Monday, January 06, 2014

Do We Think About What We Sing?

What is the reason we sing congregationally in the meeting of the church? I submit to you that first and foremost, it is to give praise, honor, and glory to God.

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!” (Psalm 150:1, ESV)

In many other places in scripture we read of exhortations to praise the Lord in song corporately.  A second reason to sing in a corporate environment is to exhort and build up one another.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16, ESV)

I honestly cannot think of another reason to sing corporately. If I have missed a reason, please let me know in a comment to this post. Now, given that music in the church is to either glorify God, or to exhort one another, does it not make sense that we should critically evaluate the songs that are sung during the meeting of the church?

I have evaluated songs before in this blog. One brother encouraged me that if I needed clarification on a particular song, why not write the author and ask him what he meant rather than airing my concern in a public blog? But should I really need to do that? If a song is not obvious in its meaning is it a good candidate for corporate worship? What if I needed clarification from Isaac Watts on his music? He’s dead. So I can’t ask him. Oh yeah, the subject of his music is pretty obvious. It is simply Christ and Him crucified. I mean no disrespect for modern day artists. I mean, they have to make a living somehow. A steady stream of church pop music puts food on their tables in a way that public domain hymns cannot.  Regardless of our concern for the need of worship leaders to feed their families, I do believe that it is beneficial that if a song is proposed for corporate singing (especially in the church I attend) that as a congregation we consider carefully what words will leave our lips as we worship the Lord together.

So after having given my reasoning for evaluating musical lyrics, let’s move on to this blog post’s spotlight. Today’s critique is Daniel Bashta’s “Like a Lion.” Now, I’ve been told that this is a very popular Christian radio song. That’s news to me because I’ve never heard it. But then again, it’s tough to hear it when I never listen to the radio. Some who have heard it tell me that seems strange to sing it as a corporate worship song. In any case, I have it on good authority that it is in the docket for corporate worship in a sanctuary near you.

I’m not sure what a “Misc” is in music terms, but this song has 4 of them. Those are separate from the Verses (there are two), and the choruses (there’s actually only one).

The entire “Misc 1” is  “Now I’m lost in Your freedom Oh this world I’ll overcome.”  I assume this is the first thing that is sung because it appears at the top of the lyrics. Yet the word “Now” indicates some sort of causative action. It’s similar to “Therefore” or “Because of (what was stated previously).” So already I’m confused, “Now” what? Nothing has prefaced it. Next, what does it mean to be “lost in Your freedom?” Being raised up in church I can see the capital “Y” in Your and assume that this is referring to God. Would everyone know that? Maybe. Maybe not. In any case, what does it mean to be lost in God’s freedom? We aren’t told. “Oh this world I’ll overcome.” Hmmm, how will we overcome? I John 5:4-5 tells us:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, ESV)
Is this what this song is hinting at? If so, then it left some very important details regarding *how* we are to overcome the world. This isn’t something we are going to drum up within ourselves. And if the song is going to make the claim that we’ll…sorry “I’ll”…overcome, then shouldn’t we be given doctrine to back up the claim?

Next, we fall straight into the chorus. “My God’s not dead He’s surely alive And He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion.” Hmmm….why do you say He’s not dead, but alive? Is it because He rose from the dead, conquering death, hell, and the grave? Then tell us that! Rather we are left to assume that his god is not dead with the following reasoning, “He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion.” You know, that could just be heartburn. It might be good to have it checked out. Seriously though. On the inside of what? Of me? Scripture reference? And where does “roaring like a lion” come from? Without further context my mind wanders to this scripture:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

Yes, there are references to God as compared to a lion. But as we’ve seen above, a lion can also be representative of satan. To get a full sense of what is inferred here we need better scripture context, not simply “living on the inside roaring like a lion.” We don’t worship Aslan. We worship Jesus Christ.

“Verse 1”… “Let love explode and bring the dead to life A love so bold to see a revolution somehow” I’m really scratching my head on this one. Typing “love explode” into my Bible search in Logos pulls up no hits. Wasn’t there something from the 1960’s that involved a “love explosion.” Nah… And does “love” bring the dead to life or does Christ do that? And why, O why do we need to sing about “revolution?” In most cases, revolution is an act of rebellion against God ordained government. Consider the French revolution. This can hardly be called godly. Some have called the American War for Independence a “revolution.” Yet, I resist that label because of its anti-Christian aspects. I believe that a case can be made for the justification of America’s founding, but that is a subject for another blog article. But back to the issue at hand, what kind of revolution are we supposed to be singing about in a corporate worship song in the meeting of the saints? To say this is inappropriate is an understatement.

“Verse 2”…”Let hope arise and make the darkness hide My faith is dead I need a resurrection somehow” Hope in what? That’s a valid question because it hasn’t been stated in this song. I guess we can assume Christ, because, after all, this is being sung in corporate worship, right? But why do we assume? What if we assume wrong? Next there is a lament that his faith is dead and he needs a resurrection “somehow.” Well, we read in James 2:17 that:

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17, ESV)

So I assume that there is no fruit of good works in this man’s life, else his faith would not be dead. So, let’s assume for a minute that we are really singing a song written by a man who has a self professed dead faith. He says he needs a resurrection “somehow.” What can possibly resurrect his faith? Ohh, pick me! Pick me! I know! How about Christ? Christ is the answer to your “somehow” Daniel. Call out to Him! He can resurrect not only your dead faith, but your dead spirit. And if He has already done that to you, then why not share that good news with your music fans?

Falling into “Misc 2” we are simply told “He’s surely alive Oh He’s surely alive” Again, assumptions can be made as to who is alive, but since we’ve not heard the name of Christ, it remains an assumption.

“Misc 3” tells us “Let heaven roar and fire fall Come shake the ground with the sound of revival” What is it that Daniel is asking for here? When I hear of fire falling I think of God’s judgment.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” (Genesis 19:24–25, ESV)

Maybe Daniel is asking for a Charles Finney revivalism? If so, that’s not really what I’d want in our Reformed Baptist church either.

“Misc 4” trails off with five repetitions of “Oh He’s surely alive” never really telling who is alive except for “My God” as specified in Chorus 1. As the name of Christ is not named we are left once more to conjecture.

Brothers and sisters, we have so little time to spend in corporate worship over the course of our lifetimes. Will we spend these precious hours and minutes in singing ambiguous fluff that we hear on our pop music radio stations, or will we sing a solemn song of worship and praise to the Lord our God? If I’ve unfairly characterized this particular song, I’ll welcome your comments. But my guess is that most people who follow along glibly and sing this in corporate worship don’t stop even for a second to consider what they are singing. It has a good beat or a “chord progression” or it’s just fun to play on an electric guitar. But is that really the standard that we should apply in determining what we will offer as a sacrifice of praise to our one true and living God?

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