responsibility.

I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44, NASB)

How can we reconcile these approaches to being God’s holy people? Were they holy because God had made them holy, or were they to be holy by their own decision and effort? What makes God’s people holy?

  • First, they were holy by God’s decision and God’s doing. God had separated them to Himself. He had chosen them as His own (v.6). Why?
    –Not because they deserved it, but because of His great love (vv.7-8);
    –Not because they had been faithful, but because He was faithful to His promises to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob (v.9).
    They were holy because God is holy. Whatever is God’s, whatever is separated to His service, is holy.
  • In response to God choosing them and separating them to Himself, they were called to live as His holy people. They had to obey and separate themselves from the ways of the people around them (vv.2-3). They must not serve their gods (vv.4-5). They must obey God (v.11) and trust Him in times of need (vv.17-23).

God is holy, and He is the only source of holiness, so holiness is always His choice and His doing. But we must respond in faith and obedience. Those who did enjoyed all the continuing blessings of being God’s people (vv.12-15). Those who disobeyed were judged and buried in the wilderness. They never received God’s promised blessings (Hebrews 3:12 – 4:3).

Holiness is a living relationship with the holy God. Only He can initiate the relationship, but we must allow God to be our God in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Lamb of God

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV), but His sin-bearing did not begin on Golgotha.

As He emptied Himself of all that made Him equal to the Father (Philippians 2:5-8), He was taking our sins upon Himself.

John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NIV), not at the end of His ministry, but at its very beginning. The first public act of this sinless One was to humble Himself, line up with sinners, and symbolically die beneath the waters of the Jordan. There, from day one, He bore our sins.

For forty days He faced extreme deprivation and temptation in the wilderness,  all that we might have a high priest…who has been tempted in every way, just as we arethat he might make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 4:15; 2:17, NIV).

Throughout His ministry He bore all the fruits of our sin. Homelessness, rejection, hatred, poverty, and persecution were His daily experience. He took upon Himself the needs of the thousands that flocked to Him—their ignorance, disease, demon possession, grief, and hunger.

Finally, He laid down His life before those who hated Him and thirsted for His blood. He silently surrendered Himself to their humiliation, torture, and cruel execution.

But this was only the culmination of His self-sacrifice. He bore our sins, not for a few hours, but for His entire holy life.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: You Bore Our Sin, O Lamb of God
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