Leading…

“You’re not a failure if someone else drops the ball. You’re a failure if you never pass it to them.” -Ralph Diehl

Times like this convince me that my dad is a genius.

Matthew.

I just finished reading the Book of Matthew again, and I had two “Whoa” thoughts just now…

The first is in Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

That’s a huge statement. Then following verses relate to the fact that He has all authority:

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

I don’t know – it just struck me as totally awesome that Jesus basically said, “I have all authority in heaven and earth – and I’m giving YOU the authority to make disciples.” That was a “whoa cool” moment and I wanted to share it.

The second this is more of a question. Check this out. In Matthew 27 Jesus was cruicfied. Listen to what happened as He died (starting in verse 50, emphasis mine): “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. AT THAT MOMENT the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. THEY CAME OUT OF THE TOMBS, AND AFTER JESUS’ RESURRECTION THEY WENT INTO THE HOLY CITY AND APPEARED TO MANY PEOPLE.”

Okay so firstly I just want to point out that I think its interesting how Jesus’ resurrection had SO MUCH POWER that these holy dead people were also raised to life. That’s just cool. I also think its interesting that these people were resurrected with enough strength to push the stone away from their tomb while on the inside (either that or the stone was miraculously moved – which is totally reasonable but we don’t know for sure. I like to imagine them pushing that rock away themselves).

But where are their stories? Didn’t one of them do a 5 city book tour on their new book, “Coming Out of the Tomb” or something? Seriously – didn’t their stories get written down someplace? I’m talking about Extrabiblical resources. If anyone knows of anything please let me know, because I want to read it!

What would those stories be like? How long had they been dead? Did they experience a heavenly realm before being resurrected? Were they actually and literally present to watch Jesus remove Satan from authority over the gates of hell? I just don’t know.

Or perhaps the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the only thing the Early Church was even worried about. Perhaps those holy men who were resurrected weren’t concerned about recording their stories, but about being a witness for THE Resurrection that actually saved them.

Maybe those with a resurrected spirit (the Church) ought to do the same thing. Afterall, The One with all authority has given us the authority to do it.

The Ten Talents.

Okay so there’s the parable of the 10 Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. If you don’t know what I’m talking about … go read it.

I was taught this Bible Story when I was a little guy in Sunday School. I always believed this parable was about investing and utilizing whatever gifts God gave us for His purposes. If God blessed you with money, give. If God blessed you with musical ability, play and minister. If God blessed you with ability to fix cars, fix them for the needy. Etc. Etc.

Dude, that’s not at all what this story is about! I think my Sunday School teacher was a bit off…

The parable of the talents is SURROUNDED with teaching and parables about the END TIMES and the Judgment of God, starting in Chapter 24. This parable must be read within the context of eschatology (the study of the end times). We can’t overlook how this parable ends, speaking of the servant who did nothing, “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Whoa. Dude. Like, serious. Am I the only one who has missed the true meaning of this parable until now?

I’m quoting my NIV Study Bible because it says it best, “Being ready for Christ’s [second] coming involves more than playing it safe and doing little or nothing. It demands the kind of service that produces results.”

Christians, don’t just play it safe and do little. Only those who live whole-hearted for Christ are worthy to be called disciples (Luke 14:27). From what I can tell of the scriptures, everyone else will spend eternity in hell. “We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.”

Modern Music.

I’m inspired to write this blog post because I’m frankly quite tired of hearing people complain about musical styles in churches (contemporary vs. traditional). Some of you are TEACHERS, and when someone teaches something inaccurate you have a cow. I’m a church musician (among other things), and when mistaken people make inaccurate assumptions about music in the church – I’m gonna have a cow. So here’s my cow. 🙂

Myth: Adding Drums and guitars to a hymn will make it sound contemporary.

The truth is that the instrumentation and arrangement of the song has very little to do with the historical placement. The key is song structure. It’s been this way for centuries. The first written music used in the organized Christian church was chant. It sounds like chant not because it is a capella, but because of the song structure. The Classical era of music is most noted for its Sonata form. The Sonata form is a SONG STRUCTURE where there is an exposition, development, recapitulation, and then coda. I could go on and on with example after example but the bottom line is that musical styles have always been and are marked by a changed in musical structure. Adding guitars and drums to a Mozart Sonata will not make it sound contemporary – the structure would still make it sound classical (although they’d probably call it “neoclassical”).

In popular music today, the structure isn’t exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda. It’s more like Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus. Modern music today relies on a HOOK (which is in the chorus). It’s all about getting back to the chorus. Every good modern song written today has a hook in the chorus. Nearly all hymns were written in “Strophic” form; several verses sung to the same melody. Adding guitars and drums to a strophic song (hymn) won’t make it sound any less strophic, and therefore any less old.

Am I against hymns? Of course not. I’m just saying that hymns sound old because they’re HYMNS, not because there’s an organ in them.

A great example is the NEW song “In Christ Alone.” It was written in the past 10 years, but it sounds like an ancient hymn simply because it was composed with the strophic (old) song structure. What if we took things the other way? What if we took an ancient song and used a NEW song structure? In other words, give it a chorus.

Chris Tomlin = Genius.

Chris Tomlin understood what I’m saying when he gave hymns like Amazing Grace and The Wondrous Cross a facelift. He added a chorus to both of these and transformed them from strophic hymns to modern songs: “My Chains are Gone” and “The Wonderful Cross.” A first time church attender could listen to these songs and not realize the song is hundreds of years old. It sound modern because there is a modern song structure. If you were to play “Amazing Grace: My Chains are Gone” with only an organ, imo it wouldn’t sound as hip – BUT IT WOULD STILL SOUND MODERN.

Another thing that goes into this is time signatures. Triple time doesn’t get used much anymore, but hymns were almost always written in 3-4 (the really old ones HAD to have been written in triple meter because the Church sanctioned 3-4 meter to be the only time signature holy enough for church (three beats per measure = one beat per God head)). Today, 4-4 meter is most common. Time signatures aren’t nearly as big of a deal as the song structure though.

The implication . . .

In modern music, the chorus has the hook and the verses have the information. In the hymn’s strophic form there were only verses, and that means ONLY information. So if you put a modern song and a strophic hymn side by side, guess which one will have more theology? THE HYMN. That’s because the strophic hymns ONLY had theology – that was their purpose! Putting a modern song and a strophic hymn side by side isn’t really fair. The strophic hymn has ONLY information because that was the purpose of the song… teaching theology. Today, modern music in the church has a myriad of OTHER uses (teaching theology isn’t as necessary in music because today people know how to read.. . . but that’s not to say songs should be any less theologically sound!)

Let me give you an example of this. My church just started doing Houghton and Gungor’s song “Say So” which was nominated for the GMA’s best song of the year. It deserves that award, I think. The chorus contains the hook – “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” And we repeat it several times. That’s all there is to it. Is it a scripturally sound statement? Yes. Does it provide information? Not really – that’s the job of the verse: “What does it meant to be saved? Isn’t it more than just a prayer to pray? More than just a way to Heaven? What does it mean to be His? To be formed in his likelness, know that we have a purpose: TO BE SALT AND LIGHT IN THE WORLD!” This hook-less verse gives the information. And its doctrinally sound, however it isn’t teaching theology as much as its inspiring the church to rise up and tell the world they are redeemed! (Although that becomes abundantly clear in the second verse.

I hate it when people complain about hook-filled choruses of songs simply because they don’t contain as much information as a hymn. They are two completely different forms of music – and not comparable. Here are a few more examples of hook-filled worship songs that repeat several lines: Open the Eyes, Friend of God, We Want to See Jesus, I Love You Lord I Love You I Love You (I’m thinking of the David Crowder song), and I Could Sing of Your Love Forever. These songs are not any less spiritual than information-filled hymns. They’ve just taken on a modern STRUCTURE of music in order to fulfill a different felt need of the church.