Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 1:39-55---Humility and Pride as God Defines It!

What an amazing passage Luke 1:39-56 is! We see examples of marvelous humility in Elizabeth, John, and Mary. But finally we see humility in a fourth person, Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity that exceeds our comprehension. This hymn sings of that humility we see in Christ’s incarnation, and even further, in his crucifixion! The hymn, like Mary’s Magnificat is meant to comfort the humble and chasten the proud, therefore, in its twin purposes, the hymn is for us, who need both chastening and comfort! Most of all the hymn is meant to exalt the Lord and give him the glory he so richly deserves.

Verse 1 points to the Scriptural principle that God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud, but then points to Jesus as the humble One par excellence. He is the Lord equal with the Father in glory, power, and majesty, and yet he humbled himself by coming to share our “humble estate” (Luke 1:48).

Verse 2 and the first half of verse 3, continue our contemplation of our Lord’s condescension in his incarnation, rejection, and suffering on the cross. The second half of verse 3 and the first part of verse 4 consider the low position the proud are now in by their refusal to recognize the new reality Christ’s resurrection and ascension has brought about. The proud, who refuse to give the Son his rightful due, are not to be envied, but pitied. They are already in an abased and precarious position which will become final at death. O how they need the gospel and our prayers!

The hymn closes with the comfort God gives the humble. The humble are hungry, for they know their need of Jesus Christ, the bread of life. The humble are also poor and needy, but they find their need perfectly met in Jesus Christ, and therefore, they are joyful and glad, and seek the glory and beauty of their Lord in heaven.

We Magnify the Lord

To the tune: WAS FRAG ICH NACH DER WELT---DARMSTADT (click on Now Are the Days Fulfilled, 99). Based on Luke 1:39-56. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
We magnify the Lord,
rejoicing in our Savior.
The humble God exalts,
and grants to them His favor.
Behold what God has done,
in Jesus Christ His Son,
who humbly took our flesh,
and our salvation won.

v. 2
We praise the Son of God,
who left His throne in heaven,
and humbly came to us,
within a lowly virgin.
Rejected by His own,
He suffered further loss,
He humbly chose the path,
that took Him to the cross.

v. 3
Upon the cruel cross
to suffering subjected.
But God exalted Him,
the third day resurrected.
And now the proud brought low,
and Jesus raised on high,
and grace is given to,
all who on Christ rely.

v. 4
The proud will God abase,
who give no recognition
to Jesus raised as Lord,
won’t own His high position.
The hungry God will fill,
the poor will He make glad,
who seek their glor-ious Lord,
the King at God’s right hand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 1:26-38

Verses 1 and 2 relate the visit Gabriel made to Mary. Unlike the unbiblical notion that Mary is somehow a source of grace, the passage teaches that Mary was a recipient of God’s grace. Mary was the most privileged of all women in being the mother of Jesus, but this privilege was not conferred on her because of her holiness, for like all of us she needed God’s unmerited grace. Verses 1 and 2 summarize the greatness of Mary’s Son.

Verse 3 praises the mighty power that overshadowed Mary via the Holy Spirit. Jesus was, and is, fully human, and thus, he was the son of Mary. But in order to be fully God, Jesus could not have an earthly Father, and so he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. One Person but two natures, fully divine and fully human---truly this is a Mystery!

Verse 4 tells us how Mary was unlike us, while verse 5 tells us how we can be like Mary. Mary is unlike us in her unique privilege of bearing the Son of God. She was the woman chosen by God to bear His long-promised Redeemer, who would free us from the curse. But we can be like Mary in receiving the same favor, grace, and forgiveness Mary received through a humble faith. We can imitate the faith of Mary that believed God’s Word and promise.

Unto a Virgin Lowly

To the tune: ES IST EIN ROS (click on A Great and Mighty Wonder 76). Based on Luke 1:26-38. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Unto a virgin lowly,
an angel Gab-riel came.
O Mary you are favored,
recipient of grace.
For soon you will conceive
a son you will call Jesus,
the everlasting King.

v. 2
Your Son will have a greatness
beyond compare, degree.
The Son of God most holy,
and David’s progeny.
His kingdom will not end.
His reign will last forever,
to Him all knees will bend.

v. 3
We praise the mighty power
that caused the virgin birth.
The Son of God through Mary
was sent unto the earth.
The virgin did conceive
the Son of God and David,
the bless-ed Mystery.

v. 4
How privileged was Mary,
the Son of God to birth.
For whom the world was waiting,
redemption from the curse.
In Jesus Christ believe,
who came to free from slav’ry,
from bondage give relief.

v. 5
But we can be like Mary,
receiving precious grace.
God’s favor and forgiveness
available by faith.
Like Mary just believe.
God’s Word and gospel promise
His servants will receive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 1:5-25

John the Baptist has an important place in the plan of salvation. Malachi had prophesied that a man would come to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. The Lord himself would come and visit his temple, but first a herald would come to announce his coming and get the people ready. Verse one focuses on the One to whom John would be the forerunner and herald.

Verse 2 of the hymn focuses on the promise and power of God. God would answer the prayers of Zechariah and show his great power in giving a son to a couple past the age of child bearing. Out of Elizabeth’s barren womb new life would spring, a life animated by the Spirit of God, for John was filled with the Spirit even in the womb.

Strangely, when the Lord told Zechariah his prayers had been answered, he did not believe the prayers he himself had prayed! Zechariah’s unbelief was blameworthy. He did not believe the power of God to intervene in the very world He created and do the supernatural. Zechariah did not believe the good news. Verse 3 encourages us not to make the mistake Zechariah and so many people make, failing to believe because we do not understand God’s power but look only at human impotency.

The fourth verse encourages us, in contrast to Zechariah, to believe the good news told to us. The same God who created the world out of nothing can redeem the world by sending his Son into it, just as he told us he would in the Old Testament Scriptures. The same God who formed John in a barren womb, can form the Son of God in our barren hearts through the Spirit and the gift of faith, and we pray for this in the final verse.

Praise the Lord Who Came to Save

To the tune: ST. GEORGE. Based on Luke 1:5-25. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Praise the Lord who came to save,
John was sent His way to pave.
John would come prepare the way,
herald of the awesome day.
God unto His temple came,
glory, power were displayed.
Died for sins and then was raised,
Jesus worthy to be praised.

v. 2
Zechariah came to serve,
in the temple incense burned.
Then an angel from the Lord,
told him that his prayers were heard.
’Lizabeth with barren womb,
life from nothing now would bloom.
By His might she would conceive,
from the Lord a son receive.

v. 3
Zechariah full of doubt,
knew his body was worn out.
We are old, how can this be?
News from God did not believe.
Do not doubt what God can do,
by His power life renews.
What He says will come to be,
blessed are those who will believe.

v. 4
Praise the Lord for His good plan,
God the Son became a man.
God’s beloved sent to save,
died our death and then was raised.
Do not ask, how can this be,
own the bless-ed Mystery.
Scripture promises fulfilled,
God has done all that He willed.

v. 5
Father, in our barren hearts,
life and power please impart.
Form Your Son within our souls,
by Your Spirit make us whole.
We, Your gospel would receive,
joyful news we would believe.
Unbelief we do confess,
give us faith that makes us blest.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Need for Weekly Communion and Clear Preaching

Allen P. Ross has a section on how the Christian liturgy has been shaped, and should be shaped, by Luke 24:13-35.  This comes from his excellent book that deals with worship, entitled Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation:
"On the day of his resurrection, Jesus met the discouraged disciples as they were going home to Emmaus.  Upon hearing the reason for their discouragement---the death of the one thye had hoped was the Redeemer---Jesus rebuked them for their ignorance of the whole plan of God and their lack of faith.  He then proceeded to expound from all the Law and the Prophets how the Messiah should suffer before entering into his glory (v. 27).  Then, at the meal in Emmaus Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and broke it; and at that moment the eyes of the two men were opened---and they knew him!  But then he vanished from their sight.  The power of the clear exposition of the Word of God and the celebration of the meal at the Lord's Table have formed the heart of Christian worship ever since.  Without the exposition of Scripture, the meal will not be fully understood; and without the communal meal, the teaching will not be personalized and activated by faith.  Here in the experience of Cleopas and his friend we have the pattern: The experience of the burning heart when the Scripture is opened to us and the awareness of the reality of his presence in the breaking of the bread are absolutely essential to the vitality of our worship.

"This passage is a marvelous summation of the gospel itself.  Thevenot traces how the structure of the Emmaus account is similar to that of the Genesis account of the first sin (Gen. 2-3)---but in reverse.  The meeting with the risen Christ is thus a re-creation, a point that affects our view of the Eucharist.  Throught the symbolism of the meal, we experience a new relationship to seeing and hearing in worship, which leads to the recognition of otherness in spiritual service.  The disciples who heard the Word and experienced the presence of the risen Lord could not wait to go back to Jerusalem and spread the good news.

"The account also gives us a dramatic picture of how the gospel reverses the Fall.  On the one hand, in Genesis God created humans and gave them his words of blessing and his warning not to disobey his words.  But they missed God's clear meaning and went their own way from God.  In disobedience they ate, and their eyes were opened!  But rather than being like God as Satan had promised, they realized that they had opened up a world of evil and were now vulnerable, so in fear they hid themselves.  Now they saw themselves as sinners, and their only prospect was death.  But on the other hand, in the Gospels Christ died that death for all of us and opened the way for new life.  Here on the road to Emmaus, he revealed God's plan fully and clearly so that the hearts of these disciples burned within them.  And when they entered the house to eat the meal with this teacher, their eyes were supernaturally opened so that they recognized him as the risen Christ.  He was alive, and the prospect of death forever lost its sting.

"The differences between the two accounts explain how the gospel reverses the Fall. In the garden the Lord was invisible; but on the read to Emmaus he was visible, when he chose to be, and present with his people, thanks to the incarnation.  In Genesis only a few words from the Lord were revealed; but along the road to Emmaus, all the Scriptures about the divine plan were revealed because it was the fullness of time.  And, in the beginning Adam and Eve ate in disobedience and broke their communion with God; but in the home in Emmaus, the Lord ate with his disciples as a sign of communion.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reversed the curse of Genesis and re-created communion through his presence with his people.  Is it any wonder that Christian worship should commemorate such a great redemption by the clear exposition of Scripture and the Communion meal?"

Hymn Lyrics for Luke 1:1-4

Luke writes his gospel so that we might have full assurance of faith. He writes in order “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” We need this assurance because our faith is often weak in this life and plagued by doubts. Like the man who cried out to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief,” so we too need our faith strengthened.

Faith never comes from looking at ourselves. Our obedience, our trust, our experience, our feelings or anything in us can never give us assurance. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing the word of Christ.” Luke, the beloved physician who wrote this Gospel, understood that only sure knowledge of who Jesus is and what he did for us can give us the kind of assurance we need, and so he writes his Gospel to give us a sure testimony about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This hymn, based on Luke 1:1-4, is influenced by this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Verse 1 is a prayer as we begin to look at Luke’s Gospel. We acknowledge that our souls need healing and ask that the book Luke the physician wrote for our healing might indeed be efficacious to the healing of our souls.

Verses 2 emphasizes the solid testimony Luke has given us in his Gospel.  Luke was not an eyewitness, but he had received the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and he had met many of the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, and interviewed them for his book.  We know Luke accompanied Paul and was with him during his arrest in Jerusalem in 57 A.D. and his voyage to Rome in 60 A.D.  In this interval of time in Palestine Luke had a chance to meet the apostles and other eyewitnesses, interviewing them as he compiled his Gospel.

Verse 3 confesses our disease but also looks to the cure doctor Luke gives us. Verse 4 is a prayer that the inspired Gospel of Luke can answer through the Spirit.

Verse 5 is playing off the name Theophilus, which means beloved of God or lover of God. Although Theophilus was a real person, he also stands for the goal Luke aims for, namely, for his readers to know themselves as loved by God, which produces a love for the Father and the Son in return.

O Father, Heal Our Souls

To the tune: ST. THOMAS. Based on Luke 1:1-4. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
O Father, heal our souls,
as we approach this book,
that Luke the doctor gave to us,
to Christ our Lord we look.

v. 2
A testimony sure,
is giv’n of Jesus’ life,
from witnesses who heard the Lord,
and saw Him with their eyes.

v. 3
Diseases harm our souls,
our faith is often weak,
but all who look to Jesus Christ
will find the health they seek.

v. 4
O Father, hear our prayer,
to know Your only Son,
the truth of who He really is,
and all that He has done.

v. 5
O Father, make us know,
that we are loved in Christ.
For we are His and He is ours,
we share His love and life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 3:7-12

A lot of these hymns that are based on the Gospels have a limited use in public worship. Most could be used as Amen hymns, the hymns that are sung after the sermon in order to reinforce some of the truths just preached. A few of them might be used before the sermon to get people thinking about the passage before or after it is read. Fewer could be used as opening hymns of praise or thanksgiving hymns.

A strong case can be made from the Old Testament that there is a close tie between the written Word of God and that same word sung. In Deuteronomy 31-33, Moses gives the people the covenant they are to keep in written form, but also a song that enables the people to sing of the covenant so that they will better learn and remember it. I believe this same pattern could and should be applied to the new covenant or testament, and that is part of what I am trying to do with these hymns based on the Gospels.

But, of course, we can always sing in private or with our families, so these hymns can be sung in conjunction with the passage read in individual or family devotions.

In the following hymn, based on Mark 3:7-12, we are dealing with murderous Pharisees, from whom Jesus withdraws; excited crowds from even Gentile areas, who although they may not be seeking him with the best of motives, Jesus teaches; and frightened demons from the invisible world who know the true identity of Jesus long before the crowds or even the disciples have come to understand that this is the Son of God.

The key question is who do we think Jesus is? Verse 4 answers that question and alludes to Isaiah 2 where new covenant believers come to the Lord on his holy mountain in heaven to learn of Him. May we ourselves be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy as we come to him on his heavenly mountain and city (Heb. 12:22-24):

1The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3and many peoples shall come, and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The Crowds Excited Followed

To the tune: ST. THEODULPH All Glory, Laud, and Honor. Based on Mark 3:6-12. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
The crowds excited followed
the Lord through Galilee,
for miracles and healing
from Jesus they did seek.
But Jesus came to teach them,
He had a Shepherd’s heart,
to teach the way to heaven,
salvation to impart.

v. 2
When evil spirits saw him,
before the Lord they fell.
The demons feared His power
to cast them into hell.
They cried in fear confessing
the Son, the Holy One.
But Jesus shut their voices,
they knew just who He was.

v. 3
From Pharisaic plotting
our Lord would e’er depart.
But people from the nations
would seek Him with their hearts,
to see the pow’r and glory
of God’s most Holy One,
to come unto salvation,
to learn of God the Son.

v. 4
And still our Lord is teaching
all those who come to Him.
In Him we learn salvation,
forgiveness of our sins.
For He’s the Lord ascended,
the resurrected King,
who by His Word and Spirit
our hearts He makes to sing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Meditation on a Graduation Card

My son recently received a card and gift for his High School graduation.  On the front of the card was a quote from Thoreau: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you've imagined."

While the kindness and remembrance of my son's graduation is much appreciated, the words of Thoreau are completely anti-Christian.  The problem with the words from Thoreau is their independence from God.  A Christian is not to follow his dreams or live the life he imagines.  A Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and his will as it is revealed in Scripture.  As the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

There is a dependence in the Christian life that is foreign to the wisdom of this world.  We are dependent creatures who depend on the only independent, Sovereign will in the universe.  As Revelation 4 says of the Lord, "you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

We are dependent because we are creatures.  God made us, and he sustains us.  As the Great King, our very breath and all our ways are in his hand (Dan. 5:23).  Our success or failure is determined by him.  We are not outside of his sovereign will for even a millisecond, so if we try to live independently of him, we truly are living an "imagined" life, and not the life that's really lived by his creatures in his world.

But what about Thoreau's notion of confidence---can we live confidently?  The only people who have good reason to be confident are those who have God as their Father because of Jesus Christ.  The whole world lies under God's judgment because of sin.  There is no promise for the unbeliever that his life will have a happy ending or that things will work together for his good.  The promise of Romans 8:28 is given to those who trust and love God and his Son.  The promise is given only to those who have taken the first step in doing God's will by accepting his beloved Son in their lives and submitting to his will.  Only the person who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior can have a confidence grounded in reality.

But Thoreau's confidence is really an arrogance born of the belief that human beings are independent of God and free to live as they please.  Thoreau's confidence is at root the lie of the serpent in the garden, namely, that in choosing for oneself, right and wrong and how to live, one will be like God.  The serpent wanted human beings to live independently of the Lord, acting as though they were God, and they have ever since. But in the end, there is but one independent Being in the universe, and that is not us!  Therefore, the proper attitude is not arrogance but humility---the humility that sees our humble, but happy, place in God our Creator's world.  As the old Shaker song says, such a humility is accompanied by joy:
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
That place of love and delight is found in fellowship with the triune God.  We worship the Father through the Son and by the Spirit.  By receiving Jesus Christ, the gift of the Father to us, we may live in love and delight, for God is love and the source of all joy.  But God is also mighty, sovereign, the Giver, Sustainer and Ruler of life, and it is fitting for us to humble ourselves in his presence. 

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  Thoreau did not acknowledge that, but we should.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 3:1-6

In this passage, Jesus asks, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?"  In their hardness of heart, the Pharisees refuse to give an answer with words, but they give an answer in their plotting to kill Jesus on that very Sabbath.  This hymn plays on the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Jesus came to save sinners who deserve wrath, while the Pharisees plot the destruction of the sinless, Son of God, who came to do us good and save our lives.

He Came upon the Sabbath

To the tune: CHRISTUS, DER IST MEIN or BREMEN (VULPIUS). Based on Mark 3:1-6. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
He came upon the Sabbath
unto a synagogue,
The Pharisees were watching
for breaking of their law.

v. 2
A man whose hand was withered
was present in their midst.
Would Jesus dare to heal him,
the leaders’ anger risk?

v. 3
So Jesus said unto them,
on Sabbath which is right:
to do good or do evil,
to kill or save a life?

v. 4
But they refused to answer,
their withered hearts were hard,
and on the Sabbath plotted
to kill the Sabbath’s Lord.

v. 5
We praise You, Lord and Savior,
You came to save, not kill,
to earn the Father’s favor,
to show us His good will.

v. 6
For through our sins we store up
His wrath which we deserve.
We rob the Lord of glory
through idols that we serve.

v. 7
How gracious then the mercy
that Jesus to us brings.
He gave His body for us,
for sin an offering.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 2:23-28

Jesus Christ Anointed King

To the tune: PATMOS click on Take My Life and Let it Be, 400. Based on Mark 2:23-28. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Jesus Christ anointed King,
praise to Him we’d ever bring.
David’s Son and David’s Lord,
came for sinners to restore.

v. 2
On the Sabbath His men ate,
Pharisees incensed, irate.
Did not know the Lord was here,
Sabbath Giver had come near.

v. 3
Jesus Lord above the law,
Son of David, Son of God.
Something new had now arrived,
Lord of space and Lord of time.

v. 4
Jesus fulfills Sabbath rest,
work was finished, we are blest.
He has opened heaven wide,
joy and rest in Him reside.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Need for Doctrinally Rich Hymns

This comes from Allen P. Ross in his book on biblical worship from Genesis to Revelation, Recalling the Hope of Glory.  Ross is dealing with the reasons Israelites had for coming to the temple.  The first reason he lists is individual praise or thanks in answer to prayer.  The second reason to pay a vow.  Here is the third reason he lists:

"A third reason people went up to the sanctuary was to praise God.  This was not the inidvidual thanksgiving (todah) given for an answer to prayer but a hymn of praise (halal) to God.  The hymn, whether said or sung, is a more general desciption of who God is and what he has done; hence, it is called the descriptive praise psalm.  Even though it differed in form and content from the todah, the nature of biblical praise applies here as well.

"The hymn begins with the worshipper calling others to join in praising God (this could be as brief as 'praise the Lord' [halleluia]; then it focuses on the reason for the praise, which is almost always some demonstation of the greatness and the grace of God; and it concludes with a prayer, a lesson, or a renewed call to praise.  The devout Israelites never tired of singing hymns to God's majesty as Creator (Pss. 8; 33), Redeemer (Pss. 105-107; 111), Lawgiver (Ps. 19), Provider (Ps. 113), and the like; and they loved to extol his gracious dealings with them in faithfulness, righteousness, and unfailing love (Ps. 22).  The value of hymns is that they preserve crucial doctrinal ideas of the faith in a way that nothing else in the life of the believing community could.  The thanksgivings often included similar descriptions of God, but thse hymns focus on those descriptions.

"This kind of praise is also being lost in the modern worshipping communities because people do not know doctrine.  Even in the music, doctrinally rich hymns are being replaced with shorter experiential songs and choruses."
Ross is making a great point and it shows why we need to continue to sing "doctrinally rich" hymns when we gather together.  May it happen more and more by the grace of God.

Bach Motet, Jesu, Meine Freude---Jesus, My Joy


Jesu, meine Freude,
Jesus, my joy,

Meines Herzens Weide,
My heart's delight

Jesu, meine Zier,
Jesus, my treasure

Ach wie lang, ach lange
Ah how long,ah how long

Ist dem Herzen bange
must my heart be anxious

Und verlangt nach dir!
And full of longing for you!

Gottes Lamm, mein Bräutigam,
Lamb of God, my bridegroom

Außer dir soll mir auf Erden,
Besides you there is in on earth

Nichts sonst Liebers werden.
Nothing else that is dearer to me.

Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches an denen, die in Christo Jesu sind,
die nicht nach dem Fleische wandeln, sondern nach dem Geist. Romans 8:1
There is now no condemnation in them who are in Christ
and who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Unter deinem Schirmen
Beneath your protection

Bin ich vor den Stürmen
I am free from the raging

Aller Feinde frei
Of all enemies.

Laß den Satan wittern,
Let the devil sniff around,

Laß den Feind erbittern,
let my enemy become incensed

Mir steht Jesus bei.
Jesus stands by me.

Ob es itzt gleich kracht und blitzt,
Even though thunder crashes and lightning blazes,

Ob gleich Sünd und Hölle schrecken:
Even though sin and hell terrify

Jesus will mich decken.
Jesus will protect me.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 2:18-22

The Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, Arrived

To the tune: DUNDEE God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Based on Mark 2:18-22. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
The Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, arrived
upon this earthly scene,
was calling people to Himself,
the sinful and unclean.

v. 2
The Bridegroom and His people ate,
no fasting in their midst.
Disciples from the Pharisees,
How can this be? they hissed.

v. 3
The Father’s Gift incomparable
was present now with them,
and joy at such a wondrous Gift
should never be condemned.

v. 4
And joy is still the right response
to Him who died and rose.
The old has gone, the new has come,
for those the Bridegroom knows.

v. 5
For Jesus Christ our glor-ious Lord
departed for a time.
He died our death, but from the tomb,
the third day He did rise.

v. 6
And now with Him we live our lives
with joy before His face.
The Spirit lifts our hearts to Him,
for mercy, life and grace.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.
I wrote this hymn, today, after reading about psalms of thanksgiving that we often find in the book of Psalms. These psalms were based on the thanksgiving sacrifice given by ordinary Israelites at the temple. The worshipper would bring his sacrifice of thanks to the temple and while it was on the altar, he would give thanks. The worshipper, in essence, would give a testimony of God's goodness and grace given to him.

Psalms of thanksgiving have a number of parts:
  1. Opening declaration: "I will give thanks to the Lord."
  2. The reason for the praise: for example, God is faithful.
  3. A report of the problem: for example, I was surrounded by enemies.
  4. The Lord's deliverance: "he delivered me."
  5. A fuller declaration of praise: for example, God is faithful to those who love him.
  6. A word of encouragement/exhortation to others: for example, Seek the Lord.
In this hymn, I think most of these elements are present. In verse 1, the basic dilemma is that we cannot know who God is unless He reveals himself to us. God reveals himself in two ways: through the universe he created, which reveals his glory; and, through his Word which alone reveals his salvation in his Son.

In verse 2, I point out that God's Word points us to His Son, and in Jesus we have a perfect picture of what God is like. But even the Word of God remains closed to us apart from the Spirit's illumination.

In verse 3, there is a continuation of thanks for the Spirit, for the Spirit's role is to communicate Jesus and his life to us. Faith and love flow from Christ, for every spiritual blessing is found in him (Eph. 1:3). If our faith is weak, we seek to strengthen it by looking to him. If our love is weak, we seek to be joined closer to our Lord in heaven so that his love becomes our love. Only the Spirit can join us to Christ like this, who dwells bodily in heaven. If we love Christ, then we also must love his people, for love is a mark of our union with Christ.

Verse 4 speaks of a truth that is not understood well enough by Christians. Christians live with Christ by faith in heaven right now. Our union is with Jesus Christ in both his natures: divine and human, and his human nature is in heaven where we worship him and receive his divine life through his crucified body and poured out blood. This is a mystery. But the gospel calls us to live with him above, not just in the future after our deaths, but right now by faith.

We Give You Thanks, O Gracious Lord

To the tune: BETHLEHEM (FINK) How Vast the Benefits Divine. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
We give You thanks, O gracious Lord,
Your name You have revealed,
for showing us Your character,
Your good and holy will.
Without Your Word we could not know
the glory of Your grace,
and know salvation planned for us,
the sinful human race.

v. 2
We give You thanks, our Father, great,
for sending us Your Son.
You showed us what You’re truly like
in Christ Your Holy One.
The Word You gave it points to Him,
who’s precious in Your sight.
You send the Spirit of Your Son,
our darkness turn to light.

v. 3
We give You thanks for joining us
to Jesus Christ above.
The Spirit who indwells our hearts,
within works faith and love.
A faith toward Jesus Christ our Lord,
who for us died and rose.
A love, O Father, for Your Son,
and all the saints You chose.

v. 4
We give You thanks our gracious God
for giving us Your Son.
A gift that’s more than wonderful,
our blessing He has won.
For we were mired in sin and death,
condemned before Your law.
But Jesus lifts us up with Him,
receive His gospel call.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

1517: An Emergent Woodstock?

1517: An Emergent Woodstock?

How sad! What is Christian about denying the work of Christ, his teaching on sexual ethics, and accepting people of all beliefs under the banner of Christianity?!

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 2:13-17

This hymn is built around the words of Jesus in Mark 2:17: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." While Jesus is the Physician of our souls, he is also the medicine! He is the antidote to every need of body and soul. He alone is the answer to sin, which is comparable to a disease infecting every part of our being.

Verses 2-4 deal with specific effects or symptoms of the disease of sin: blindness of soul, deafness to the Word of God, and inability to do God's will. Then the metaphor of sickness is replaced by the metaphor of poverty and nakedness, and here again, Jesus meets our need. Every spiritual blessing is found in him, and verses 1-4 confess our need and petition Christ who alone can help us.

The last verse points to the heavenly fellowship that cures us. Eating and drinking is a picture of fellowship. Just as Levi was called and then participated in a supper with Jesus in Jesus' own home (v. 15), so are all Christians called to Jesus to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and Savior in his heavenly home! In this fellowship and life in Christ we find strength as we take hold of him through faith. By faith we participate and share in Christ and our souls begin their healing in him.

Verse 2 might confuse a bit with the word Fear. The Old Testament sometimes uses the word fear as a name for God, and this is how it is being used in verse 2. To read the passage and sing the hymn, simply click on the links. Sing it to Him as your confession and prayer.

Physician of Our Souls

To the tune: YIGDAL. Based on Mark 2:13-17. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Physician of our souls,
we need Your gracious cure.
Our inner being sick with sin,
O please restore.
O med’cine of our hearts,
please heal us with Yourself.
Your Spirit join to You above,
O be our health.

v. 2
Our eyes are blind through sin,
our spirits needing sight.
But Jesus makes the blind to see,
O be our light.
Our ears are deaf through sin,
His voice we cannot hear.
But Jesus softens hardened hearts,
O be our Fear.

v. 3
We have no strength but You,
our risen Lord and Christ.
By might and pow’r You raise the dead,
O give us life.
Our souls are poor through sin,
there’s nothing we can give,
apart from You just sin and death,
O make us live.

v. 4
Our wretched nakedness
to You we would confess.
Our sin and shame is very great,
O be our dress.
Physician of our souls,
You meet our ev’ry need.
We find in You our all in all,
our remedy.

v. 5
You call us to Yourself
to eat and drink with You,
to fellowship with You above
in life anew.
O let us not forget,
that strength is not in us,
but all we need is found in You,
in You we trust.

Bach Cantata 9 (Part 2)

Aria (Duet) [Soprano, Alto]
Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Continuo

Herr, du siehst statt guter Werke
Lord, instead of good works you look at

Auf des Herzens Glaubensstärke,
the strength of faith in our hearts,

Nur den Glauben nimmst du an.
You only take account of faith.

Nur der Glaube macht gerecht,
only faith justifies us,

Alles andre scheint zu schlecht,
everything else appears too imperfect

Als dass es uns helfen kann.
to be able to help us.

Recitative [Bass]

Wenn wir die Sünd aus dem Gesetz erkennen,
When we recognize sin through the law

So schlägt es das Gewissen nieder;
then conscience strikes us down;

Doch ist das unser Trost zu nennen,
but this may also be called our consolation

Dass wir im Evangelio
for in the Gospel

Gleich wieder froh
we again become

Und freudig werden:
happy and joyful:

Dies stärket unsern Glauben wieder.
this strengthens our faith again.

Drauf hoffen wir der Zeit,
For this reason we hope for the time

Die Gottes Gütigkeit
that God's goodness

Uns zugesaget hat,
has promised us,

Doch aber auch aus weisem Rat
but has also with prudent counsel

Die Stunde uns verschwiegen.
kept hidden from us the hour.

Jedoch, wir lassen uns begnügen,
However, we are content to accept this

Er weiß es, wenn es nötig ist,
he knows well when it is necessary

Und brauchet keine List
and practices no deceit

An uns; wir dürfen auf ihn bauen
upon us; we may build on him

Und ihm allein vertrauen.
And in him alone place our trust.

Chorale [S, A, T, B]
Violino I e Flauto traverso in octava e Oboe d'amore col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo

Ob sichs anließ, als wollt er nicht,
Although it seems that he is unwilling,

Laß dich es nicht erschrecken:
do not be dismayed,

Denn wo er ist am besten mit,
for when he is most present with us,

Da will ers nicht entdecken.
then he does not want to reveal that fact.

Sein Wort lass dir gewisser sein,
Regard his word as certain for you,

Und ob dein Herz spräch lauter Nein,
and even if the flesh can only say no,

So lass doch dir nicht grauen.
you should not be appalled.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bach Cantata 9

Chorus [S, A, T, B]
Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Salvation has come to us

Von Gnad und lauter Güte.
from grace and sheer kindness.

Die Werk, die helfen nimmermehr,
Works never help,

Sie mögen nicht behüten.
they cannot protect us.

Der Glaub sieht Jesum Christum an,
Faith looks towards Jesus Christ

Der hat g'nug für uns all getan,
who has done enough for all of us.

Er ist der Mittler worden.
He has become our mediator.


Recitative [Bass]
Gott gab uns ein Gesetz, doch waren wir zu schwach,
God gave us a law, but we were too weak

Dass wir es hätten halten können,
to be able to keep it.

Wir gingen nur den Sünden nach,
we followed only sin,

Kein Mensch war fromm zu nennen;
nobody could be called devout.

Der Geist blieb an dem Fleische kleben
The spirit clung to the flesh

Und wagte nicht zu widerstreben.
And did not dare to strive against it.

Wir sollten in Gesetze gehn
We should have gone along with the law

Und dort als wie in einem Spiegel sehn,
and seen there as in a mirror

Wie unsere Natur unartig sei;
how bad our nature is.

Und dennoch blieben wir dabei.
And yet we remained in this condition

Aus eigner Kraft wo niemand fähig,
by his own strength no one was able

Der Sünden Unart zu verlassen,
to abandon the badness of sin,

Er möcht auch alle Kraft zusammenfassen.
even if he tried with all his strength to do so.


Aria [Tenor]
Violino solo, Continuo

Wir waren schon zu tief gesunken,
We were sunk too deep,

Der Abgrund schluckt uns völlig ein,
the abyss had swallowed us completely,

Die Tiefe drohte schon den Tod,
the deep already threatened us with death

Und dennoch konnt in solcher Not
and yet in such distress

Uns keine Hand behilflich sein.
no one could give us a helping hand.

Recitative [Bass]

Doch musste das Gesetz erfüllet werden;
But the law had to be fulfilled;

Deswegen kam das Heil der Erden,
for this reason salvation came to the earth,

Des Höchsten Sohn, der hat es selbst erfüllt
the son of God most high himself fulfilled the law

Und seines Vaters Zorn gestillt.
And pacified his father's anger.

Durch sein unschuldig Sterben
Through his innocent death

Ließ er uns Hilf erwerben.
He enabled us to acquire help.

Wer nun demselben traut,
Those who trust in him,

Wer auf sein Leiden baut,
those who build on his suffering,

Der gehet nicht verloren.
Will not be lost.

Der Himmel ist für den erkoren,
Heaven is destined for those

Der wahren Glauben mit sich bringt
who bring true faith with them

Und fest um Jesu Arme schlingt.
And clasp Jesus firmly in their arms.

A Call for Faithfulness: the Responsibilities of Ministers and Elders in the Church's Worship

Allen P. Ross makes a comment that I have thought was true for quite some time now.  Ross writes, in his wonderful book that looks at worship from Genesis to Revelation:
"The serious problems that have developed in worship are largely due to the failure of the leaders or to the leaders' turning worship leadership over to those who may play an instrument but are not qualified to do all that is required."
The tendency of ministers, today, even solidly Reformed ministers, is to let those who are musical plan the liturgy and pick the psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs we sing.  In so doing, a fundamental error is made, namely, the failure to see that all of the liturgy involves the ministry of the Word, and therefore, only the minister/elder is qualified (or should be qualified) and given the authority to make faithful decisions about the service of the Word.

Ministers and elders are failing to see the connection between theology and worship planning.  Most sound ministers would agree that Scripture is authoritative for faith and practice, yet they seem to forget that worship is the most important part of our practice in our life together as believers.  Worship must be guided by the theology we glean from God's Word.

The problem is particularly acute in Reformed churches that believe in the five points of Calvinism and the solas of the Reformation, but then worship in a Charismatic or Evangelical form that conveys very little Reformed theology and piety.  Sadly, many Reformed churches are training their young people to leave the Reformed faith for the Evangelical and Charismatic churches they are trying to imitate in worship.

It is time for the ministers and elders of our churches to realize their awesome responsibility before Jesus Christ for the worship the church brings to the Father through the Son in the very presence of the angels in heaven.  What we do on Sunday mornings is more awesome than the big game on Saturday and more important than the business meeting with an important client during the week, both of which require lots of preparation, for in our worship we "come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24). 

May the Lord give us wisdom and a reformation that begins, as all reformations begin, with a reformation of worship.  But if the Lord gives us this change, it will require more study than we currently give to liturgics, i.e., the history and theology of worship.  Many seminaries are not training their ministers in the area of worship.  We take six classes on systematic theology but none on worship!  We need, not only our pastors and elders to take worship more seriously, but also our best theologians, who also tend to punt on the issue of worship whenever the specter of music is near!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 2:1-12

The Psalms are the Bible's hymnal. The title of the Psalms in Hebrew means praises. The Psalms are a book of praises, but they are not what we might expect from a hymnal or book of praises! Often the psalms are full of difficulties, sorrows, struggles and questions. Only as we work through these difficulties are we led to the place of praise in the psalms as we ponder their meaning in a kind of sung meditation. In fact, the whole shape of the Psalter moves from trial and suffering to praise, beginning with a situation of mocking and persecution, but ending in a great crescendo of praise in 146-150.

I mention this because I believe the hymns we write should try to mirror the psalms in many ways. Hymns in the church should be sung meditations that move us to the place of praise as we meditate on the triune God and his works for us.

In this hymn, verses 1 and 2 are an interpretation of the healing that occurs in Mark 2:1-12. The four men who went to such work to get the paralytic to Jesus wanted healing, and at first all they got was a word of pardon! More than likely what the four men wanted, first and foremost, was physical healing, not forgiveness, for their friend. But whether they knew it, or we know it, forgiveness and eternal life are our deepest need. Yes, our bodies need to be healed, but first and foremost, we need forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ.

Verses 3-4 then tell the basic story of Mark 2:1-12 through the lens of the priority of forgivness and life in Christ over physical healing. We should learn that the pattern for the paralytic is the pattern for all of God's people. God has chosen, first, to give us forgiveness and spiritual resurrection before we are given physical resurrection and final healing at the last day. The last two lines of the hymn recognize this pattern: first, pardon, and then, the resurrection of the final day. The last verse also tell us how much it cost Jesus to give us forgiveness and life as he took our mortal nature and died in our place. May meditation on all of this bring us to the place of praise.

Deepest Need of Ev’ry Person

To the tune: LAUDA ANIMA Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. Based on Mark 2:1-12.

v. 1
Deepest need of ev’ry person:
knowing God and knowing Christ.
Those who are united to Him
have forgiveness and have life.
Seek forgiveness in the Savior,
find your life in Jesus Christ.

v. 2
Though our bodies frail and mortal:
healing not our greatest need.
Adam sinned against his Father,
His command he would not heed.
Jesus came as second Adam,
to the Father He will lead.

v. 3
Four men brought a paralytic
to the Lord in Galilee.
Wanted Jesus Christ to heal him,
exercise authority.
Jesus said, you are forgiven,
met the young man’s deepest need.

v. 4
Scribes were grumbling and complaining,
only God can sin forgive.
Jesus showed His pow’r to do it,
raised him up and healed his limbs.
Praise the Lord who gives forgiveness,
all in Him will truly live.

v. 5
Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,
worthy of our highest praise.
Took our nature weak and mortal,
died our death and then was raised.
Jesus gives us peace and pardon,
raises us to endless days.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm reading a book by Allen P. Ross and I found these two pages illuminating.

Tithing and Sacrificial Giving

In addition to the sacrificial offerings that were to be made, worshippers also were to bring their required tithes and freewill offerings to the sanctuary. On the surface tithing sounds like a very simple calculation---10 percent. But the laws for Israel’s stewardship were more complex.

The regular tithes and offerings were legislated in Leviticus 27:30-31; Numbers 18:8-13, 19-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-23; 26:12-15; and Nehemiah 10:35-39. The people could not pledge their tithes (Lev. 27), for that would make it look like a freewill offering---they could not pledge what already belonged to God.

At the outset an offering was given to the priests, either 10 percent or 2 percent. Then the standard tithe (10 percent) was paid to the Levites, covering all forms of income. But there was also a second tithe, a budgeted 10 percent to be spent in Jerusalem at the three annual festivals. Then, in the third and the sixth years of the seven year cycle, a third tithe, properly known as the poor tax, was due. Thus, a faithful Israelite family could pay anywhere between 22 percent and 30 percent in a given year. Poor people would bring tithes as well, but they would have had to glean in the fields of willing rich people to have something to give to the Lord.

Above and beyond the yearly tithes, there were other financial obligations under the law. Fields were not to be planted in the seventh year, which meant that over a seven-year cycle people would relinquish up to one-seventh of their income. The same was true of the Year of Jubilee; accordingly, every forty-ninth year there would be little or no income, so people had to prepare for the loss of that amount too. But in the Jubilee all debts had to be canceled, possessions returned, and lands restored. Someone who had accumulated a good deal of wealth over a forty-year period might find Jubilee costly if the laws were obeyed.

To all this we must add the animal sacrifices. Three times a year the Israelites were to go to the sanctuary, and each time they were to bring a few animals and some foods per family. If they had major sins to deal with as well, the reparation offering would be a factor in what it cost to live under the law; it required a guilty person to restore what was defrauded and pay an additional 20 percent to the sanctuary.

Farmers were to leave the corners of their fields for the poor. How much of the field made up the “corners” depended on the generosity of the farmer. If they obeyed the laws, then the poor would have food and something to bring to the Lord.

Charitable gifts were also expected from the devout. The spirit of the law was to love the neighbor, take care of the widow and the orphan, and help the poor and the foreigner. These had no monetary values placed on them, but certainly would have cost something (e.g., the Good Samaritan). There was also the ruling that a rich and responsible relative would pay off the debts of his near kinsmen in order to keep the land in the tribe. This was not always charity; it could be a good investment. But no devout wealthy person could allow his relative to be sold into servitude.

Finally, people also made vows and freewill offerings, promising to give something to the Lord that was above what was required. Hannah’s generous offering was the fulfillment of vows she made and the expression of her deep faith and gratitude. Moreover, even when worshippers wanted to praise the Lord, they would bring a peace offering, called the sacrifice for praise. If they simply wanted to declare their love for the Lord, then they would bring the same for a freewill offering. One simply did not think of going before the Lord empty-handed. The spirit of true worship is gratitude, and generosity is the evidence of gratitude.

All of this adds up to a sizeable financial responsibility for those under the law who professed to be righteous worshippers. But it was all necessary because the laws were part of a full socio-economic system, not just the support of a religious organization---although that would be no small task since the Levites who were to be supported were one-twelfth of the nation. This is why it is not easy to transfer the rules of tithes and offerings over to the church---a simple 10 percent is a small part of what the Israelites paid. If people try to live under the law today, they cannot ignore all of these covenant obligations.

Even though Christians are not under Israel’s law as their binding constitution, their obligations are not less than Israel’s. To go back under the regulations of the law, even if possible, would be to go back under a whole system of life that is no longer in place. Yet what the law revealed about the will of God is still binding for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), that is, the spirit of the law remains; so giving, and giving generously, to the Lord and to the needy is part of spiritual devotion and worship. But the New Testament has a higher standard. Because we live in the fulfillment of the promises and have been sanctified before God forever by the one complete and sufficient sacrifice, all our time belongs to God, all our talents are for his use, and all material possessions are his. We are to live a life of total dedication to the Lord, being willing to give everything to him, willing to use everything for his glory. The point is that devout worshippers acknowledge through their giving that they owe everything to God, even though God in his goodness allows them to retain most of it for their use.* Those who refuse to give anything, or who give what is left over and unusable to God (Mal. 1:6-14), are not worshipping in spirit and truth.

* This is the point of the message in Deuteronomy 8. God warned the people that when they settled in the land and became wealthy and comfortable they were never to forget that God gave them everything they possessed. If they did not give him the credit, he would take it all away.

--from Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory

Hymn Lyrics Based on Mark 1:16-39

This passage from Mark 1:16-39 is all about the authority of Jesus. Who is this who commands men to follow him, and immediately they leave their families and jobs to follow him wherever he leads? Who is this who teaches with such authority, not citing others, but speaking, ex cathedra, if you will? Who is this that commands the unseen world of angels and demons? Who is this who heals all sickness immediately and completely with no recovery time? This is the question the text forces us to consider.

The hymn begins with the authority exercised by the Lord in creation. Psalm 33 says that the Lord "spoke and it came to be." Verses 1-3 together show that Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament who has come to us. The word rending in verse 3 is an allusion to Mark 1:10, where the heavens were said to be torn open at Jesus' baptism. Mark 1:10, in turn, is an allusion to Isaiah 64:1, the fulfillment of the words: "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down." The good news of the gospel is that God has done just that, and heaven is now accessible to us if we come to the Son the Father sent for our salvation.

The last verse points to the priority of preaching and teaching in Jesus' ministry. It appears that the disciples, who are significantly at this point called "Simon and those who were with him," were the first charismatics! They wanted Jesus to stay and set up shop in Capernaum to continue his healing ministry. But Jesus' miracles were secondary to his preaching, which is why he came. Jesus' miracles authenticated his identity and pointed to the arrival of the kingdom. But the King must be heard and obeyed. No one can enter his kingdom apart from the proper response to his preaching, and that right response is repentance and faith on a continuing basis.

Click on the tune name to sing the hymn and the text to read the passage.

The Lord Commanded and It Came to Be

To the tune: ELLERS. Based on Mark 1:16-39. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
The Lord commanded and it came to be,
making the world by His authority.
He speaks the word and all things must obey,
great things and small things own His mighty sway.

v. 2
Jesus the Lord did come to Galilee,
showing the people His authority.
Calling disciples by His mighty word,
casting out demons, sickness Jesus cured.

v. 3
Who is this man who all things must obey,
His will done promptly, never a delay?
This is the Lord who came to be with us,
rending the heavens, coming near to us.

v. 4
Preaching the purpose of His ministry,
healings the signs of His authority.
Who are the wise who listen to His Word,
hearing, obeying, He who is the Lord?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What is Implied in Being Caught in the Gospel Net?

I thought this was an amazing paragraph from David Garland's commentary on Mark's Gospel. Speaking of the call of the disciples to become fishers of men, Garland writes:

"Jesus does not call them to be shepherds, gathering in the lost sheep of the house of Israel, or to be laborers, bringing in the sheaves, but to be fishers. Old Testament prophets used this metaphor for gathering people for judgment (Jer. 16:14-16; Ezek. 29:4; 47:10; Amos 4:2; Hab. 1:14-17), and one should not assume that Jesus uses fishing as a benign reference to mission. When the fisherman hooks a fish, it has fatal consequences for the fish; life cannot go on as before. This image fits the transforming power of God's rule that brings judgment and death to the old, yet promises a new creation (see Rom. 6:1-11). The disciples are called to be agents who will bring a compelling message to others that will change their lives beyond recognition."

A Light View of Sin

One of the problems plaguing the church and society in general is a low view of sin.  Ask most people to define sin, and even if they don't use that word, they will usually define it as harm done against another person.  But, sin, according to the Bible is directed, first and foremost, against God.

Part of the reason sin is so heinous is who it is committed against.  If I took a knife and cut apart a worm, you might think that is not a good thing.  But you probably wouldn't lose any sleep over it.  If I took a knife and cut apart a cat, you would be rightly appalled.  But if I took a knife and cut apart a two year old boy or girl, you would send me to prison for the rest of my life, and some would argue for the death penalty for such depraved indifference.  The sin increases the closer we get to the image of God.  But our sin is directed not against any of his creatures, primarily, but against the Creator himself!  How awful and heinous sin really is!  None of us can truly comprehend its enormity, for it is committed against the infinite, glorious Lord of heaven and earth.

The superficial attitude we have toward sin has been satirized by a rewriting of one of the prayers of confession in the Book of Common Prayer:

"Benevolent and easy-going Father: we have occasionally been guilty of errors of judgment.  We have lived under the deprivations of heredity and disadvantages of environment.  We have sometimes failed to act in accordance with common sense.  We have done the best we could in the circumstances; and have been careful not to ignore the common standards of decency; and we are glad to think we are fairly normal.  Do thou, O Lord, deal lightly with our infrequent lapses.  Be thy own sweet Self with those who admit they are not perfect; According to the unlimited tolerances which we have a right to expect from thee.  And grant us as indulgent Parent that we may hereafter continue to live a harmless and happy life and keep our self-respect."

In comparison to this satirical and shallow prayer, consider three general confessions of sins that the church has used over the years.  The first is from the Book of Common Prayer, the second is from Bucer's Strassburg liturgy, and the third is from the Lutheran Hymnall of 1941:
"Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, angainst thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.  

We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous to us, the burden of them is intolerable.  Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life to the honor and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
From the Strassburg liturgy: 
"Almighty, eternal God and Father, we confess and acknowledge unto thee that we were conceived in unrighteousness and are full of sin and transgression in all our life.  We do not fully believe thy Word nor follow thy holy commandments.  Remember thy goodness, we beseech thee, and for thy Name's sake be gracious unto us, and forgive us our iniquity which, alas, is great.  Amen."
From the Lutheran Hymnal of 1941:
"Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word and deed.  Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for Mark 1:12-15

I wrote this hymn this morning, and it's the first one I've written in a while that I'm really pleased with. It said just want I wanted to say:
  • v. 1 is a description of Jesus' royal arrival in Mark:1:14-15: Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." The King has arrived fresh off of his victory over the devil in the desert: "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan."
  • v. 2 speaks of the royal authority that Jesus has now as the resurrected King. The last two lines allude to Psalm 2:6 where the Father sets Jesus as King over all things. Although the world condemned Jesus, God raised him and gave him authority over the very world that had rejected him!
  • v. 3 says, if the Father has raised the Son and made him Lord over all the nations, then there is but one right response: acknowledge his absolute authority. In ancient times, the news of a king's coronation meant you better get on the king's side for his enemies will be in trouble. The gospel is the announcement that Jesus is king, therefore we need to humbly come to him, acknowedging his absolute authority.
  • v. 4 assures us that this royal King who is over all will graciously accept us if we come to him with contrite and broken hearts.
  • v. 5 is probably the most important verse in the hymn. It explains that Jesus reigns now in the midst of his enemies. Though he is King with all authority and power over all the nations and every individual, people continue to resist his divine authority and power. Apart from faith, we cannot see the true situation that Jesus is King, and despite all the resistance to his reign, the fact is Jesus still rules. He lets the nations resist him, but even in their rebellion his will is done, and there will be a day of judgment and accountability. Also, the gospel message is urgent for each of us. Death looms for each of us. Decisions must be made. The gospel comes as a royal command, not a weak invitation. Repent and believe is the command of the King, coming to us with authority. How defiant we are if we reject this all-powerful King and his message! How foolish we are if we reject his message, for heaven and hell hang in the balance!
Click on the tune name to sing the hymn.

Jesus Christ the King of Glory

To the tune: O DU LIEBE. Based on Mark 1:12-15. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Jesus Christ the King of glory
has arrived within our midst:
In the desert, war and fighting,
would the devil Christ resist?
Tempting Him to leave His Father---
disobey His Father’s will.
Jesus trusted, loved the Father,
Scripture’s Word He would fulfill.

v. 2
Jesus Christ is resurrected
on the third day He did rise.
Vict’ry over ev’ry power,
lifted up as King on high.
Now He reigns as King in glory,
no one can resist His will.
God has set His King in Zion,
on His holy, heav’nly hill.

v. 3
Now our King sends forth the message,
news of royal victory.
Flee this wicked generation,
own His ris’n authority.
He is Lord of ev’ry nation,
high above all earthly realms.
He is King in glor-ious power,
sin and death has overwhelmed.

v. 4
Praise the risen King of glory,
who ascended to the throne.
Trust, believe the royal message,
bow before the King alone.
Though He reigns in pow’r and glory,
He is kind to penitents,
who for sin are truly sorry,
who for guilt make no defense.

v. 5
Faith alone perceives the glory
of our Christ upon His throne.
Worldly people still resist Him,
Jesus as their King won’t own.
But the gospel message urgent,
comes a royal sent decree:
God the Father raised the Savior,
gave Him all authority.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Singing through the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 3

Lord's Day 3

Q & A 6
Q. Did God create people
so wicked and perverse?

A. No.
God created them good and in his own image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that they might
truly know God their creator,
love him with all their heart,
and live with him in eternal happiness
for his praise and glory.

Q & A 7
Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature
come from?

A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise.
This fall has so poisoned our nature
that we are born sinners—
corrupt from conception on.

Q & A 8
Q. But are we so corrupt
that we are totally unable to do any good
and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again,
by the Spirit of God.


Fallen human beings are a strange mixture: gloriously created in God’s image, yet exchanging God’s glory to worship created things to our shame. This mixture of glory and shame is now stamped upon us as human beings. The marred imprint of God’s image remains even though we lost true righteousness and holiness. Apart from a birth from above, we no longer know God, love him with all our heart, or live in fellowship with him in eternal happiness.

As fallen sinners we also no longer understand (unless the Word and Spirit illumine our hearts) that true, eternal happiness is not possible apart from a Godward life lived for his glory. We were created to live with God, through God, and for God. “Man lives . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Mat. 4:4) Jesus teaches us. Words are the medium of communication between God and man, and if we want a relationship with the triune God, then it will only come through the acceptance of God’s Word that comes to us as law and gospel.

The law --- what God requires of us --- is very much tied to creation. It is because God is our Creator that we owe him our lives. Just as an artist has the right to do what he wants with his art, so our Creator has the right to require his creatures live for his praise and glory. Creation implies purpose, and Q&A 6 tells us the purpose of our lives. God created us “so that” we might know him, love him, and live with him for his praise and glory.

Yet we have fallen far short of God’s glory, not seeking his splendor and glory, but our own. This is true of every human being because Adam’s sin poisoned our nature. Our worst sins are not the sins we commit, but the original sin within us from which our actions flow. This corruption within is an anti-God tendency, which causes us to flee from God, even as Adam and Eve fled from his presence after their sin. Our inward lack of a Godward life, characterized by self-will and autonomy, rather than a will submissive to God and dependence on him, is the reason for our outward sins. The only way back to God is to hear and believe the gospel of his Son. Through that gospel, we can return to our Father.


O Lord, Creator of All Things

To the tune: KINGSFOLD We Sing the Mighty Power of God. Based on Lord’s Day 3 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 10). Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
O Lord, Creator of all things,
we praise You, You are good.
You made us in Your image true,
in holiness we stood.
To know our God was our delight,
to love You with our all,
to glorify and live with You,
delightful was our call.

v. 2
But we rebelled against Your will,
in Adam all did fall.
Our nature poisoned to the core,
we’re sinful one and all.
Conceived in sin our wills are turned
away from You our good.
We love our glory more than Yours,
deceived by lies, falsehood.

v. 3
In mercy send Your Spirit, Lord,
and turn our hearts to You,
and bring repentance for our sins,
we need divine rescue.
A broken heart You won’t despise,
a contrite heart please give.
We look believing to Your Son.
Behold His cross and live!

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Singing Through the Heidelberg: Lord's Day 2

Lord's Day 2

Q & A 3
Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

Q & A 4
Q. What does God's law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22—
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.

Q & A 5
Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No.
I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbor.


The Heidelberg is going to explain the Christian faith much like the apostle Paul in the book of Romans. Just as the first three chapters of Romans tell us about our sin and the condemnation it brings, so the Heidelberg’s next three Lord’s Days will tell us about our sin and the misery it brings.

In order to understand the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism, it’s important to understand the contrast between the law and the gospel. This contrast is seen in the catechism by comparing Q&A 3 and Q&A 19:

Q. 3 How do you come to know your misery?
A. The law of God tells me.

Q. 19 How do you come to know this [blessings in Christ]?
A. The holy gospel tells me.

We learn about our sin and misery through God’s holy law. We learn about Christ and his benefits through the gospel. These two words of Scripture must be carefully distinguished.

The Heidelberg Catechism is a Reformation document. The Reformation believed that both the law and the gospel were to be proclaimed each time the Word was preached. For example, Philip Melanchthon, the great Lutheran reformer wrote that “it is impossible to teach correctly or fruitfully either gospel without law or law without gospel.” The church order of the Palatinate, where the Heidelberg Catechism was commissioned and written, stated that every sermon should be organized in a guilt, grace, gratitude pattern or law, gospel, thankfulness pattern.

Consider and learn this vital contrast between the law and the gospel as we place it side by side:

1. The law shows us our sin.
1. The gospel shows us our Savior.

2. The law accuses us of sin.
2. The gospel brings forgiveness of sin.

3. The law demands perfect righteousness
3. The gospel gives us the perfect righteousness of Christ.

4. The law threatens us with condemnation.
4. The gospel frees us from condemnation.

5. The law says, “Do this, and you will live."
5. The gospel says, “Believe this, and you will live.”

Law and gospel is basic to understanding the Bible’s message. God speaks two words throughout both the Old and New Testaments. These two words of law and gospel must be carefully distinguished in order to understand God’s message to the fallen human race.


How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM Breath on Me, Breath of God (). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 3-5 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A’s 14, 42, 18-19). Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His heav'nly hill.

Summer Project

Over the Summer months I plan on putting on this blog a book of devotions and hymns I've written on the Heidelberg Catechism.  As I've begun treatments for cancer, I've realized I am not going to have the strength and clarity of mind to produce much in the way of new material.  James teaches that those who are sick should pray, and that is going to be my focus this Summer.  But for the sake of the few who look at this blog regularly, these devotions and hymns may be edifying, at least, that is my hope.  --Bill



In 2005 Christian Smith published his massive survey of the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. He found that churches, even Reformed and Evangelical churches, were producing teenagers, whose spirituality could best be described as moralistic, therapeutic deism. Ten years earlier, Marva Dawn wrote a book on worship called, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship. Early in her book she wrote, “Christian worship at the turn of the century is being affected adversely by aspects of our culture that ‘dumb down” everything.

I wonder if these two trends are related? The early church had a maxim: Lex orandi, lex credendi, meaning that the rule of prayer or worship is the rule of belief and of action. Most Christians do not learn about the Christian faith from a book of systematic theology, but from the regular worship of the church. But if we are dumbing down our worship services by singing insipid choruses with little content, listening to sound bite sermons, reducing Bible reading and prayer while continuing the infrequent use of the sacraments, is it any wonder that we are producing the religion of the natural man in our churches, the aforementioned moralistic, therapeutic deism?

We live in an age that intensely dislikes doctrine. But doctrine, which is simply Christian teaching, is the fuel of our worship and our love for our triune God. Without true doctrine, we cannot expect to know the Father nor the Son, nor can we expect true Christian experience and Christian practice. Our anti-doctrinal bias is killing true Christian faith and practice, and we must fight this bias. For apart from the renewal of our minds by sound Scriptural doctrine, our affections, wills and practice will suffer, and we will not bear fruit for the Father’s glory (see Romans 12:1-2).

I’ve written this small devotional book with these concerns in mind. All of us need a catechetical faith---a basic knowledge of Christian doctrine. This is what the Heidelberg Catechism gives us, namely, a faithful summary of the Bible’s teaching. By learning the catechism, meditating on its meaning, and singing its biblical truth into our hearts, my goal is to help begin to change the current situation. Instead of churches producing moralistic, therapeutic deists, may we begin to produce, by the grace and Spirit of God, faithful Christians who know the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, because they know the apostolic faith that Jesus passed on to his apostles and preserved for us in the writings of the New Testament.

In terms of its use, I hope that this little book will find a myriad of uses:

1. I hope that individuals will use it in their daily devotions either for 52 consecutive days or for 52 weeks on the Lord’s Day afternoons.

2. I hope that families will use it either for daily devotions or once a week for a year.

3. I hope that individuals and families will regularly sing the songs, which attempt to echo the truths of each Lord’s Day, as a way of learning sound Christian doctrine.

4. I hope that churches will use the hymns as a way of changing the current situation, teaching our people Christian truths. Singing through these hymns in a year’s time week by week would be a way of teaching Christians the content of our faith as it centers on the person and work of Christ.

5. I hope that pastors would occasionally use these catechetical songs to reinforce the doctrine taught in their sermons. Good sermons should teach catechetical doctrine to people week by week, so it is hard to believe that some of these hymns would not teach the same truth in song that the sermon tries to communicate in the preached word.

One note on the format is that Lord’s Days 36 and 37 have been combined and Lord’s Day 52 has been divided into two parts.

Psalm 127:1 teaches us that we can only succeed by his blessing:

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”

With that truth in mind, may the Father graciously use this book for the building up of his Son’s people through the working of the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo gloria.

Bill Weber,
Easter, 2011.

Lord's Day 1

Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Q & A 2
Q. What must you know
to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.


Lord’s Day 1 serves as the introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism. Q&A 1 is a beautiful summary of the Christian faith, and is worth memorizing. Q&A 2 gives the basic structure of the catechism with its three parts: guilt, grace, and gratitude, but more importantly, the key to living and dying in the joy and blessing found in Christ Jesus.

Lord’s Day 1 teaches us that only Jesus Christ and his saving work on our behalf can give us true comfort, for the condition of the human race is critical. Sin has brought death to the human race, and only Jesus’ death and resurrection can bring forgiveness and life.

The wisdom of the world says, “Live for yourself. Seek your own honor and glory.” But the heavenly wisdom of the Bible is just the opposite. In Christ we are freed from ourselves, so that we might glory in our triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. Augustine, in his great work, The City of God, compared the two loves that can motivate the human heart:

“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory, and the lifter of my head.’”

Where will this new heart come from to live for the Lord and his glory? Q&A 1 answers, Look to Christ in whom is forgiveness and life. Through him, his Father is now our Father. Through Him, the Spirit indwells our hearts, so that we make it our goal to live for Christ and not ourselves.


Only One Comfort

To the Tune: EVENTIDE Abide with Me. Based on Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
There’s just one comfort in life and in death,
that I belong to Jesus, not myself.
The Lord completely paid for all my sins,
freed me from slav’ry, blesses me in Him.

v. 2
The Lord cares for me in a tender way,
watches my life and leads me all my days.
My Father works out all things for my good,
bless’d in His Son and filled with gratitude.

v. 3
O Jesus, Lord, my Savior and my Song,
how bless’d in You I am to now belong.
You send Your Spirit, plant Your life in me,
and in Your Word may I Your glory see.

v. 4
There are three things believers need to know:
How great my sin is, misery also.
How I am set free from iniquity.
How I should thank God who has set me free.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hymn Lyrics for John 13:1-17

The Hour Had Come for Christ’s Return

To the tune: MENDON. Based on John 13:1-17. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
The hour had come for Christ’s return,
to join the Father up above.
The time had come to show His own,
the full extent of His great love.

v. 2
The Father gave all things to Christ,
all things were put into His hands.
So He arose and with His hands,
took up the tow’l to wash each man.

v. 3
The Lord had from His glory came,
His glory in our flesh was veiled.
But in that flesh He came to serve,
and take our sins and shame away.

v. 4
The Lord began to wash their feet,
but Peter said No, my Lord, not me.
If I don’t wash you, you won’t share,
You will not have a part in me.

v. 5
Then, Lord, not just my feet do wash,
but wash my hands and head as well.
You are all clean except for one,
the one betraying who has fell.

v. 6
Do you know what I’ve done for you?
Your Lord and Master washed your feet.
As an example do likewise,
you will be blessed in following me.

v. 7
O love of God beyond degree,
when Jesus came and died for me.
He shed His blood upon the tree,
and washed our sins and made us clean.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Share This