Where Reality Trumps Feelings: Hope and Joy Amidst the Laments

2015-12-15 16.50.36Reading through Lamentations leaves my heart broken.  Jeremiah the prophet (known as the weeping prophet, at that) pens five poems outlining the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem, and also about the desolation of his heart.  Even though God repeatedly prophecied this destruction due to the disobedience and arrogance of the people of God, the pain still stung.  God’s enemies rejoiced, God’s people were stunned, God’s prophet was numbed.

And yet, almost perfectly centered in this is this beautiful note of hope and joy, just verses after he spoke of how “his soul is bereft of peace” and how he had “forgotten what happiness is” (3:17), he can say this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

This man saw affliction (3:1), found himself in darkness (3:2), and felt that God’s hand was perpetually against him (3:3).  I could go on, but I found it amazing that Jeremiah spoke so many things about how God afflicted him (“he drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver”?–3:13), he could still pen these glorious words.  And know I use the word ‘glorious’ intentionally: he speaks of the glory of God in his love, mercy, faithfulness, and hope.

How?  I wrote in the margin of my Bible: “reality trumps feelings.”  Whether we are handling hard issues while pastoring a church, dealing with issues at home, struggling at work with an ungodly boss or co-workers, our souls and our flesh come to conclusions that Christ has afflicted and abandoned us.

While Christ may send afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), He has promised never to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5b).  So we take a lesson from Jeremiah the prophet and intentionally “call to mind” this very thing that gives us hope:  

  • God’s love never fails;
  • His mercies never end, but are new every morning;
  • His faithfulness is great.
  • He is our portion.
  • As a result, in Him will I hope.

Hope and joy exists amidst the lamentations!  Call this to mind whenever possible.


The One Thing that Kept Beethoven Alive

Did you know that in 1802, Beethoven confessed that he was ready to end his life?

Today is the 245th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).  My big Beethoven memory was playing Moonlight Sonata in front of the school during a choral concert during my 10th grade year.  If you know this piece, you know that it’s in C# minor with a very somber mood.  Yet, with my nerves, I played that piece a bit too fast, making it sound like the music that accompanies a carousel at an amusement park.

But I digress.

While Leonard Bernstein comments in his book The Joy of Music that Beethoven was low on melody, he certainly was high on passion! From his minimalistic Für Elise to the uber-popular first movement of his Fifth Symphony, passion abounds!  But there was a time in 1801 when Beethoven confided to friends that he thought his hearing was leaving him.  So, in 1802, resting in Heiligenstadt, Germany, he penned this letter to his brother Carl and the family.  It’s known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.  He penned this tragic sentence:

What a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life.

Such despair!  As you read through this letter, you see that, as a musician losing his hearing  left him wondering if life were worth living.  He could not hear conversation, mingle in society–what use was a deaf musician?

Yet, this was written in 1802, but he lived another 25 years!  What made him decide to keep living life?

Only art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence –

This tragic letter, almost a last testament, has this one glimmer.  One remains suspect regarding the depth of Beethoven’s religious life, but this aspect of a felling of what was “called upon me to produce” gave him a sense of purpose and meaning.  Art!  Music!  So in the midst of his ‘wretched existence,’ he left behind music that changed the trajectory of music to come.

What do you feel called upon to produce?  If you are a follower of Christ, you are called to produce a life that is glorifying to God in all things.  May God give us a motor and a purpose to accomplish His will as we walk in His way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And I pray that Beethoven surrendered to the Author or all art and music, and is eternally singing that sweet song of salvation.

How Can You Glorify God in Your Day-to-day Life

41r1ggpnofl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I just finished reading “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” by Tim Challies.  What an incredibly helpful book!  He not only deals with the biblical philosophy behind productivity, but he spends a good amount of the 104 page book giving solid nuts and bolts to help, well, do more better.

Early on in the book, Challies is his catechismic styling asked this question:  How can you glorify God in your day-to-day life?

I can glorify God in my day-to-day life by doing good works. You may be comfortable with this idea that God created you to bring glory to him, but the question remains: what does it actually mean to do that?

If you want to glorify God, do you need to quit your job and become a pastor? If you want to glorify God, do you need to pack up everything you own, move across the world, and serve as a missionary in the farthest and most dangerous regions? Do you only truly glorify God on Sundays when you stand in church and sing the great songs of the Christian faith? Is God only honored through you when you read your Bible and pray? Or is there a way that you can glorify God all day and every day even in a very ordinary life?

Jesus answered this question when he said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 5: 16). Your good works are like a light, and when that light shines, it illuminates God. When people see that light, they aren’t meant to look at you and say, “He’s incredible”or “She’s amazing.”They are meant to look at God and say, “He is awesome.”

You do not glorify God only when you talk about him, or share his gospel with other people, or stand with hands raised in public worship. Those are all good actions, but they are not the only means through which you can bring glory to God. Far from it. You glorify God when you do good works. The apostle Peter wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”(1 Peter 2: 12). Your good works make God look great before a watching world.”

Start reading this book for free: http://amzn.to/1NH5ncG

Christ, the Radiance of the Glory of God, the Spring of All Joy

He is the radiance of the glory of God.
The word ‘radiance’ literally means to send forth light.  And with Jesus saying in John 8:12 that he is the “light of the world.  Whoever believes in me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,” we know that his light radiates from God the Father. 

Warren Wiersbe noted,

“Christ is to the Father what the rays of the sun are to the sun.  He is the radiance of God’s glory.  As it is impossible to separate the rays from the sun, it is also impossible to separate Christ’s glory from the nature of God.”

Do you see what this is?  No, the sun and the rays are not the same thing, but think about this: if the sun’s rays in our solar system did not eminate from the sun, would we see the sun? 

John 1:9-14 perfectly sums this up:

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, but his own did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

You see, those outside of Christ are blinded to His light. They cannot see, even though they believe they see more clearly than anyone else.  It’s takes eight minutes and nineteen seconds for the sun’s light to make it the 93 million mile trip to earth.  But while God had sent prophets before that simply reflected His light, only the Son radiated it!  And though he was in the world, the world (nor even the Jews who expected him the most) never ‘saw’ him.  And those who were born again have eyes to see… and when we see Jesus, we see the Father. 

Have you seen His light?  Second Corinthians 4:4-6 says,

“4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

John Piper was right: “Seeing and savoring this glory is the spring of all endless joy.”

Hymn: Hail Thee, Festival Day

Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day when our God ascends
high in the heavens to reign.

Lo, the fair beauty of earth,
from the death of the winter arising,
every good gift of the year
now with its Master returns. 

Daily the loveliness grows,
adorned with the glory of blossom;
heaven her gates unbars, 
flinging her increase of light. 

Christ in his triumph ascends, 
who hath vanquished the devil’s dominion;
gay is the woodland with leaves,
bright are the meadows with flowers.

Christ overwhelms the domain
of Hades and rises to heaven;
fitly the light gives him praise–
meadows and ocean and sky. 

Loosen, O Lord, the enchained,
the spirits imprisoned in darkness;
rescue, recall into life those
who are rushing to death. 

So shalt thou bear in thine arms
an immaculate people to heaven,
bearing them pure unto God, 
pledge of thy victory here. 

Jesus, the health of the world,
enlighten our minds, thou Redeemer,
Son of the Father supreme, 
only-begotten of God! 

Equal art thou, co-eternal,
in fellowship ay with the Father;
in the beginning by thee
all was created and made. 

And it was thou, blessèd Lord,
who discerning humanity’s sorrow,
humbledst thyself for our race,
taking our flesh for thine own. 

Words: Venantius Fortunatus (530-609);
trans. Percy Dearmer, 1906

The Duel Fuel of Preaching Monday Through Saturday

Preaching is not simply a Sunday morning event. By that, I am NOT speaking of having more preaching events on Saturday nights, etc. And by this, I do not mean to deemphasize the declaritive method and mode of preaching. Preaching is not a conversation, but proclamation.

What I mean is that preaching from the pulpit must translate into a passion in the pew. We must take what we’ve learned while listening to preaching of the gospel, and take that message to our friends, relatives, Associates, and neighbors.

For the pastor, preaching must also translate from the pulpit to personal conversations that take place Monday through Saturday. What I mean is that preaching must not be the only time that pastors and preachers share the gospel. We will not be let off the hook if little happens in evangelism during the week. The evangelistic fervor the pastor has during the week will fuel the Sunday preaching. Along with this, The Sunday preaching of the Word of God will fuel our evangelistic fervor the following week. Just as we believe as pastors that the Word of God can and does change hearts by the Spirit during the preaching event, we also realize that the Word of God can change hearts during our evangelistic and counselling endeavors. It’s a duel fuel.

When Christians Feel That Competitive Spirit with Other Christians

Recently, I spoke with a Christian worker who felt that competitive and comparison spirit come over him.  He had spent sometime processing the ministry he had had for the past twenty years or so and wondered how effective for the Lord he had really been.

Have you ever felt that?  Of course you have!

Have I ever felt that?  I’m sad to say I have. And more often than I care to admit.  And it’s followed me at every stage of my ministry.

Until God put a stop to that in my heart and mind.

You see, a phrase that God has planted in my mind is this: stay in your lane!  And it’s with this, that we find ways to put away that competitive spirit!

  1. Recognize God has called you to a specific task.  Has he called you to preach?  Has he called you to academia?  Has he called you to missions work?  The Apostle Paul was called to go to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16); Peter was called to the Jews; Nehemiah was called to rebuild the wall and in turn the community (Nehemiah 2:20); Moses was called to rescue the people of Israel out of Egypt and lead them to Canaan (Exodus 3-4), and the list goes on.  God reveals what our specific task is, which serves as our polestar.
  2. Recognize God has called you to a specific place.  Jonah was called to Nineveh, but he went the opposite direction to Tarshish in modern-day Spain.  Yet, God steered his body and his heart back to Nineveh.  We tend to look at other successful people in their successful churches in their large cities and wish we could serve in such influential centers.  Some of you right now are longing for ‘what’s next’ rather than what God’s given you right now.
  3. Recognize God has equipped you with specific gifts.  In Romans 12:3-8, Paul clearly outlines how God distributes speaking and serving gifts “according to the measure of faith God has assigned.” But those gifts exist, even if the ‘measure’ isn’t like another’s.  No matter, it’s what God assigned.  Be grateful for the gift!
  4. Recognize God has provided comrades in arms rather than competitors.  In 1 Corinthians 3, what do we read?  One planted, another watered, but God gave the growth.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, some said they followed Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ–as if they were in competition.  Yet, they all partnered in Kingdom work.  Competition stayed off the field, for only Kingdom players were allowed to play.

That’s the interesting part about ministering in Denver: there’s not enough of us churches to stand in competition with one another. We have work to do, and we have to link arms with one another to get it done.

What about you?  What are ways that God has removed the competitive spirit from you?  What ways do you struggle with this area?  Let’s help each other move through this together.


Lessons Learned from Returning to My Previous Church

No matter the amount of water under the bridge, your previous churches still hold a significant place in your heart.  I learned that lesson again as I returned to my previous church for their annual Christmas musical.

I served at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington (technically Athens), Kentucky from 2003-2011.  I was one month shy of 32 years old, pastoring a church that was founded before the Commonwealth of Kentucky entered the Union (1785).  Eight years is a good amount of time, but sadly it only seemed a blip on the radar in hindsight.  We had our challenges and our joys, all part of being a family of faith.

The only time I had returned to Boone’s Creek was in June of 2014 at the passing of a deacon’s wife.  We’ve been back to Kentucky a number of times, but we never joined them for a Sunday morning worship gathering because we wanted to give the current pastor time to settle in and not have to deal with the guy he replaced.

I came back at the request of the current minister of music who was putting together a musical that involved all the community churches.  My job was to arrive as a surprise and start playing some Christmas tunes–a plan hatched in his mind about two months ago.  I flew in on Friday, preached at a friend’s church in Shelbyville on Sunday morning, then went to Lexington (Athens) Sunday afternoon.  As the surprise worked, I began to realize some things.  Let me share a few:

You leave a piece of your heart at every church in which you minister.  Again, eight years is a good amount of time (twice as long as the average pastor lasts at a given church).  When you spend time caring, marrying, burying, counseling, discipling, preaching, and loving a group of people, how could that not happen?

I learned more from them than they ever learned from me.  When I arrived, I was months away from finishing an MDiv at Southern Seminary.  A few years in, they gave the blessing for me to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree from that same seminary.  Seminary has a way of giving you lots and lots of ideas about how to do church.  But nothing, and I mean nothing, teaches you like actually pastoring.  The fact is, many seminary professors have never pastored churches, leaving them in the realm of the theoretical.  God allowed my theological chops to develop at seminary, but using those chops to minister to actual people made me learn one thing: seminary professors aren’t the only people to teach you about pastoring.

The lessons I learned from my deacons and other pastors in the area proved necessary.  I didn’t find my stride at Boone’s Creek until my 3rd-4th year.  And how patient they were with me.  Did I make mistakes?  You bet I did–still do.  But no matter what I’ve done, in the past or present, I’ve always sought to do for the good of the congregant, the good of the staff, and for the good of the church in general.  We won’t always get it right, but if folks understand your motive, they will love you through it. They taught me that!

The people at your former church gave a piece of their heart to you as well.  So many were so glad to see me that, frankly, I was overwhelmed!  I believe that we could all still be talking if the hours hadn’t gotten so late. We rejoiced at the new building that God provided for a 1/3 of the estimate we received when I was pastor.  We caught up with joys and sorrows that life had dealt over the past four years.  I was there when the church pianist of 21 years announced her retirement at the end of the year (what is it about church pianists retiring, Diane?).  I could go on, but just seeing dear people connect again made me realize that, yes, the heart-piece-giving thing was most mutual.

Now, before my current church reads this wrongly: No, I’m not heading back to Kentucky.  I don’t sense that’s God will for me. Yes, I love you all and am grateful daily that God brought he here to Colorado to help every heart in Denver believe that Jesus is enough!  I have fallen in love with this body of believers known as Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.

But also know that I came from a church where the mutuality of love existed as well.  Time will tell what our legacies are, and for the moment, that does not interest me in the least.  What interests me is that, by God’s grace and for His glory, He brings sick and sinful and imperfect people (pastors included) to bring glory to Him and to strengthen the saints.  And to that, I am grateful to God for all of the blessings He’s given–even as the challenges come our way.  He uses all things to get us in a position of submission and surrender to Him.

So, thank you, Boone’s Creek Baptist, for such a glorious reunion.

And thank you, Arapahoe Road Baptist, for such a glorious union for the sake of Christ.  May all of Denver believe that Jesus is enough!2015-12-06 21.42.39


When Theological Knowledge Goes Bad–and How to ‘Good’ It Up

History lessons are helpful. Theology lessons edify our learning about God. But has this captured your heart and not just your head?

In J.I. Packer’s seminal work Knowing God, he brings some questions before us that we would do well to heed:

What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things?

What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it?

He goes on:

If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens.[1]

If you walk out of away Daniel 8 thinking, “Wow, God set up Alexander in order to set up the apostles to take the gospel with just the Greek language!” Or, “Wow God set up the Pax Romana in order for the gospel to be taken from territory to territory more easily!” Or, “Wow, God moved Caesar to set up a census to get Mary and Joseph to their home city, to fulfill prophecy from Micah 5:2, etc.”—and that it’s just facts of history or theology, you’re missing the point.  Yes, this is fascinating, to be sure–“intoxicating,” as Dr. Packer suggests.

First Corinthians 8:4 says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Has simple knowledge about God come your way, or does should this knowledge lead somewhere? May I quote from Packer again about how we can turn knowledge about God into knowledge of God?

It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.[2]

Yes, I know God’s timing is perfect–in my head. I know He is working all things to a glorious end–in my head. But has it dug deep down that God’s sovereign, holy, perfect work is a reality with you, dear Christian? Do you realize that the lesson of Him sending His Son at the fullness of time means He will do His work in and through you in His time as well?

  1. Pray about what’s now. God has given commands, and if we love His Son, dear Christian, we will do what He says.  Pray about what God has clearly said in His collective Word, and that He gives you the strength to obey.
  2. Pray you’re ready for what’s next.  Do you know what’s next?  Neither do I.  But we know who knows what’s next.  Surrender to Him and His will today, and trust Him for tomorrow!
  3. Pray you understand God did what’s necessary.  We as Christians were sinners, lost and damned and going to hell.  But God did what was necessary in the fullness of time to rescue us!  By His grace!  For His glory!  But don’t just understand—embrace it!  Swim in the deep end of that pool and splash about!

That’s when theological knowledge goes good!

[1]J.I Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 21.

[2]Ibid., 23.

Leading Worship With Joy, Part I: The Value of our Heritage

Leading music and worship in a local church setting serves as one of the most rewarding and the most challenging of all the roles in the church.  The worship leader/team seeks to lead people who live in a consumeristic society into the Throne Room of God by way of music.  The congregants who populate our consumeristic society bring their subjective tastes into the worship service whether we realize it or not.  In fact, the worship leader, no matter how objective he tries to be, brings his own subjective tastes as well.


Thus, the challenge. And what a challenge it is!  Everyone brings their ideas and their experiences into worship to where they walk out the church door thinking, “Wow, I really worshiped today!”–even if they cannot articulate what it is or why they worshiped well.  Was it the rhythm and instrumentation of the song?  Was it that they sang a favorite song from childhood that brought back some precious memories?  Was the gospel clearly proclaimed while riding on the vehicle of song?  At the risk of getting philosophical and analyzing something that many deem to personal to analyze, I believe we should take time to mine this out.

The Four Musical Lanes in Which Congregants Travel
When it comes to music used in worship services, you will find (at least) four musical lanes in which congregants travel:
  1. Those who can worship to anything, it doesn’t matter.  Ira Sankey and Fanny Crosby along with the Gettys and Chris Tomlin, I’m in like Flynn.  As long as it exalts Christ and encourages others, bring it on!
  2. Those who love newer music.  The instrumentation is key.  Piano and organ?  Soooo 1950s.  Synthesizer/keyboards?  Sooo 1980s.  How it sounds on the radio is how it should sound in worship.  We live in 2015, not 1515.  Not 1915.  Not even 1995. Or 2014, for that matter.
  3. Those who love classic hymns.  (No, I didn’t say ‘old’ hymns, I said ‘classic’–for a reason!).  “A Mighty Fortress,” “
  4. Those who would love for music to go away.  After all, wasn’t it Spurgeon who said that when Satan fell out of heaven, he landed in the choir loft?
Among these groups are subgroups, but identifying those are for another day.  The fact is that every person sitting in local church gatherings bring with them ideas and experiences about their expectations regarding said worship gathering.

A Worship Leader’s Conundrum

As someone who received a bachelor’s and master’s in church music (B.S., Palm Beach Atlantic University, 1994; M.C.M., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997) as well as leading music ministries for over 10 before going into full-time lead pastoring, I remember well the conversations I would have with members of our congregation.  And you know what I remembered?

I never walked away from a Sunday with everyone in my choir, much less my congregation, completely happy with the music.  When I was first serving as a minister of music in a small church in Kentucky, I remember being very intentional to include every genre:  A Watts hymn, a Fanny Crosby hymn, a new chorus, and one other–this was 1995, so my memory fades.

It was at that point that I realized that everyone has their ‘lane’ when it comes to music and worship, and feel comfortable and ‘worshipful’ when the songs stay in that lane.  But what happens when we get out of that lane? Can we still worship?  

This question is quite tricky, because we’re talking about worshiping our risen Savior.  I don’t know if in the first generation of the church, when Paul told the Colossian church and the Ephesian church, “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” that we had conflict over which one the congregants preferred.  “We sang the psalms last week–can’t we sing some more spiritual songs?”  “I like the hymns, for they are so New Testament.  Do we have to sing those old psalms?”  I’ll only understand it better by and by when we all get to heaven.

How Does Music Help Strengthen the Great Commandment? 

Simply put, when differing camps with differing preferences comes together in the body of Christ to worship, it shows the world that we can come together in unity to sing with each other, even if it doesn’t immediately minister to us.  That cannot happen outside the gospel.

Singing the ‘old’ songs.  Why? For instance, take times in our church when we sing what’s deemed an ‘old’ song.  Not ‘classic,’ mind you.  Old.  Antiquated words (with ‘thees’ and ‘thous’), biblical references not immediately clear when first sung, and an instrumentation that may not be the most modern.  Why, oh why, why, why would we sing that?

Granted, we live in Denver, so culturally, unless you’re from the South, that song won’t elicit any memories from the worshiper.  So unless that well is there, what good reason do you have sing it?  It has zero connectability with anyone outside the church, and even the younger generations may not know the song.

As my associate pastor and I were having our pastor’s meeting and hashing this out, I remembered from my music ministry days a reason I gave to sing the old songs: heritage.  Now, hear me out on this:

We sang “Marching to Zion” a couple Sundays ago.  That would be in the category of old/classic song–a song with a styling that you wouldn’t hear on K-Love, that’s for sure.  It has a boom/chunky feel to it that hearkens back to the days of yore.  We could tell that some did not care for this song.  How I would respond when these songs may come around every so often is this way:  think about the fact that Christians in generations past sang this song.  Not only sang it, they were encouraged by it.  If nothing else, we can hang our hat on this!

Look at the words:

Come, we that love the Lord, 
and let our joys be known; 
join in a song with sweet accord, 
join in a song with sweet accord 
and thus surround the throne, 
and thus surround the throne. 

2.Let those refuse to sing 
who never knew our God; 
but children of the heavenly King, 
but children of the heavenly King 
may speak their joys abroad, 
may speak their joys abroad. 

3.The hill of Zion yields 
a thousand sacred sweets 
before we reach the heavenly fields, 
before we reach the heavenly fields, 
or walk the golden streets, 
or walk the golden streets. 

4.Then let our songs abound, 
and every tear be dry; 
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground, 
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground, 
to fairer worlds on high, 
to fairer worlds on high. 

We’re marching to Zion, 
beautiful, beautiful Zion; 
we’re marching upward to Zion, 
the beautiful city of God. 

Now, dissecting this hymn (by the venerable Isaac Watts no less, 1674-1748), we do not use the phrase ‘sweet accord’ (v. 1), nor do we immediately understand the phrase in stanza 3, “The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets.”  “Immanuel’s ground” is another portion of this hymn that is not immediately understood.

But we do have enough in this hymn to hang our hat on, yes?  In stanza one, you see the invitation to come and love the Lord and let your joys be known.  When we sing together as a congregation, we surround the throne on our pilgrimage to Zion, the heavenly city!  In stanza two, if you’re not a believer, refuse to sing; but if you’re a Christian (“children of the Heavenly King”) speak it out!

I could go on.  Yet, do you see how, even when these older hymns are sung, they’ve been sung to different music for the last 300 years.  We are reminded that Christians have a heritage, a legacy, that dates all the way back to the time of Christ.  We are joining saints of the past in singing the same truth.  Even if you don’t like the music (and to be honest, I don’t always), you can hang your hat on the fact that you’re continuing a gospel legacy of singing truth.

Yes, But… But the time must come when we hold to the truth, but that doesn’t mean we always hold to the music that carries that truth.  Each tune, melody, and harmony were written for a time and place that fit that culture.  And this is what we shall address soon!