The Greatest Story Ever Told

Well, you know this one is just starting to make the rounds in the blogosphere and I thought I might as well add to it.
I’ve never cared for rap music. Not because of style (although, the redundancy of the beat, the mundanity of it’s “music” in the background are really not in my universe of tastes in music – and for those who know me fairly well, I’m very eclectic in my musical tastes, so there’s a pretty big musical universe floating around in my head). No, it has to do with the entire sub-culture that rap represents: the evil, the smut, the bigotry, the nearly pure reverse racism, the underlying hatred – especially of women – that is so pervasive.
It’s always amazing, however, how God can use His power to redeem something man has so thoroughly corrupted – like a form of music, such as rap. Shai Lynne is one of several Christian rap artists who God is using to make a name for Himself (please, please, please note the capital “H” there). Here’s a very good example of what rap can be and should be: used to tell a story – the Story, actually – that brings all the glory to God. The lyrics are included so you can follow along as well as read them later.

It’s the greatest story ever told.
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold.
The greatest story ever told.
Restoring all that the enemy stole.
The greatest story ever told.
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold.
The greatest story ever told.
It’s the greatest.

Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren. Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing. The glory of the Triune God is what I’m stressing. The origin of humankind was fine. Blessings were plenteous. God is amazingly generous. Crazy benefits in a state of innocence. God told the man what he could taste was limited. Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis. He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell. The whole human race—he represented it. Fooled by the serpent, man through his work, woman through birth—even the earth ruled by the curses. But instead of a wake immediately. God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake. Yo, wait what is this? Whoa, a gracious gift! In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness. This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss and bliss. But first, many growing pains exist suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds. Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed. Indeed things got progressively worse. Every section of the earth is been affected by the curse. And though God’s judgments against sin were gory, praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story.

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme. God gets steamed, man gets creamed. The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water. Fire in the valley of slaughter – Sodom and Gomorrah. But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient that from one man He created a whole nation. Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved, they cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save. He brought them out with signs and wonders – satisfied their hunger. Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder. Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government. Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant. Sin was imputed. So for man to know he’s unrighteous, God instituted animal sacrifices. This was to show our constant need for atonement. And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it. And when His people disobeyed and went astray, He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way. But they would get foul with their idolatry—wet and wild prophecy—send them into exile. To take their punishment like a grown man. Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland. And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt, they awaited the arrival of Emmanuel.

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears. In Bethlehem the Messiah appears. God in the flesh—Second Person of the Trinity. At thirty begins His earthly ministry. Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts and back-to-back miraculous acts. A stumbling block to the self righteous. But the humbled—His flock, said “There’s no one else like this.” He came from heaven to awake the numb. Demonstrated His power over nature, son. A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come. But the reason He came was to pay the sum for the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness. Bless His magnificence! He is perfect and innocent. Yet He was wrecked and His death. He predicted it. Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite. He said that He finished it. Resurrected so the elect would be the recipients of its benefits. Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate. His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes. Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence for heaven’s future residents who truly represent Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director, and Star of a story that will never, ever end!

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Paul Potts and missing what God’s grace gives us

I saw these two videos on JT’s site. They’re from the British version of the American show, America’s Got Talent. I don’t really like these programs. They’re exhibitionist. They’re narcissistic. They’re shameful. With that said, this one brought tears to my eyes… and I don’t even like opera! There was just someting about the beautiful voice and seeming emotion put into doing what this man loves that got me all misty.


This is actually the final of the show and I don’t think you’ll be surprised to see who wins:


It did get me to thinking (and trust me, that takes a lot!): I only wish that we wouldn’t “idolize” these kinds of talent. I think it’s wonderful that average, ordinary people with average, ordinary jobs (to sue Simon’s words) have amazing abilities like this. But can we not be thankful unto the Lord for them right where we’re at instead of trying to get them notcied by everyone in the world? Don’t get me wrong, I think Potts’ voice is breathtakingly beautiful. But, if he were a Christian (and I have no knowledge whatsoever of his faith or lack thereof), could he (or the thousands upon thousands who audition for these types of programs) simply be content where God has placed him to shine for Christ where he is? I fully expect to see a Christian-ized version of these programs very soon (if there isn’t already one out there – anybody know?)

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Comment Replies and Worship Music

I received a comment on a blog entry from January. In that entry, I’d mentioned a chorus sung at a church I visited. The chorus: Jesus, Be the Center (I hope that was the clear title) left me quite a bit foggy in the head about what it was trying to say. A anonymous commenter thought I needed to “open up my theological boundaries” a bit since it was clear to him or her that “you are the wind in my sails” was pointing to God empowering everything I do.

Well, that was the problem… it wasn’t clear. When Bette Midler sings, “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings” I think I get it, but not being a student of poetry, I have to work a bit harder at these things. Plus, in this kind of secular pop song, if I miss the intended meaning, so what? But if I’m worshiping my Creator, I’m convinced from Scripture that not just any old thing will do.

I have three main criteria I use in choosing hymns, choruses and songs at our church:

1. Direct Scriptural quotations: always the best; can’t go wrong using God’s Word directly.

Example: I’ve begun introducing Psalm singing to our church. Using the Trinity Psalter, we’ll sing directly the words of Scripture. Other examples might include, “The Lord Is My Shepherd” from Psalm 23; Greater Is He That Is In Me from 1 JOhn 4.4; 1 Peter 5.8 and Acts 2.2; or, “Worthy is the Lamb, directly from Revelation 5.12.

2. Strong Scriptural allusions: not a direct quote, but the reference is so strong, if you’re familiar with Scripture, you know where the thought is from

Example: In the Christmas hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” there are strong allusions, pointing us right to Scripture without directly quoting from Scripture: “glory to the newborn kind (Luke 2.14); “late in time” (Galatians 4.4, the fullness of time); “offspring of a virgin’s womb” (Isaiah 7.14; Matthew 1.23)

Bad example: using the same genre, Christmas hymns, here’s a bad example – “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. Beautiful phrases, heart-warming story, but no clear allusions to Scripture. Some will take exception to this, but I think it’s because this is a Christmas song that we’ll work even harder to make the connections that really aren’t there without all this hard work.

3. Scriptural formulations: doctrinal expressions, or personal experiences based upon Scripture, not simply personal warm fuzzy feelings.

Example: “Rock of Ages”, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

Bad example: “In the Garden” which seems to be a tremendous evangelical favorite, but is so sappy, syrupy sweet with no quotation or allusion that I marvel at it’s popularity, except we’re driven far too much by our experiences and not by God’s Word. I only allow this song to be sung at the request of a family for a funeral.

Here are just a few other examples from each category:

Scripture Quotations: “Seek Ye First” (Matt. 6.33; 7.7; Deut. 8.3b); “Behold, What Manner of Love” (John 15.15); “The Cares Chorus” (1 Peter 5.7); and “Create In Me a Clean Heart” (Psalm 51.10-11).

Scriptural Allusions: “His Name is Wonderful”; “Jesus, Name Above All Names”; bad examples – “Cause Me to Come” and “Isn’t He?”

Scriptural Formulations: good examples – “Lord, I Life Your Name on High” and “Thou, O Lord, Art Exalted”; bad examples – “Spirit Song” and “Praise You, Father”

I won’t get into the music end of this matter; my one driving criterium there is that it be singable (okay, perhaps also that you find yourself singing it later or humming it to yourself later and knowing how to put most of the words to it; there are becoming way too many choruses that are simply unsingable by a congregation and that, I fear, is part of the cost of our churches losing their hymnody).

I don’t know if this will stir things up; that’s not my intent. I simply wanted to reply to one brother’s/sister’s comments.