Tag Archives: song

Worship Defined

What is Worship?

Though this is not the first post on my blog about worship, this is the first Wednesday Worship post. Because worship music is a passion of mine, I hope to use this weekly category to cover some of the myths and truths about how we do worship in the Church.

BCC Worship prep
Part of worship, yes.
All there is to worship? No.

Since we usually mean “singing and playing music” when we talk about worship, that’s going to be the main focus. But there is much more to worship than just the songs we perform on Sunday morning.

So what is worship?

Merriam-Webster gives a few applicable definitions:

1. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence.

2. a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

As a verb, it is to perform an act of devotion, honor, or reverence based on the above.

The word comes from the concept of “worth” or “worthiness.” It’s an act that says “You are worth this much to me.”

That goes way beyond mere singing and playing music, doesn’t it?

So, what is worship?

In a way, it’s everything we do, to the extent that we do it for God’s glory. Worship is our expression of God’s worth, of our respect and honor and reverence for Him.

If I do a good job at work because I believe I am to work as unto the Lord, my work becomes worship.

If I bite my tongue instead of biting off my co-worker’s head because I realize that God calls me to forgive others and treat them with love, that is worship.

When we cheerfully give in the offering plate or cheerfully meet the needs of others, we are worshiping God as much as when we sing hymns and songs of praise.

When I have no words to say, let alone sing, and I simply fall to my knees before God, pouring out my heart’s burden of grief or sorrow, that is worship.

Paul tells us that living our lives as sacrifices offered to God is our spiritual act of worship.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1 NASB)

The Messageparaphrase puts it this way:

A Lead Worshiper
Worship is service as much (if not more) than it is singing

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

There’s definitely a place for singing and playing music as an expression of our hearts and of God’s worth. And that will occupy the spotlight in my future posts about worship, because that’s an important part of who I am and what I’m gifted to do.

But I want to be clear from the outset about what worship really is.

Because if you think about it, and you trust what the Bible reveals about God, then there’s a lot more He wants from us than a song and dance at church.

These thoughts make me consider the following questions:

  • In what ways do I enjoy worshiping God?
  • In what ways can I improve?
  • Is there any part of my “everyday, ordinary… walking-around life” that is not placed before God?
  • How can I more fully embrace all that God does for me?

Song: How Great You Are

Link to song on SoundCloud: How Great You Are

Friday night, I got to spend a little time banging on the keys, playing and singing songs to worship. Some were to prepare for Sunday, and some were simply because I enjoy them.

I found a few chord progressions I liked, and started putting some lyrics together for a melody that formed in my head. Then I realized I could combine these lyrics and the music with the words of the old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”

That hymn is a favorite for my Dad, who is 100% Swedish. A young Swedish pastor penned the lyrics after a stroll through the woods experiencing the glory of God revealed in nature. Like many hymns, it quickly turns attention to Christ’s sacrifice and atonement for our sin on the Cross, followed by a reminder of the glorious hope of eternity with God.

The bridge I added, the part with “Sing my soul how great this God,” was meant to be the crescendo of praise in the song. I wanted the music and the words to be something that builds up to a point where I throw everything I have into worship, into the music, into my relationship with God, into living for Him. After all, what good is a song that sounds great right now as I sing it but does not remind me or challenge me to continue living out its message?

How Great You Are

Verse 1
      O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
      consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
      Thy pow’r throughout  the universe displayed

Chorus

Then sings my soul   My Savior God to Thee
How great You are
God, how great You are to me
Praises bring to the matchless King
God how great You are
How great You are

Verse2

And when I think             that God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I             scarce can take it in
That on the Cross             my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to        take away my sin

Bridge

Sing my soul how great this God    Everlasting      Ever  loving

Sing my soul how great this God   Never ending  Never failing

God how great You are   God how great You are

Verse 3
When Christ shall come      with shouts of acclamation
and  take me   home what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow               in humble adoration
and then proclaim “My God how great Thou art!”
Now sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee

 

Use Your Words!

Just do it carefully, it’ll be fine!

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to say, but you can’t quite find the words.

(Usually they come to you ten minutes after the conversation in which you wanted to use them.)

Add in a language barrier, and you’re in trouble!

In 14 years living in Japan, I utterly failed at learning to speak Japanese. I say this to my shame. It would have made for so many better interactions with the Okinawan and Japanese people I and my family encountered during our time there.

The one thing I learned to do was to sing songs in church in Japanese. We had a number of songs that had been translated, and we were given the “rumaji” — Japanese words in romanized alphabet, like this:

Shuyo ten wo hiraki ima chiwo yusabiri

I studied Vietnamese (and later Chinese), so I understood the importance of getting the pronunciation right. I learned to hold the ‘n’ the length of an additional syllable, like “te-n” in the example above. I tried really hard to imitate the “r” that sounds more like a soft “d” or “l” (hence the racial stereotypes about eating flied lice and such).

At first, I was nervous. How am I going to sing and not understand what I’m saying? Won’t everyone tell immediately what a pretender I am?

But the chance for our Okinawan and Japanese members to sing in their own language brought them so much joy that I quickly overcame my fears. Maybe I sounded like “Engrish” to them, but they welcomed my attempts and we worshiped together.

My wife and I played a special set of songs for a Women’s Conference, and the first two songs were strictly English. The Okinawans seemed to enjoy it; they clapped, they smiled, they lifted hands, and so on. But when we started singing Matt Redman’s Blessed Be Your Name, I had a Japanese copy prepared. We got to the pre-chorus, and I sang out, “…When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say…”

Shu no mina o homeyo…

There was a visible and near tangible wave of emotional reaction. The ladies’ faces lit up with joy and gratitude at the chance to sing their words, and not the words of another.

I want to create moments like that as often as possible.

At one point, I wrote a song that was popular in our church, but we wanted to make it available to others on the mainland. I was able to find a translator–oddly enough a tall Scandanavian girl named Naomi who spoke fluent Japanese–and we worked together to find the right phrases.

That word… I don’t think it means
What you think it means.

A lot of songs get translated, but the words don’t always match up to the original, or in the effort to make a perfect translation, too much gets shoved into the timing of the music.

Naomi talked about how a lot of translated songs bothered her, because the two sets of lyrics really didn’t communicate the same message.

Ours did.

It wasn’t possible to get a word-for-word translation, but I had Okinawans tell me, “I was really happy to hear that the English and Japanese matched up so well.”

When I studied Chinese Mandarin, I had an idea for a song, and again I aimed to get it right. I love singing in another language, providing people the opportunity to worship in the familiar, in what they understand.

This is our Savior and King, the righteous Lamb of God slain for us.

This is our God, who calls us to Himself and makes our relationship possible.

This is a message I want to get right in any language.

我的神 / Wo de Shen (Link to SoundCloud where you can listen to the song)

你是我的神
在你的面前
因你的伟大
我只好跪下
你不但是神
也是我的王
你让我过来
因此我崇拜

耶稣 哦 耶稣
神的公议羔羊
耶稣 我的救主
你是我爱的王

Lord, You are my God
Here before Your face
I can only kneel
Because You are so great

Not only are You God,
You also are my King
It’s You that I revere,
for You’ve called me to draw near

Jesus, oh Jesus
Righteous Lamb of God
Jesus, my Savior
You are the King I love

Song: Jesus the Righteous

He was the man who ended an epidemic with no thought for his own gain.

In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk went public with news of the success of a polio vaccine.

Three years earlier, there was a severe outbreak of polio, the worst in U.S. History. About 58,000 cases were reported that year. But polio was an ongoing crisis affecting America and other nations long before that.

Epidemics of polio had become regular events, usually in the summer. The disease caused paralysis and death for thousands of people, mostly children.

A 2009 PBS documentary described the disease as the second greatest fear affecting Americans, behind the atomic bomb.

Salk conducted a trial of his hopeful vaccine that was the first of its kind, with 300,000 workers of various types and 1.8 million children in the experiment. The polio vaccines he and others developed are credited with reducing polio cases from about 100,000 per year to under 1,000.

He was hailed as a miracle worker. His goal was prevention and cure, not profit. Regarding a patent on the vaccine, he is quoted in a 1990 televised interview as saying, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Such selflessness and compassion is impressive.

Such a hope in the midst of despair was worth celebrating.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1st John 2:1-2 NKJV)

“Propitiation” is a big and unfamiliar word. It means “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of.” It is the atoning sacrifice for wrongdoing, the paying of the debt owed as a result of reckless or harmful action.

The Bible teaches that humanity is broken, crippled and riddled with a disease of the spirit called sin. We were created for fellowship with God. But the wrong that we do–and more than that, the way our hearts have been twisted and warped away from our original design–separates us from God.

Jesus didn’t just create the vaccine for sin.

Jesus Christ, the solution to the epidemic of sin

He IS the vaccine.

He’s the cure to the disease, the solution to the epidemic, the answer to a worldwide problem… a problem that doesn’t just affect some of us, but affects every man, woman, and child on Earth.

The Message paraphrase puts 1st John 2:2 this way:

“When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.”

Like Dr. Salk referring to the patent, this spiritual vaccine is for everyone. There’s not a person on Earth who is exempt from the offer.

Where does this put us?

Some who have received this “vaccine” may act as if they are more loved, more deserving, more important, or simply better than everyone else. This is foolish. I’m not a better person than anyone else just because I got a flu shot (or a polio vaccine). If I think I have somehow earned God’s favor or deserved this gift of grace, then it’s no longer a gift, really. It becomes a wage I think I’ve earned by what I’ve done, and Scripture is clear about what we’ve earned by what we’ve done. (Spoilers: Rom 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.)

Some who have not received or even do not desire this ‘vaccine’ act as if Christians all look on nonbelievers with a sense of superiority. “Oh you benighted fools, who have not been cured of your sin. How sad for you, who do not know how bad off you are… Too bad you’re not as wise or spiritual as we are, who have received this medicine for our souls!”

I assure you, that’s not what we (generally) think. That’s not how we feel. Like I said, there may be some who act this way, but they miss the entire point of the Good News — GRACE.

God’s grace is amazing. It takes us, cleans us up, adopts us into His family, and begins the work of changing us into what God has designed us to be. We have hope that one day we’ll be like Christ, and we have power through grace that says that today we can be like Him. His love is transforming us; it has cured us of the disease of sin, and it works now to abolish the effects of sin on our lives. More than that, it strengthens us and inoculates us so that we can be spiritually healthy from now on.

That’s something worth singing about.

Link to SoundCloud: Jesus the Righteous
(Warning: there’s a lot more guitar and noise on this one compared to previous songs.)

What incredible love You have shown, bestowed on me

That I should be named and counted among the children of God

Now I have this awesome hope, one day I’ll be like You

Purify me, Lord, cleanse me, make me new

 

Jesus the Righteous, the atoning sacrifice

Taking away my sins and the sins of the world

Jesus the Righteous, You came to give me life

Now may I glorify You in everything that I do

Jesus the Righteous

 

What incredible power to transform and make complete

The work of the cross, the hope of glory, Christ in me

Now I have this awesome grace, today I’ll be like You

Teach me, train me Lord, as I follow You

 

Now I have this awesome love, it’s making me like You

My Savior and my Friend, I live to worship You

Song: My Savior's Love

Oh, no, another “modernized” hymn!

Maybe you’ve noticed this trend in Praise and Worship music over the last several years.

A treasure trove of worship ideas for us today…
…and connection to the church in generations past.

About a decade ago, Matt Redman writes about how the hymnal is a treasure trove of song ideas and powerful lyrics. Then everyone’s changing old favorites to accommodate guitar rhythms and incorporate new choruses. (Truth be told, I’m sure others had the same idea, not just Matt, and I’m sure it was happening from time to time before he wrote it.)

The first one I really remember is Todd Agnew’s remake of Amazing Grace, titled “Grace Like Rain.” He puts the hymn in a minor key, and adds a chorus in between each verse talking about how our sinful stains are washed away in the rain of God’s grace. It works.

My wife and I love to play a duet on that. She has a great violin accompaniment and I have a special riff I like on the piano for the third verse.

Then I recall “The Wonderful Cross” with Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin from Passion: One Day 2003 (maybe). “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is combined with a driving beat and a powerful chorus that borrows from Bonhoeffer:

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

There are others. “Jesus Paid It All” is on a recent Passion album, with a powerful buildup and a passionate cry for us to “Praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.”

Chris Tomlin put out a version of Amazing Grace called “My Chains are Gone” with a chorus that sounds like the heartcry of a man released from his cell after years of imprisonment. “My God, my Savior has ransomed me… and like a flood, His mercy rains unending love, amazing grace.”

David Crowder Band has a version of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” that starts with a soft minor key chorus about singing to the passionate God who rejoices over us… before the drums kick in and guitars scream in between the verses of the familiar hymn.

Sometimes the bandwagon gets it right.

Who am I to argue?

The hymn, “My Savior’s Love” was a theme song for one of the conferences my wife and I attended several years ago on Okinawa. It seemed like we were constantly being told “Go into My Savior’s Love and let’s just stay there for a while.” (We had pretty flexible worship musicians, so we could be told, “Do this song for a bit” and it all worked out.)

Years later, I was looking at a hymnal and found the song. I remembered how much I loved the emphasis on the marvel of God’s love…

Here in the present as “I stand amazed” and “wonder how He could love me.”

In the past as I think of how “He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone.”

In the future as “through the ages”  I will “sing of His love for me.”

I also like the minor key – which to me speaks of reflection and wonder – that leads to the major key – which calls celebration and joy to mind.

Here’s a link to the song: My Savior’s Love… (I fear my singing is a bit pitchy in parts.)

And here’s the lyrics –

1  I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! how wonderful! and my song shall ever be: 
How marvelous! how wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!

2  He took my sins and my sorrows, 
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

3  When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

Sing a song of praise to God above So amazing to think of
How wonderful, how marvelous is our Savior’s love

How marvelous! how wonderful! And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! how wonderful! is my Savior’s love for me! 

You Stoop Down

Ever thought of a piggy-back ride from the Creator of the Universe?

Let strong arms and steady shoulders lift you higher than the level you’re used to

There’s a verse in Psalms that talks about God’s gentleness and humility making us successful. There’s something powerful about the thought of Him lowering Himself in order to pick us up and bring us up to a new level. That’s not pride speaking; it’s not saying, “Look at me, I’m awesome, I’m important, God is lifting me up.”

God is the One choosing to do the lifting. Not me.

It’s not about my merit; it’s about His grace.

“You protect me with your saving shield,
You support me with your right hand,
You have stooped to make me great.” Psalm 18:35 NCV

I wrote a song based on that last phrase, called You Stoop DownThe link brings up a SoundCloud window with the music.

You stoop down to make me great

This I cannot comprehend

God of heaven and of earth

You chose me as Your friend

 

You stoop down to lift me up

This I cannot understand

Exalted over all the earth

You hold me in Your hand

 

Jesus the humble King

You gave Your life for me

To give me hope

Now I will sing

Of all You’ve done for me

 

You stoop down to save the lost

Redeeming people with Your blood

Reaching out to sinful men

To bring us near to God

 

You stoop down to meet with us

As we sing our songs of love

Simple though our praise may be

It’s You we’re singing of