Forever Changed

the-empty-tomb

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6.1-4 ESV

Recently, I watched the historical fiction film, “Risen”, which depicts the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of a Roman centurion. Though there were some errors in the historical narrative, it depicted one thing particularly well: those that encountered Jesus were forever changed.

Early into His ministry, many encountered Jesus and were changed overnight. Not everybody received Him, but those that did could not help but be changed. He gave them purpose and a mission. Though some change was sudden, they were still human. Peter witnessed many miracles and yet he denied Jesus 3 times.

All of the disciples abandoned Jesus in the darkest hour of His ministry, but they did not desert Him for long. Witnessing the resurrection of Jesus impacted them deeply. Seeing the miracles that were performed through them by the Spirit further impacted them, and when spiritual gifts went away, the early Christians continued to grow and be changed as they communed on the first day of the week.

Jesus designed the Communion as a reminder and a renewal for Christians. We remember His ministry, we proclaim His death, we share the awe and wonder of the empty tomb, and we kneel before the risen King. As we encounter Jesus by retelling the story and renewing our minds, we, too, are forever changed.

It’s not enough to be touched by the story of Christ. It must move us to do something about it. Those who are moved by the story of Christ discover that He even lives on in us through His providence. Though God is working mightily in ways we don’t see or hear, He also works mightily through His people, who bear His image to the world (1 Cor. 15.35-49; Hebrews 1.1-3). God’s people are known by their compassion and humility, two traits that are completely unnatural, yet for the Christian, are second nature.

It’s a shocking and sobering thought to imagine you and I are part of God’s providence, but we are. As we are changed, we influence others to change too, through teaching, mentorship, examples, and acts of kindness and service. It seems strange to think that you or I might be the answer to somebody’s prayer.

Are we prepared to steward that kind of responsibility? Whenever we doubt it, remember the Cross. Will my example point people to Christ? Will it cause them to change? If I cannot do that today, maybe reflecting on those things will get me closer tomorrow, and a little closer the next day.

Every day, I must live in such a way that those around me are drawn to sit at the foot of the cross, to join Mary at the empty tomb, to find a place at the Table, to kneel before the Throne, and to join the ranks of Christians bearing the love and the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2.20

Love so amazing–so divine–
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
–Isaac Watts

An excerpt from “Forever Changed, 52 Reasons Why We Commune”, an upcoming meditational book intended to inspire a deeper perspective on the Cross.

Which Hymnal or Song Collection Should We Choose?

hymnals

Selecting a hymnal or collection of songs for a congregation is not an easy task. Oh, it’s easy to grab a book with songs that I like, but choosing a hymnal for a congregation carries the daunting responsibility of providing a primary source of the spiritual language of the congregation, and a couple of generations to come. The average congregation changes hymnals far less often than its ministry staff, about once every 20-30 years. That’s a long time to be singing from a collection. All the more reason to choose wisely.

Our theology is shaped by the hymns we sing–for good or bad–and it should be as we “teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3.16). How often we hear the cross referenced in prayers and meditations as “that old rugged cross”, or someone refers to our “blessèd assurance” in Christ. In a well-edited collection of church music, as we sing rich songs and hymns, we write the word of God on our hearts.

Elders, what do you want your flock writing upon their hearts? Parents, what do you want your children singing? Do you want depth of scripture content? Songs that teach “the full counsel”? A collection that has been scrutinized by a committee of conservative preachers, teachers, and elders? There are collections out there that go through this kind of scrutiny, but not all of them do. Ask these kinds of questions, even if someone graciously donates 500 hymnals to your church without asking anybody (this happens extremely often).

Not all hymnals or collections are created equal, and it is much deeper than which one has the songs we like to sing. Many of our favorite hymns were doctrinally edited, either by excluding a verse or altering a phrase. Many hymns teach unscriptural ideas, and could not be sung scripturally, even with a large helping of poetic license. A good hymnal committee excludes these kinds of hymns from the collection.

Some hymns are just plain controversial, even if they can be sung scripturally. “Days of Elijah”, “Thomas’ Song”, and “Did You Repent, Fully Repent” are among them. The first two are never sung well in a congregation anyway, but think long and hard before inviting an opportunity for division. We have enough of those as it is.

A recent email circulated about Sumphonia’s new hymnal, “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”, and what it included and excluded from its list of titles. I was not part of the committee, but I’m very familiar with the criteria and the thousands of hours that went into compiling that book. The editorial committee has been very transparent about that process. If a song or verse was excluded from that hymnal, before we conclude that it was a careless oversight, there are a few things we should take into account:

  • People called, emailed, and wrote from around the country, begging the editors not to include songs like “Days of Elijah”, “Did You Repent, Fully Repent”, and other songs that really don’t edify the church, and may do more harm than good (your mileage may vary)
  • The editors polled the brotherhood, for many years, with all 1800 some-odd hymns from brotherhood hymnals of the 20th and 21st centuries. They pulled the top 550 from that list, so there would be a core of hymns that everybody knew. In fact, this core is several times larger than even the average congregation sings over a several year span (usually 100-150 songs), so there’s a lot of variety there.
  • The editors then used an extremely strict Biblical and musical filter to find songs that were either brand new or otherwise unknown to much of the brotherhood.
  • Many popular songs of today were excluded because they did not work in a congregational setting as they were written for a praise band or praise team, or they didn’t have much spiritual merit.
  • Heavily syncopated rhythms (like “Days of Elijah” has) do not work well at all in congregations, and without fail will leave older generations in the dust. The editorial team included some syncopated songs, but some songs just would not work.
  • There’s a good reason certain songs did not make it from older collections like “Sacred Selections” and “Songs of the Church” into later hymnals.
  • The editors brought back numerous verses that past hymnal editors excluded, due to space constraints. Sometimes, the complete meaning of the song was lost due to excluded verses.
  • This is one of the most thoughtful collections of church music the Church has ever seen, and certainly has the most variety of any collection in the brotherhood
  • It is the lightest brotherhood hymnal in publication (I believe it weighs about 1/3 of what “Songs of Faith and Praise” weighs)
  • There are other wonderful collections out there too, but many of them won’t have the variety and quality of this collection due to their age. The brotherhood has written a lot of hymns in the last 20 years, and the cream of the crop was included in this hymnal

There are a lot of resources for new church music now, especially with the advent of the internet, but beware that downloading songs (legally or otherwise) may well bypass an editorial filter. I highly encourage elders and church leaders to scrutinize new music off the internet and from recording collections and folios because they likely have not been through any kind of editorial scrutiny. If you are not musically savvy, there’s a good chance there’s somebody in your congregation or a nearby congregation that can help you determine if a song was arranged for congregations or not. Feel free to reach out to me as I write and arrange congregational hymns, and I would be happy to help in any way that I can. There are songs that work very well congregationally, but there may be versions in existence that were designed for a praise team or professional chorus. Just because you recognize the title and it is in shaped notes does not mean it is going to be intuitive to sing.

Finally, the next time you see a hymnal, don’t just see it as another book. A group of people spent countless nights of burning the midnight oil and thousands of hours compiling it. The songs inside it each took 100-200 hours to write, and then 3-5 hours to transcribe onto the page in software. Multiply that by 700-1,000 titles as that’s what modern hymnals contain. A lot of care goes into that kind of collection. Please appreciate it. And please think before copying pages from a praise team folio instead of picking songs that were carefully edited for congregational edification, enjoyment, and praise.

Homework – Getting the Most out of Singing School

Homework 2

So you’re going to a singing school, this Summer, or perhaps you’ve already been to one. How do you make the most of the week? After all, these weeks are packed with powerful worship moments, new songs, music theory, and treasured memories with salt of the earth Christians. It’s impossible to fully appreciate and apply everything in the moment, while we’re there, so while paying attention and taking notes go a long way, just like regular school, the real growth happens in the homework.

Synthesize

It’s probably impossible to fully synthesize a week long singing school experience, but if it were, it would take years. I still reflect on my first experience 6 years ago, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but it feels like half a lifetime. To better benefit in the long run, take notes of your experience and revisit those notes periodically to remind yourself why excellence in worship is important, and to gauge your growth. Then set personal goals. Here are a few that every leader has to make, sooner or later:

  • Starting and leading a particular difficult song or set of songs well
  • Learn shape notes well enough to be able to sight sing and quickly learn a hymn when it is requested for a special occasion and you are put on the spot
  • Plan worship earlier in the week than the night before
  • Getting sufficient rest to worship well and do the best job you can for God and the brethren
  • Leading without holding or even looking at the book
  • Leading away from the pulpit

Practice

It is often said that practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes permanent, so practice well. Commit your conducting to muscle memory so you don’t have to worry or even think about it. Get pitches down pat so they take a half a moment, not a half a minute. It takes merely 10-15 minutes per week will help you maintain your current skill level, but 45 minutes to an hour per week will cause you to grow by leaps and bounds. Conducting is a matter of muscle memory. You can worship while you lead others in worship, but it will require you to practice so it is second nature. Don’t be afraid to beat time to whatever music you’re listening to. If you are serious about becoming a choice instrument for the Lord, you won’t care how you look in the process.

Use Your Gift

If your church has an abundance of worship leaders, and you only get to lead occasionally, find opportunities to use your gift. Plan singing events and even help out area churches with their singing. Many or most of us know of a nearby congregation that has few or no worship leaders, and while that is a serious problem that they must fix lest they die on the vine, you can help them out and gain valuable experience at the same time.

Pray

An oft overlooked (and thus underrated) tool to help us grow is prayer. Ask God to humble your heart and then brace yourself for answers to that prayer in ways you could never imagine. Pray for wisdom as Solomon did. We all need more, and those in a position of leadership need it doubly so. Pray for opportunities to use your gifts for His glory.

What if my church doesn’t like some of the things I’ve learned?

  • Powerpoint slides
  • Occasionally conducting with the left arm
  • Using a handheld microphone
  • Stepping away from the pulpit
  • Leading new songs
  • Leading old songs in new ways

All of these and more have met resistance at some churches (often just with a couple of individuals). Please show them grace. They haven’t experienced what we have, and perhaps we would do well to walk a mile in their shoes too. Remember these techniques and technologies are designed to edify, and if they distract more than they edify, even due to somebody’s bad attitude, they are counterproductive. Have patience and keep it low key. Love your brother, even if he is unfair or narrow minded on these matters of judgment. Paul had much to say about this in Romans 14.

Find Other Ways to Serve

If we’re serious about our ministry in the church, we need to be willing to be used however we are needed. Worship leaders might find themselves in a situation where the church has an excess of worship leaders for a season. Be willing to serve in other ways, even if it’s taking out the trash. We might be surprised to find other areas where we’re gifted. Do other things with the same dedication and excellence as worship.

Read

Everybody benefits from reading, and especially aspiring musicians and worship leaders. For those interested in growing in knowledge of the arts of worship and worship leading, here are a few books that would serve you well to have on your reading list:

  • The Bible (of course!)
  • Dr. Jack Boyd – Leading the Lord’s Worship
  • R. J. Stevens & Tim Stevens – Rudiments of Sight Singing & Song Directing
    • There’s also an accompanying exercise CD so you can sing along with it and sharpen your rhythm and pitch skills.
  • Leland Fleming – Music Unplugged!
  • T. David Gordon – Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns
  • Bob Kauflin – Worship Matters
  • Bob Kauflin – True Worshipers
  • J. I. Packer – Knowing God
  • A. W. Tozer – Knowledge of the Holy
  • Alex Harris, Brett Harris – Do Hard Things
  • Francis Chan – Crazy Love (revised)
  • David Platt – Radical
  • James Humes – Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln
  • Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life
  • Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Church

The usual disclaimer applies. If any material on your reading list disagrees with the Bible, you know what to do about it. However, truth is truth wherever it is found. God bless you in your journey as worshipers and worship leaders!

Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all. – Isaac Watts

Resources for Hymn Writers

Someone once said that our hymns are the music of those who are not musicians and the poetry of those who are not poets. Hymns are the spiritual language of the church set to song. Every generation needs to express its faith through song, and every generation does. More importantly, every generation needs to express that faith in an impactful way. However, few are able to compose original music that is suitable for congregations of all demographics.

A good hymn is not written by accident, but by dozens of hours of concentrated studying, writing, and editing. In some cases, a hymn is edited off and on for years before it is published. Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of good (lasting) hymns have 100+ hours of editing, and hymns with less time investment are likely needing a lot of scrubbing by an editor (or committee).

If you are interested in trying your hand at writing a hymn, or growing as a hymnist, you may share the experience I had–frustration at the apparent lack of resources for aspiring hymnists. A Google search and a visit to a book store might not yield many results, but there are more resources than you might think.

Every aspiring hymnist should have a reading list. The word of God should be perpetually be on that list, but there are also several very helpful books on the fine art of hymn writing. Here are a few that have blessed me in my journey as both an author and composer:

In addition to this reading list, there are some annual events where you can gain experience on writing lyrics and music:

  • The Hymninar – hosted every year on the beautiful University of Missouri campus in Columbia, MO. Dr. Craig Roberts hosts the event and uses his book, “A Good Hymn” as the primary textbook. Every hymnist (lyricist or composer) should go at least once. Every serious hymnist should go as often as possible. www.sumphonia.com/workshops/
  • Foundation School of Church Music – Founded in 1968, this annual singing school covers a wide range of topics from music theory fundamentals to worship leading to hymn writing. It is held in Buda, TX, just outside of Austin. www.foundmusic.org 
  • Texas Normal Singing School – The oldest running annual singing school in business. Like Foundation, they cover everything from worship leading to hymn writing. www.singingschool.org

Finally, if you’re on Facebook, there is a tremendous resource of a group called, “Church of Christ Hymnody”. The Hymnody group is a forum for hymn writers, worship leaders, hymnologists, and those who just love to sing. However, it is first and foremost a place to post and review new hymns, lyrics and music. The Hymnody group is one of the most active forums for hymn writing in the world today. Please join the discussion at www.facebook.com/groups/312787618749659

Happy writing!

“Holy New Creation”, a Brand New Hymn

Baptism

From time to time, worship leaders run into dead ends when trying to find a song that makes a particular point. We have lots of songs that allude to baptism, but many of them were not actually written with baptismal regeneration in mind–baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I believe that the New Testament teaches that baptism connects us with the work of Jesus, and as we are immersed and rise from the water, we reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, raised as forgiven disciples. Romans 6 tells this story much more eloquently and authoritatively than I ever could.

Along this vein, we have very few hymns that talk specifically about baptism and our first steps as a young disciple. This being the case, and since I enjoy the challenge and the art of hymn writing, here is one of my original contributions in that area:

Holy New Creation

Long ago, the Prince of heaven
Came to Earth to save the lost;
Once, for all, His life was given–
Grace, at such enormous cost!
Mortal chains could not restrain Him,
Death forever lost its sting;
Earthly grave could not contain Him:
Jesus Christ, the risen King.

As I plunge into the river,
I surrender my control;
Burying my past forever,
Raised with Jesus, pure and whole.
By His calling and election,
Dead to all my former ways;
Raised to follow His direction,
I will serve Him all my days.

Now a holy new creation,
By His grace, I bear His name
And begin His transformation–
I will never be the same!
Now my path is growing clearer,
—Narrow, yet it glows with grace–
Heaven draws me ever nearer;
Joy awaits me in that place.

TLB, 2015
(music is also composed, pending editing and publication on http://www.songsofthechurch.org)

Digging Deeper: The Invitation Song

Heart

It’s Tuesday night, you’re sitting at the computer browsing a digital song concordance (or perusing a hymnal), sipping a bold cup of joe, and making a song list for the upcoming Sunday worship. Sometimes, these lists practically write themselves and sometimes, it takes a bit of digging to compile a solid song set. In churches of Christ, one of the most difficult songs to choose is the response or invitation song, at least for thoughtful leaders.

By nature, response songs should evoke or encourage a response to the Gospel, or at least get people thinking about their condition. We try not to sing anything even remotely unfamiliar because we want as much focus on the message and the occasion as possible. If we pick something that people can sing from memory, even better!

Every thoughtful worship leader has a difficult balance to maintain. We have a theme we’re planning that is parallel or complementary to the sermon, we have the balance of the functional and the interesting (there are plenty of songs that suit the occasion but aren’t particularly moving), the tired and the fresh, the nostalgic and the trendy. By the way, young worship leaders, when the older folks ask for you to lead “the old songs”, they don’t mean 17th century German chorales. They mean they want something nostalgic, and that usually means a gospel or Southern gospel ditty from the early teens to the 50s, but I digress!

When planning the response song, familiarity is important, but with the right perspective of the occasion, it doesn’t have to be the primary objective. Our primary objective is to evoke a response, causing somebody to reach out to the church or connect with Jesus, or to at least consider their condition and leave the assembly with the resolve to go to war with their vices. “All Things Are Ready” is not the only tool at our disposal, which might come as a shock to some song leaders (this is a low blow, I know).

We need to dig a little deeper and look beyond the “invitation songs” section of the topical index. What spiritual concepts might soften a heart and evoke a response? What well-known hymns touch on those ideas? If you look outside the “invitation songs” box, you will be amazed how many songs work extremely well here, and some that are effective because they’re traditionally used elsewhere in a worship service.

Consider the following concepts: Prayer, cleansing, lament for sin, praise for redemption, refuge, and resolve. Each of those ideas contains a world of possibilities, and precious few of the songs are being used in this part of worship, meaning you have a trove of fresh material. Sweet!
Here are a few suggested titles for each topic:

Prayer
  • Servant Song
  • On Bended Knee
  • Purer in Heart
  • I Need Thee Every Hour
  • Nearer, Still Nearer
  • My Faith Looks Up to Thee
  • Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Cleansing
  • There’s a Fountain Free
  • There is a Fountain
  • Lamb of God
  • Nothing but the Blood
  • What the Lord Has Done in Me (Hosanna to the Lamb)
Laments
  • Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed (please for the love of all things holy, OMIT the ridiculous chorus!)
  • How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
  • Lord, Jesus, Think on Me
  • Flee As a Bird
  • I’m the One (arguably not my favorite, but it fits)
  • Father, We Have Sinned (Townend-Getty)
Praise for Redemption
  • O Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  • Revive Us Again
  • Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
  • At Calvary
  • To God Be the Glory
  • Here Is Love
  • The Power of the Cross
Refuge
  • The Battle Belongs to the Lord
  • Hide Me Away, O Lord
  • A Shelter in the Time of Storm (the minor version is fantastic!)
  • Come, Ye Sinners
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Resolve
  • I Am Coming, Lord
  • I Surrender All
  • I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
  • Just As I Am
  • Lord, I Lay My Life at Your Feet
  • A Passion for My God
  • Be Thou My Vision
You could easily add topics to this list, and titles to each of them. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sample to get the juices flowing. Get creative and think outside the box! Our job as worship leaders is to stir up the brethren to love and good works (Hebrews 10.24-25).

We have a tremendous responsibility, yet also tremendous resources at our disposal, for there has never been a time where the church had so much good music in its arsenal. Let’s sing the songs that soften hearts and evoke change, which will only happen through intentionality in worship planning and leading. The brethren and almighty God deserve nothing less.

The Sermons that Keep on Preaching

Feelings

“It’s not about the music, just the words”

“We’re just singing”

“We need to be careful about emotion in worship. It is the flesh and must be suppressed”

All of these christianese expressions are well-meaning, but discouraging and naïve. In many places, singing is not really treated with regard or used as a teaching tool. In fact, singing is often just something that aimlessly happens in between the elements of worship. Why do we need hymns to teach when we have sermons, devotionals, Bible classes, and readings to do this? I don’t know, but if the Spirit commanded through Paul to teach through song, it must be important (Ephesians 5.15-21; Colossians 3.12-17). Could we be designed to learn through song and be powerfully moved by it? Unquestionably, yes!

A good hymn is a fascinating thing. Not only is the music stirring, but the message teaches us more about God and His truths. After all, what use is a hymn if it doesn’t have any spiritual content? How much content it should have is a matter of judgment, and more is not necessarily better. You may be thinking about some of those five verse 2-pagers, which could really stand to have an intermission for a small meal. A good hymn uses just enough content to make its point, which may look like a half pager or a 2-pager.

A skilled composer doesn’t just write a tune that works, but one that helps us connect with the message and remember it long after singing it. It could be said that a tune actually illustrates the lyrics brilliantly, and evokes powerful emotion. Some of the very best hymns have a way of transporting us to a land and time far away, and choking us up at the climax. However, a captivating tune alone doesn’t make a great hymn. Biblically rich lyrics with music that compels people to sing–these are the core elements of a good hymn.

For fear of some sort of an emotion-based faith, some run to a stoic extreme that tries to suppress all emotion, making worship a purely intellectual exercise. Allegedly, emotion is “the flesh”, and though great hymns stir up the heart, this is somehow temptation and weakness, and must be avoided at all cost. It’s no wonder that where this type of thinking thrives, souls are not thriving. The singing is unsurprisingly lifeless and these churches are dying on the vine. What a shame!

The other extreme finds an obsession with music to the neglect of content, and this equates to worship music that is junk food. It doesn’t draw people to God, just to the music, which usually isn’t very participatory in nature. Sadly, these groups are also declining, losing their youth and millennials to trendy mega churches that take them even farther from God. Experiential worship is an idol and is equally unhelpful.

Why must we be such creatures of extreme? And yet, we are. Emotion is not a bad thing. Not at all! We were created with it. Jesus Himself said that the first and greatest command is that we love the Lord with all of our being, including our heart, soul, and mind. This means the emotion, the intellect, and our volition, and none of them are to be kept from God. Good hymns appeal to all of these, for just as good music evokes powerful emotion, rich lyrics do too. When we experience the combination in a way that causes us to connect with them, the result is life changing. After all, good music softens the heart and opens it to be nourished by the Bread of life. The resulting emotion is the remorse for sin, the regret of the cross, the joy of the resurrection, and the hope of Heaven. If we discourage and suppress emotion in worship, we have none of those things. What DO we have? Certainly not motivation or change. Our hearts become cold and hard.

A good hymn preaches a sermon and a half in just a few short words. Consider the lyrics of the timeless piece, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
 
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

In just 110 words, Isaac Watts spoke countless volumes. Considering that a good sermon is usually 2,500-3,000 words, each verse had to be skillfully authored and meticulously pithy to achieve a similar effect. Good hymns are homiletic–they make great sermons and vice versa. Each verse could be a bullet point in a 4-point sermon.

Verse 1 – When I reflect upon the cross, I can’t help but be crushed and humbled by it, despite even the greatest of accomplishments. I am nothing.
Verse 2 – How can I boast in anything but Christ? All my goodness was learned from His perfect and humble example. Material things may try to reign in my life, but I sacrifice them to my God through Christ who strengthens me. My life belongs to him.
Verse 3 – The scene of the cross is vividly played and replayed in my mind. It is shockingly bittersweet. While on the one hand, I see blood, sweat, and tears, yet on the other I also see the sorrow and love beautifully manifested.
Verse 4 – Were I to inherit the entire world and all of its riches and attempt to repay the Father for His mercy, it would be paltry and even insulting. No, the only response that will do is devoting my whole life to Him and His service.

This kind of message is the kind of sermon we could spend our lives applying, and it is packed into 110 short words. Fascinatingly, we can memorize this entire sermon and play it back in our heads over and over again. I’m not aware of another sermon quite so pithy, save for the Sermon on the Mount, and even it is a few more words than that.  Music has a way of sticking with us. God designed us this way. Sometimes, obnoxious music bounces around in our heads like a broken record, but if we are feeding ourselves rich spiritual hymns and songs, these earworms can be tremendous in dwelling on things above.

Hymns are the sermons that keep on preaching. Treat them with regard. Choose GOOD hymns. Get them singing. Witness the change that ensues.

“If you’re not changing, you’re not worshiping.” – John Kilgore