Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord

Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!

When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress,
In failure or success, teach me Thy way!

When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy way!
When storms o’erspread the skies, teach me Thy way!
Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!

-Benjamin Mansell Ramsey, 1919.

Almost Out of Time

Gleanings from Jonathan Edward’s sermon “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It” made by Donald S. Whitney.

1. Use Time wisely “Because the Days Are Evil”

Ephesians 5:15-16 – “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

2. Wise Use of Time is the Preparation for Eternity

Whitney warns, “During time (that is, in this life) you must prepare for eternity, for there will be no second chance to prepare once you have crossed eternity’s timeless threshold.”

As the general shouts, “Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.”

3. Time is Short

James 4:14 – “You are a midst that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

4. Time is Passing

1 John 2:17 – “The worlds and its desires are passing away.”

Whitney writes, “We speak of saving time, buying time, making up time, and so on, but those are illusions, for time is always passing. We should use our time wisely, but even the best use of time cannot put pages back on the calendar.”

5. The Remaining Time Is Uncertain

Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Whitney warns, “There are thousands who entered eternity today, including thousands who were younger than you, who yesterday had no idea that today was their last day. Had they known that, their use of time would have become far more important to them.”

6. Time Lost Cannot Be Regained

John 9:4 – We have the day for work but a night is coming when no one can work.

Whitney says, “If you misuse the time God offers to you, He never offers that time again.”

7. You Are Accountable to God for Your Time

Romans 14:12 & 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 – We will all give an account for how we use our time.

Edwards resolved to live each day as if at the end of that day he had to give an account to God of how he used his time.

8. Time Is So Easily Lost

Proverbs 24:33-34 –A little wasted time here, a little there and soon all will be gone.

Whitney reminds, “You don’t have to do anything to lose time.”

9. We Value Time at Death

Proverbs 5:11-13 – Regret comes at the end of a wasted life.

Edwards determined, “Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

10. Time’s Value in Eternity

Luke 16:19-30 – The parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Richard Baxter asks, “Does it not tear their very hearts for ever, to think how madly they consumed their lives, and wasted the only time that was given them to prepare for their salvation? Do those in hell now think them wise that are idling or playing away their time on earth?”

-Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (NavPress, 1991), 125-133.

Adore and Tremble for Our God

Adore and tremble, for our God
Is a consuming fire!
His jealous eyes His wrath inflame,
And raise His vengeance higher.

Almighty vengeance, how it burns!
How bright His fury glows!
Vast magazines of plagues and storms
Lie treasured for his foes.

Those heaps of wrath, by slow degrees,
Are forced into a flame;
But kindled, oh! how fierce they blaze!
And rend all nature’s frame.

At His approach the mountains flee,
And seek a watery grave:
The frighted sea makes haste away,
And shrinks up every wave.

Through the wide air the mighty rocks
Are swift as hailstones hurled;
Who dares engage His fiery rage
That shakes the solid world?

Yet, mighty God, Thy sovereign grace
Sits regent on the throne;
The refuge of Thy chosen race
When wrath comes rushing down.

Thy hand shall on rebellious kings
A fiery tempest pour,
While we beneath Thy sheltering wings
Thy just revenge adore.

-Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spir­it­u­al Songs, 1707-1709.

Am I a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.

-Isaac Watts, written for a sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:13, Published 1721-4

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

3 questions with Keith Getty

Some great thought from Keith Getty:

What are your goals as an artist and hymn writer?

“I’ve spent my life with twin goals. One is to try and let the word of Christ dwell richly when people meet together and sing. What we sing is as important, if not more important than, what we speak. And secondly, to try and craft a musical style that someone can carry for a lifetime. And the Lord is Lord of every form of art — pop art, high art, songs that last for a day, songs that you sing to your children, hymns sung around the world for 500 years. But I do believe the Bible places such a value on life and the extension of art that it’s important we strive to write and learn music that can be passed on for generations. Most people tend to have a passion for songs with rich theology or classical hymnody with high artistic contours.”

What is the role of the artist in the church?

“An artist and a pastor tend to think about things in slightly different ways that complement each other, and so I think that can help shake up a pastor and keep him energized, but it also breathes into and informs a church musician. On the flip side, they’re both control freaks. But a huge amount of honesty and strong communication can allow any two people to work together.”

 What is the most important aspect of a hymn?

“Throughout Scripture when you see God’s people singing, they sing to God, and they sing together. At a pragmatic level, we need to write songs that are rich in vibrant truth, and write songs in which every musician accompanies the artist who called the congregation to worship. Every piece of artistry a worship leader has is given to lead the congregation in singing.

On a wider level, I think there’s a calling to a higher view of art in all things. If art is an extension of life, we need a generation of serious musicians with serious thoughts who commit their lives to artistry and take that as their service to God and his church.”

-Keith Getty, http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2014/02/19/3-questions-with-keith-getty/

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Improve Congregational Singing

By Keith Getty

“My wife, Kristyn, and I recently returned from a tour where we had the privilege of sharing our music in cities across North America. As we do on our tours, we partnered with most of our concert sponsors to host a lunch and time of discussion with local pastors, worship leaders, and other church musicians.

In each of those leadership events, I posed the question, “What are the things you ask yourself on Monday morning, in reviewing Sunday’s services?” Generally, the responses centered around production values, stylistic issues, people management, pleasing the pastor, or finishing the service on time. I do not recall that any one asked, “How did the congregation sing?”

It seems curious that in a generation that has produced innumerable conferences, articles, blogs, and even university degree programs on “worship,” the topic of congregational singing hasn’t been raised more often.  But even if we had been discussing congregational participation, would we know what goal we’re aiming to hit each week?

I do not pretend to be qualified to write a theological treatise on this particular subject. Congregational singing is a holy act, and as I organize my thoughts, I hear my old pastor, Alistair Begg, reminding me that in our song worship, we have to be spiritually alive (dead people don’t sing), spiritually assisted (through the enabling of the Holy Spirit), and spiritually active (committed to daily walking with the Lord).

I offer here some practical advice on strengthening our congregational singing, drawn from both our experience as musicians and also what we have seen and learned in our travels.

1. Begin with the pastor.

Look at any congregation not engaged in worship through singing and the most consistent correlation is a senior pastor equally as disengaged. Ultimately the buck stops with him in congregational worship.

Every pastor must be intimately involved in the language being placed in the congregation’s mouth, for that singing ultimately affects how they think, how they feel, how they pray, and how they live. The congregation should be treated as those who have been invited to a feast at the table of the King; don’t hand them junk food! C. S. Lewis believed singing completes our faith, explaining in his book Reflections on the Psalms, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” This is why I believe many of our pastoral heroes such as Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and Philip Schaaf produced hymn books in addition to preaching and teaching. Other leaders such as Horatius Bonar, Richard Baxter, and John Calvin wrote hymns themselves.

Pastors not only have a duty to be involved in preparing for the time of congregational singing, they also have a responsibility to personally model and demonstrate the importance of it. We need pastors who constantly delight in their congregation’s singing and the musicians who serve them and who also joyfully and authentically participate themselves.

Pastors, take up your duty in this act of worship called congregational singing. Worship leaders, pray for your pastor faithfully and do your part to develop a thriving relationship with him. The most influential worship leaders in history have almost always had close (though often tense) relationships with their pastors.

2. Sing great songs.

If congregational singing is a holy act, and if we are what we sing, then we can’t be lazy in selecting songs. We must sing great songs—songs that artfully exult Christ with deeply meaningful lyrics and melodies we can’t wait to sing. Better to have a small repertoire of great songs (that you will sing well) than a catalog full of songs recycled for sentimental reasons or chased after because they are the “latest” thing.

Writing or selecting great songs is not an exercise in lyrical propaganda or marketing. It is not merely laying scriptural truth alongside any melody. It is an art form that arrests our emotions and intellect in mysterious ways. Just as a master chef selects ingredients that are at the same time nutritious, aromatic, and flavorful, the selection of songs for congregational singing must excite at a number of levels.

Great songs have stood the test of time. They have been passed on to us from our fathers, and we should pass them along to our children. Assemble any Christian group, and practically everyone can join you in singing “Amazing Grace” confidently and passionately. We’re drawn to sing great music, much like we’re drawn to stand in awe of a beautiful painting.

There are great new songs—they breathe fresh air into our singing and help connect age-old truth with modern sounds. These are appropriate, too, though harder to find.

Recently I invited two unbelieving friends to a Christian event. The artists on stage played songs with interesting lyrics but awful melodies. I asked my friends what they thought about the concert. “These people obviously don’t take their subject matter very seriously,” one friend replied. Now, I know for a fact this is not true. But art ultimately expresses life, and low-quality songs do not reflect spirited, serious believers.

3. Cultivate a congregation-centered priority in those who lead.

From the individual who leads music, to the worship teams standing up front, to those of us who follow as members of the congregation, it’s vital to build a culture where everyone realizes our corporate responsibility before God and to each other is to sing together. Throughout Scripture, the command to sing is given to God’s people more than 400 times. Ephesians 5:19 instructs believers to address one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Week after week, we are spiritually renewed, realigned, and sanctified by singing to the Lord and singing to each other as the body of Christ.

Sadly, some of the churches with the newest facilities and most forward-thinking pastors are weakened substantially by lackluster congregational singing. It is an awful witness for outsiders to watch believers so disinterested in singing to their Creator and Redeemer.

Many of our common challenges—the overly exuberant drummer, the diva-like background vocalist, the subversive choir member, or an unhealthy priority on performance—can be corrected when we teach and encourage those involved in our music to be excited about using their many rich and colorful gifts for the purpose of supporting the congregation. Every singer, instrumentalist, and choir member should share in facilitating the high calling of congregational singing.

4. Serve the congregation through musical excellence.

Scripture often commands us to make music that is both good and excellent. For example, Psalm 33 tells to both “shout for joy in the Lord” and also play our instruments “skillfully” (verse 3). This instruction is consistent with our calling as believers to work heartily at whatever we do, as for the Lord and not men (Colossians 3:23). The music need not be complex or style-specific, but we must take seriously our role in such holy activity. This leadership requires people who are trained and well-prepared. As with all work that involves creativity (whether preaching, mothering, or running a business), we should constantly seek to be fresh, interesting, and connected with our congregations. Listen to new music, arrangements, and sounds. Examine our heritage of liturgies for insight to ordering the song service. Reach across the aisle, meeting with leaders from different churches and denominations to learn about their music selections.

In scoring for films, the composer and performers use all of their musical excellence in service of the story. In similar fashion, the singers and musicians should bring to bear their musical excellence in service of the congregation. There is no dichotomy between musical excellence and congregational worship provided the excellence is given in service of the congregation.

5. Manage the congregation’s repertoire intentionally.

Having progressed in each of the areas above and putting them into regular practice in services, be intentional about what is sung and when. Don’t treat your library of congregational choices like selecting “shuffle” on you iPod. Instead, be intentional in ordering the service, heeding Eric Alexander’s caution that congregational praise begins with God and his glory, not man and his need. Ask why you are singing at a given point in the service, and be sure that the selection for that moment is appropriate. Also, learn from the rich heritage of liturgy and how it provides a pathway of ordering songs for a service.

And finally . . .

Why not in 2014 begin the Monday morning review by asking, “How did the congregation sing?” and, “How can we help them do it better?” Starting here, we may find that the other questions begin to resolve themselves.”

-Keith & Kristyn Getty, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgcworship/2014/02/18/five-ways-to-improve-congregational-singing/

Christian! Dost Thou See Them

Christian! dost thou see them
On the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?
Christian! up and smite them,
Counting gain but loss:
Smite them by the merit
Of the Holy Cross!

Christian! dost thou feel them,
How they work within,
Striving, tempting, luring,
Goading into sin?
Christian! never tremble!
Never be down-cast!
Gird thee for the battle,
Watch and pray and fast.

Christian! dost thou hear them
How they speak thee fair?
“Always fast and vigil?
Always watch and prayer?”
Christian! say but boldly:
“While I breathe, I pray:”
Peace shall follow battle,
Night shall end in day.

“Well I know thy trouble,
O my servant true;
Thou art very weary,—
I was weary too:
But that toil shall make thee,
Some day, all Mine own:
And the end of sorrow
Shall be near My Throne.”

– John Mason Neale; Attributed to Andrew of Crete (660-732),
Published in Hymns of the Eastern Church, 1866. Edited.

Psalm 32

Blest is the man whose trespass is forgiven,
Whose sins are covered in the sight of heaven.
Blest is the man against whom, LORD, Thou wilt
Not count all his iniquity and guilt.
How happy he, contrite of heart and lowly,
Who has confessed his sins, O LORD most holy;
Who does not secretly Thy laws transgress,
Whose spirit harbors no deceitfulness.

When I kept silent, sinful ways condoning,
I pined away through my incessant groaning.
Thy hand weighed down on me in my deceit;
My strength was sapped as by the summer’s heat.
To Thee, O God of justice and compassion,
I then at last acknowledged my transgression.
I said, “I will confess my sins to Thee,”
And all my guilt Thou hast forgiven me.

Let all the godly when they grieve and suffer
To Thee, O LORD, their supplications offer.
Surely when floods of mighty waters rise,
They shall not reach him who on Thee relies.
Thou art a hiding-place for those who serve Thee;
Thou, mighty God, from trouble dost preserve me.
Songs of deliv’rance everywhere resound:
Thou me with great rejoicing dost surround.

I will instruct you, with my aid provide you,
And in the way that you should go will guide you.
My counsel will be ever at your side,
And, keeping watch, I will with you abide.
Be not a fool, who has no understanding;
Do not behave like horse or mule, depending
On bit and bridle to control their course;
They disobey unless restrained by force.

With many woes the wicked are afflicted,
But he who trusts in God is well protected;
Him will the LORD with steadfast love surround.
Those who revere Him are with mercy crowned.
Be glad, O righteous, in the LORD rejoicing;
Exult in Him, your jubilation voicing,
For light and life He will to you impart.
Now shout for joy, you men of upright heart.

-William Helder, 1980.

Gender Upheaval, Coming to a Children’s Commode Near You

“The gender revolution will not be televised. Why? Because it is taking place in your local public bathroom.

It’s true: gender upheaval, coming soon to a commode near you. In Maine, the state Supreme Judicial Court found in a recent court case that a young woman described as transgender could enter male or female restrooms. In California, the state legislature passed a bill that gives students who self-identify as “transgender” the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities,” including the use of restrooms of both sexes. As if using public restrooms wasn’t frightful enough!

The effect of these watershed developments in the water closet is hard to miss. Depending on their “gender expression,” boys and girls may now enter restrooms of the opposite sex as they see fit. These bizarre developments sound more like a dreaded group project in Gender Studies 101 than an act of the state. Gender revisionists have made a fuss about the “fluidity” of gender for years now, but their views have largely failed to penetrate mainstream American public life. All this is now changing.

In our enlightened new world, boys can shower with girls. They can enter a locker room of the opposite sex when they wish, and, provided they profess to be transgender, no one can stop them. This is true not only of teenagers, but kindergartners. The sexually curious no longer have a barrier to their exploration. Teachers cannot step in. Administrators cannot intervene. In public schools, per the will of the Maine judiciary and the California legislature, children no longer enjoy the protection our society has assumed as a matter of course.”

Keep reading: http://thefederalist.com/2014/02/18/childrens-restrooms-are-the-next-front-line-in-the-gender-wars/

-Owen Strachan. Owen Strachan is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Bethany and is the father of two children.