Walk Worthily

While reading Philippians recently, I was struck anew by Paul’s instruction that the church in Philippi “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

That word “worthy” – ἀξίως – shows up consistently in Paul’s letters:

Romans 16:2
“welcome [Phoebe] in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints”

Philippians 1:27
“let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”

Colossians 1:10
“walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”

1 Thessalonians 2:12
“we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God”

Ephesians 4:1
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”

To walk worthily of God is not an attempt to earn a status or to become worthy of him. It’s a response to all he’s given us in Christ.

It’s similar to people expecting their elected officials to act in a way commensurate with their status, or parents demanding higher standards from their children as the kids grow up. When someone receives a higher status, it usually comes with higher standards.

It’s a privilege to be a member of Christ’s body, and that status – received by grace through faith in Christ – brings standards of life that we aim to meet through our all-of-life worship (Romans 12:1-2). The privilege of calling God our Father calls forth a response, a way of walking that honors the one who bought us (cf. 3 John 6).

It’s an honor to bear Christ’s name, and Paul expects Christians to walk worthy of it, bearing the Spirit’s fruit and bringing glory to our Father.


Posted in Bible, Church, Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review: Psalm Songs by The Corner Room

The renewed interest in singing the Psalms has produced settings of all sorts. When I find a new Psalms project, I’m eager to find renditions that are either intended for congregational singing or are the kind I want to get stuck in my head and heart. The Corner Room, a Corner Roomministry out of Cahaba Park Church in Birmingham, Alabama, recently came out with an album of Psalms that fits beautifully into the latter category. This excellent album consists of ten Psalms word-for-word from the ESV.

I have listened through Psalm Songs: Volume I about a dozen times. As a result, I have the better part of 10 Psalms memorized – and my wife can say the same.

When I first started listening through the album, I kept telling my wife how refreshing it was to listen to an album that was so well produced, with such good musicianship, and with music that serves the text so well. Some of the tracks – especially Psalm 13 – sound like they may have been recorded by Nickel Creek (that’s a good thing), while others – especially Psalm 8 – bring Andrew Peterson to mind. Even with some of those similarities, a distinct Corner Room sound emerges. They move through different genres and do it very well.

For whatever reason, I don’t get excited about an album very often, but I love this album (even though the mailman made me dig up $1.30 to pay for the postage!). I’ve found myself wishing I could make one or two of them more congregationally friendly. But alas, I will content myself with giving Psalm Songs a hearty recommendation to anyone looking for good music that will edify you as you listen. Buy a digital or physical copy.

A few thoughts on specific tracks:
Psalm 121 – A great way to start an album. I love the mandolin, the banjo, and the group vocals.
Psalm 23 – Beautiful. A nice piano line and good percussion.
Psalm 13 – The instrumental work on this song is impressive all around. Really fun and intricate.
Psalm 30 – This is one of my favorite tracks. The change in the shaker from being on the beat in the verses to off the beat on the chorus is subtle, yet so effective.
Psalm 1 – The different vocalist, the focus on the piano, and the tempo make for a nice change in feel from the rest of the album.
Psalm 32 – This is the only track I don’t love. The feel of the song doesn’t seem to match the weight and tone of Psalm 32.
Psalm 127 – Beautiful vocals and song writing on this one. One of my favorites.

Posted in Bible, Music, Worship | Leave a comment

Thank God for Moms

My two daughters are very young, but God has already been very kind to them. There are a number of reasons I say that, like the health and happiness they enjoy, and the fact that they were born into a time and place where the Bible is in their language, and into a family and church where they’re going to hear it a lot.

But God has shown unique kindness to Willa and Everly by giving them their mother. To watch Anna care for these two little girls is to behold a display of Christlike service and sacrifice. Our girls have the privilege of learning from their mother, who aches for them to know Jesus and teaches them diligently to that end.

And they have the privilege of watching Anna live. Without knowing it, they are enrolled in a life-long masterclass on hard work, joy, organization, godliness, humility, womanhood, service, and how to love your family.

I couldn’t help but grow yet more grateful for Anna as I read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. In the book, Chesterton describes the “tyranny…of women,” whose role and authority is singularly formative for their children. By the time a child goes off to school, the formation has already happened: “the real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women.” He then says that if men ever march to protest against this tyranny, “I shall not join their procession.” Amen and amen.

At the Together for the Gospel conference in 2012, John Piper mentioned the significance of his mother. During a panel discussion on the inerrancy of Scripture, Mark Dever asked Piper why he believes the Bible to be true. Piper’s first response: “My momma told me it was true,” which was met with understanding nods and applause. Piper referenced 2 Timothy 3:14-15, which attests to the legitimacy of this kind of influence. It’s a great moment (you can watch it here).

A mother who teaches her children that the Bible is true – and that the Jesus it reveals is worth following at all costs – is a merciful tyrant, wielding her influence for the eternal good of those entrusted to her.

Thank God for moms, and thank God for the mom he gave to my girls. What a gift.

Posted in Bible, Life, Marriage | 2 Comments

A Good Friday Prayer

This is “Love Lustres at Calvary” from The Valley of Vision. A moving and fitting prayer for Holy Week.

My Father,
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
   supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
   made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
   and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
   and infinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
    cast off that I might be brought in,
    trodden down as an enemy
    that I might be welcomed as a friend,
    surrendered to hell’s worst
     that I might attain heaven’s best,
    stripped that I might be clothed,
    wounded that I might be healed,
    athirst that I might drink,
    tormented that I might be comforted,
    made a shame that I might inherit glory,
    entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
    groaned that I might have endless song,
    endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
    bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
    bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
    experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
    closed his eyes in death that i might gaze on unclouded brightness.
    expired that I might for ever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
   my every step buoyant with delight, as I see
    my enemies crushed,
    Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
    sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
    hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross,
   mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Posted in Books, Jesus, Quotes, Theology | Leave a comment

The Worship Leader’s Words

I like weddings. I mean, who doesn’t like a free meal? And yet I cringe at the same moment of every wedding reception: right when the best man and the maid of honor – then the father of the bride, the mother of the bride, the long-time friend of the bride, the former babysitter of the bride, and then the bride and groom – grab the microphone.

I get anxious because the chances are good that the speech is not. They talk too long, and the microphone gradually drops from their mouth to their waist before it’s halfway over. They cry and tell stories nobody remembers. The speech may end up moving us all to tears, but when it starts I can’t fight the feeling that it’s going to be bad.

The best speeches stick to the script, keep it short, and get on with the party.

I confess to feeling the same foreboding whenever a worship leader decides to talk extemporaneously during a worship service. There are some people who do this well. I’ve been deeply encouraged and edified by something a worship leader said; I’m not so cynical to think it can’t be done. But I do think it should be attempted less frequently. Or at least it should be attempted more carefully. Good worship leading is often like good fiction: more showing, less telling.

Expositional Worship Leading
At best, worship leaders talk because they want to shepherd people. That’s a good desire. And we in the conservative evangelical world have rightly placed high value on words in the task of shepherding. That’s why we value expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is wonderful. Expositional worship leading? Not so much.

Worship leaders can accomplish most of what they’re trying to do by choosing good songs and leading them well. If you do that, I dare say the need to interject significantly declines.

Bob Kauflin recently said in an excellent post written for worship leaders:
“Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach. When speaking, typically less is more. Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching.”

Sing Good Songs
If you’re a worship pastor or leader, don’t neglect the impact of good lyrics set to good melodies. Those are the words you can use to shepherd your people. And there’s a 100% chance lines like “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,” and “No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in Him is mine” will roll through the minds of your people more – and inspire greater faith – than anything we might say.

The songs don’t say everything that could be said, but it’s highly likely the low point of singing “It Is Well” or “In Christ Alone” would be my own interpolations.

So, yes, shepherd your people. Choose songs that allow for the diversity of expression the Bible models, songs that celebrate the gospel and give space for sorrow, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, prayer, and triumph. If you thoughtfully choose songs week-to-week, you will shepherd your people well, and you can let the preacher do the preaching. And don’t forget that you’ve got six other days in the week to teach and care for your people; it need not all happen between songs.

Have a Plan
There are good reasons to talk. Some liturgies depend on the worship leader to move the service along. Some worship pastors feel compelled to say something because it won’t be said otherwise (e.g., corporate confession of sin or an articulation of the gospel). If that’s the case, then by all means say something.

But before you say anything, plan it. Write it out, and be succinct. Stick to Scripture readings, corporate prayers, or things that coordinate elements of the service. Stay away from prayers that do nothing but paraphrase the first line or title of the next song. Avoid anecdotes or anything one of your songs or the preacher will say better.

So, worship leader, you don’t need to say much. You’ve got all sorts of words you can use to care for your people. Choose good songs. Trust the Spirit. Don’t think too highly of your own gifts. Check your motives. Love your people. And, if nothing else, stick to the script, keep it short, and get on with the party.

Posted in Church, Leadership, Ministry, Worship | Leave a comment

Album Round-Up

Now that No Grave Could Keep is done and released, I thought I’d provide a roundup of the whole thing.Album Cover

This was the first recording project for Kenwood Music, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. The guys at Resonate Recordings – Mark Owens and Jacob Bozarth – are very good at what they do. I learned a ton from them, and I’d recommend them to anyone.

One reason I love serving at Kenwood is the many talented and servant-hearted people there. A lot of those people contributed their gifts to this thing, whether it was their song-writing, their voice, or their instrument. You can find those names and what they contributed on the bottom of this page.

There are a number of places people can purchase and/or listen to the album:
Jim Hamilton created a YouTube channel with all the song videos.

Anyone interested in chord charts for the original songs on the album can find them here.

My hope is that these songs serve and encourage God’s people, and that they stir up affections for God in the churches that sing them. The canon of Christian song is not closed, and I hope these songs add to the already rich tradition of congregational music full of truth and beauty.

Posted in Music, Theology, Worship | Leave a comment

When They Die They Do Not Perish

“Now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed.”

-Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Posted in History, Jesus, Quotes, Theology | Leave a comment