Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Should some worship songs be on the chopping block?


Corrie Mitchell: I repent!
 
I was recently sent a link to your article on the faithstreet.com web site titled “Let Stop Singing These 10 Worship Songs.”

You're right: we NEED to stop singing some of these songs you listed, because, as you said, they have verses that are “theologically incorrect” or “questionable,” “vague lyrics could easily suggest a plan to sneak around and make out in the bushes,” or contain “zero theological content.” And let's not forget those songs that don't mention Jesus or God (while in the same breathe, you complain about songs that used “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” the New Testament equivalent of which is “Lord”).
 
As one who has led or helped lead worship over the years, I have to take responsibility for propagating some of these these songs that should be on the chopping block.

Let's start with all those songs you say have with “zero theological content.” I think we should add some other “zero theology” songs I grew up with as a young Christian, such as “This is the Day,” “I Will Enter His Gates,” “His Banner Over Me is Love,” “I've Got The Joy.” Out with them all! You have to have really DEEP truths in music—like the song the theologian Karl Barth quoted when a student asked him to summarize his life's theological work in a sentence: “Jesus loves me, this I know/for the Bible tells me so.” Guess I'll also have to toss out those pop songs I rewrote for my children's church (although I must confess, I'm sure you would put “I'd Have a Blue Christmas Without Jesus” and “God Loves You, Yeah, Yeah Yeah” up on your list, above even “How He Loves” and that yucky “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” line).

Then you've got to steer clear of those songs with the “vague” lyrics, since you don't really know if God or a “middle school crush” was being addressed. Yes, I've been guilty of singing “vague” lyrics that no one can apparently really “figure out.” Then again, I'm sure people singing “Draw Me Close” or “In The Secret” can pretty much figure out it's God who is being addressed, since they're in a church service instead of a Metallica concert.

As for those “theologically incorrect” songs, can I suggest one more, one of those hymns you say we REALLY need to bring back: “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing,” and that great line, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/prone to leave the God I love ...” Well, if I ever sang something like that to MY sweetheart, my wife of 18 years, I'd be sleeping in the barn with the chickens! And yet, it's a-okay to sing it to GOD! Now, I understand those who would say that lyricist was simply being honest about struggles in our faith. And maybe that's my point: the writers of these songs (hymns or modern), in expressing their love for God, may not be 1,000 percent “theologically correct” when they express their devotion. I'll paraphrase another great theologian, John Lennon. He once talked about one song he wrote, comparing it to someone drowning, who is not going to say, “Can someone please help me with this problem,” but will be screaming a very loud “HELP!” So the songwriters, in simply expressing what's in their heart, may come up with lyrics that are too “simple,” or not “specific,” or may not be theologically accurate at times. Whatever we do for God, and whoever we are in the Body of Christ, we're all a work in progress (including songwriters).
 
Then there's all those songs where God is singing to US, instead of the other way around. Gosh, all those years I was told from the pulpit, “The Bible is God's love letter to YOU!” I guess we shouldn't be expressing that truth musically, huh?
 
Look, I agree there are songs or lyrics that probably should be re-evaluated. I'll be honest here: I did not know about the line in “How He Loves” with the “sloppy wet kiss” (my church sings the alternate “unforeseen kiss”), and if I HAD heard it in a service, my gag reflex probably would have kicked in. I'm just not sold on the idea, that making sure everything we sing is “up to snuff” is really going to aid in our worshiping Jesus. This is coming from someone who for years has told people they need to be discerning about any music they listen to, so that it doesn't have ideas that can stunt their spiritual growth—and church music doesn't get an automatic pass from me on that one.
 
Maybe I can best close out this response with an incident from the life of Rich Mullins (whose music should be a lot more evident in church services than it is). Rich and his band once visited a church that met in a barn, where the worship team's singing ability was, well, terrible. Then the church leaders realized Rich was in the congregation, and invited him up to sing some REAL music. But when Rich came up on the podium, he DIDN'T sing—because he was so overwhelmed by the HEART of those singers. He knew they sang straight from their hearts of their love for Jesus, and he didn't need to add anything to it. Maybe that's my bottom line of what songs we should or shouldn't sing in worship. I'll take worshipers singing to God from their HEARTS, even if the song they're singing is not the most spiritually “accurate” or “deep,” over a cold, religious repetition of a song that has the stamp of approval of every Bible college on the planet.
 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Favorite Songs (December 2014)




“Greystone Chapel," Johnny Cash, 1968

At Folsom Prison, the album that reignited the Man in Black's career—a risky album, at that, for the times—reaches its crescendo at the finale when Cash played “Greystone Chapel,” a song written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley. Cash only learned the song the night before—and his nervousness over the number showed up as he introduced it; he later said he regretted identifying Sherley, which could have led to other inmates assaulting the prisoner. But the song got the biggest applause of the concert.
 
There's a Greystone Chapel here at Folsom

A house of worship in this den of sin …
 
It's hard to tell by the roaring applause at this juncture whether the inmates were reacting to the “house of worship” or the “den of sin.” No matter—Sherley expresses his love for God and the strength his faith received from seeing that chapel each day, where “the door to the house of God is never locked.” The chorus sums up:

Inside the walls of prison my body may be

But my Lord has set my soul free

The Folsom concert (Johnny actually had two concerts in the prison that day) featured Cash standards such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Cocaine Blues.” Cash was backed by his future wife June Carter, The Tennessee Three, Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers. The album regained commercial success for Cash, even leading to his own TV show. At Folsom Prison has since gone multi-platinum, and has been designated one of the greatest albums of all time.

While writing a devotional about “Greystone Chapel,” I thought of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4:7, how God's treasure is carried in jars of clay—namely, us. God used a song by an inmate—through Johnny Cash—to encourage others to look to Jesus, and to never forget those milestones in our walk with God that rebuild our faith when it is weakened. I wish I could tack on a happy ending for Sherley here, but his life after his eventual release took a very dark and sad turn.

Nonetheless, “Greystone Chapel” is a classic song about God's redemption power; His use of imperfect “jars or clay” to carry out His perfect will; and how our faith can be renewed and strengthened in seemingly hopeless situations, that for us can be our own prison.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

And America's moral dive continues …

Ever heard of “post-birth abortion?” That's right, don't stop at killing an unborn child—make it okay to kill them up to 4-5 years old! There ARE immoral idiots out there who support this Nazi-style “choice,” which sadly is gaining traction with a larger number ofcollege students. With this kind of “philosophy” being pumped into the brains of young people through our schools and media, is it any wonder America has all but loosed its moral moorings, and that “anything goes?” (Anything, that is, except for Judeo-Christian principles, which are deemed “evil” by the elites who claim there is no right or wrong in the first place). It makes me wonder whether writer Mark Steyn's words are all too true: “If the culture’s liberal, if the schools are liberal, if the churches are liberal, if the hip, groovy business elite is liberal, if the guys who make the movies and the pop songs are liberal, then electing a guy with an 'R' after his name isn’t going to make a lot of difference.”

God help our country.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cartoon of the week



You can add a few more "non-scandals" to that vehicle. Maybe the cartoonist is onto something here ...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Abide

John 15:7: If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (KJV)

This verse hold several simple, yet powerful truths for the church is these times, when Christians in America are bewildered about the direction of this country (mainly downhill). First, we need to let God's Word, the Bible, “abide” in us. This is not just head knowledge: “Abide in youNot only are remembered, but are suffered to remain in you as a living principle, to regulate your affections and life.” (Barnes)

This is rooted in the first part of the verse, about abiding in Jesus. Obviously, we abide in Jesus when we ask Him into our heart as our Lord and Savior. When we love anyone, their voice, their words have a life in us that no one else could ever have. How much more should this be with our Lord Jesus and His Words in the Holy Bible!

When we are abiding in faith in Jesus, and let His words direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6), then we can be confident that whatever we ask, it will be done for us. It's easy to believe for this in regard to personal needs—but do we believe this for our neighbors, and for that matter, for our nation? Yes, we must put hands and feet under our prayers in standing up for biblical truth and opposing Satan's plans to tear down out society—but we must first and foremost have the total faith in Jesus in our prayers to do this.

When our faith in not firmly rooted in God's Word, any enthusiasm we have in our efforts to turn people back to biblical truth will wilt away, especially in the face of trials and opposition (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21). So our first steps in shining our light into the darkness, in seeing true revival come to the American church, is not dreaming up more complicated man-made methods for this, but by the church returning to basics of the faith, to get afire with the love of Jesus in our hearts and letting that love shine through our words and actions.

Here is a video link to a chorus written about this truth, that I hope will bless you as you allow Jesus' words to abide in you.
 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Heart of the pro-abortion movement

The heart of the pro-abortion movement has been pretty much exposed in the recent battle to stop pro-life laws in Texas. I'm posting some links, but here's a rundown:

*The “pro-choice” protesters aren't content to carry around perverted signs—they have little children carrying them too.

*Members of the pro-abortion crowd repeatedly yelled “Hail Satan” at pro-life demonstrators who were singing “Amazing Grace.”

For the above two items, check out the link here (Warning: some of the signs in the pictures are offensive. Actually, they are ALL offensive—but some are especially perverted).

*State legislators are receiving threats from these alleged guardians of women's rights—including messages hoping that their daughters are raped.

*And the kicker—these are PAID activists. They are pulling in up to $2,200 a month from leftists groups allied with President Obama.

If you have the stomach, check these links. Then pray for the pro-life legislators and demonstrators in their courageous stand for life; for the pro-abortion activists' salvation; and for what's left of the conscience of our nation.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dressing down the sheep: some thoughts on the ranting pastor

At last count, there are almost 300,000 hits on the YouTube video starring that Oklahoma pastor who dresses down his congregation during Sunday service. The video gem of his latest homiletic outburst features the pastor criticizing an engaged couple he was supposed to marry. That couple left the church shortly after his “corrective” message, where he was down in the aisle, pretty much in the man's face, saying “You're one of the sorriest church members I have. You're not worth 15 cents.”

I write this as someone who is apprehensive about criticizing any ministry, even if that ministry does things that may seem unusual. But this video cries for some biblical perspective. For that, I turn to a passage that at first seems to have nothing to do with our interesting pastor and his preaching method:

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:23-25, ESV)

Let's put aside the issue about whether you believe spiritual gifts such as tongues and prophecy are for today; there are dedicated believers on both sides of that issue. Paul is expressing a concern here for what an OUTSIDER would think should they come into the meeting. Of course, this is not calling for churches to “water down” their worship or message so as not to “drive away” unbelievers. Nonetheless, Paul is concerned with what an unbeliever will take away from a church meeting. You see, EVERYTHING a church does tells people something about God; the message is not limited to any inspired speaking or even singing.

So when a pastor uses his pulpit to berate members of his church, what is THIS telling people, especially those outside the church, about God? Look at the pastor's words again, when he tells that young man, “You're not worth 15 cents.” Tell me if you honestly think THAT reflects the heart of Jesus; do you REALLY believe JESUS would say that? To be sure, Jesus had harsh words for hypocrites; put His finger directly on the sin of the woman at the well and the rich young ruler; and even rebuked his beloved disciple Peter with the words, “Get behind me Satan” (see Matthew 16:21-23).

But for that pastor to tell that man, a member of his church, he was “not worth 15 cents” is reprehensible, for this is a soul Jesus died for. Or has that pastor forgotten about John 3:16? Picture yourself being in the shoes of a young Christian couple looking for a church, who could well have been visiting that church that day. Or maybe the visitors are a couple living in sin, wanting to get right with God and enter into marriage—and you get an earful of THIS message. Like that poor couple the pastor “confronted,” you'll walk out the door of that church and not look back—and if you're unchurched, probably forget looking for ANY church again.

I don't know that pastor personally, so I can't speak to whether he is living up to those apparently lofty standards he was laying down for that “worthless” man and his fiancee. I certainly hope so, for his sake. But maybe he needs to start praying about whether his “method” really glorifies God, or simply discourages believers and gives unbelievers all the more reason to not follow Jesus—certainly not the Jesus that pastor is presenting.