Friday, May 15, 2009

Martin Luther's Warning

Before I choose a song for the congregation to sing on a Sunday, I make it a priority to read exactly what will be sung beforehand. The content of a song, the lyrics—that truth that is contained within the boundaries of melody—is the most important aspect of the song itself.

Perhaps Martin Luther understood this better than anyone. During the Reformation, the most popular way doctrine spread was not through the intellectual discourses between the theological heavyweights, but through hymns! And specifically hymns in the language of the people.

Martin Luther recognized the power and effectiveness of these songs, and in fact, he went on to write many hymns to teach and edify the church, but he also knew the dangers that would threaten to enter the church through song. Which is why he wrote these words:

False masters now abound, who songs indite;
Beware of them, and learn to judge them right:
Where God builds up his Church and Word, hard by
Satan is found with murder and a lie.

False teachers don't always enter the church as Pastors or Sunday School teachers, but also as hymn/worship music writers, and music ministers. It is a sobering thought to be given the responsibility to discern what is right and wrong for a congregation to sing. To those who are in such a position I hope Luther's words of warning impact you in the way they have impacted me. My prayer for myself and for those in a similar position is that God would grant His grace that we may continually be able to "judge them right."

By the way, I love that picture of Luther because it reminds me of myself...sitting at the table with my instrument, a drink on the table, papers scattered, children playing in the room, dog on the floor...that table even looks like mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From Gadsby's Hymns - Jesus, Thou Art Our Only Rest

From time to time I'll post a hymn from my favorite hymnbook, Gadsby's Hymns. This is hymn #637 written by William Gadsby:

Jesus, thou art our only rest
From sin, and guilt, and fears;
We love to lean upon thy breast
And on thee cast our cares.

With anxious care and painful thought,
We toiled and toiled again;
True holiness was what we sought,
But this we sought in vain.

Stripped naked, and exposed to shame,
We loud for mercy cried;
The Lord gave faith to eye the Lamb,
And fasten in his side.

The works of nature, bad or good,
Availed nothing here;
Faith viewed the Saviour's precious blood,
And banished guilt and fear

Here's life, and light, and holiness,
And righteousness divine;
A boundless treasure, all of grace,
And faith says, All is mine

O what a rest is Christ to me!
How precious and how true!
From guilt and sin he sets me free,
And gives me glory too.

I have, I want to rest beside;
Here's all a God can give;
Here would I constantly abide,
And every moment live.