The Joni Mitchell Interview

Joni Mitchell was part of my adolescence and young adult years. Her song Both Sides Now has remained one of my favorites through the years and her remake of it in 2003 for the movie Love Actually provided not only one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever seen in a film, but a complete revolution of that song into the lament of our later adult years. CBC Radio critic Jian, does an outstanding job of drawing out Joni’s remarkable insights as both a painter and a songwriter in this 2013 interview.


The Center of Worship – Robert Webber

Ancient Future Worship by Robert WebberSo if you want a definition of ancient-future worship, it is this: the common tradition of the church’s worship in Word, Table, and song, practiced faithfully and communicated clearly in every context of the world. What stands at the very center of worship is Word and sacrament, through which God’s vision for the world is proclaimed and enacted. What contextualizes this worship more than anything else is its music. Music is the vehicle that communicates worship in the language of the people. Music is also the vehicle of our personal response to the story of God’s work in history. We also proclaim God’s story in hymn and song, but nowhere in Scripture or in the history of the church have hymns and songs ever been held as a replacement for Word and Table. Word and Table remain the God-ordained way to remember God’s saving deeds in history and anticipate his final triumph over death and all that is evil. So if you want to do ancient-future worship, learn God’s story and do it in Word and Table and use hymns and songs for responses not only from the great treasury of the church through the centuries but also from music that is current.

Robert E. Webber. Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (p. 168). Kindle Edition.


ZECNT and Expositor’s Bible Commentaries – Ebook Discounts!

For those of you who love a good deal on great resources, Zondervan is offering huge discounts on ebooks in their ZECNT and Expositor’s Bible commentaries. I don’t know how long this will last, so grab them now.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Usually $40 – $60 in print)

Matthew by Grant Osborne ($9.99)
Luke by David Garland ($9.99)
Galatians by Thomas Schreiner ($7.99)
Ephesians by Clinton Arnold ($7.99)
James by Craig Blomberg ($4.99)

 Expositor’s Bible (Usually $40 – $60 in print)

Genesis-Leviticus: 1 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) – ($9.99)
Romans-Galatians: 11 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) – ($7.99)
Daniel-Malachi (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) – ($7.99)
Hebrews – Revelation: 13 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) – ($9.99)
Proverbs-Isaiah: 6 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) – ($9.99)

Let My Life be Filled, Packed and Crammed!

C.H. Spurgeon(Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883)

“When men have much to say in a letter, and perceive that they have little paper left, they write closely.”

Looking at the shortness of life, and the much that has to be written upon life’s tablets–it befits us also to do much in a short space, and so to write closely.

“No day without a line!” is a good motto for a Christian.

A thoroughly useful life is very short, for it is but a span–but how much may be crowded into it for God, our souls, the Church, our families, and our fellows!

We cannot afford wide blanks of idleness. We should not only live by the day, but by the 20 minutes, as Wesley did. He divided each hour into three parts.

So scanty is our life’s space, that we must condense and leave out superfluous matter–giving room only to that which is weighty and of the first importance.

Lord, whether I live long or not, I leave to your discretion. But help me to live while I live, that I may live profitably. You can give life more abundantly. Let me receive it, and let my life be filled, packed and crammed, with holy thoughts and words and deeds to Your glory!

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short!” 1 Corinthians 7:29

Always grateful to Grace Gems for their excellent contributions.

Oceans: Lyrics for the Persecuted Church

Note: This is a suggestion for personal worship only. Please consider and adhere to CCLI guidelines in relation to public worship services.
Use these lyrics in place of the bridge in the song Oceans. Turn that personal statement of faith into intercession for the persecuted church.

“Open wide the gates of glory for the dying
For the saints who have been faithful
in the dark days of their trial.

Show your mercy to the hungry and the frightened
Scatter all those who love violence
Show the nations you are mighty”

- Sung in place of the bridge in the song “Oceans.”

Lyric changes used for blog purposes only, with permission from Hillsong Music Publishing.
For official lyrics please go to


Songs in the Face of Martyrdom


As I was preparing to lead worship last week, I asked a question on Facebook:

“What songs does the church sing tomorrow in the face of martyrdom? Answer the question, don’t pontificate.”

I was actually quite surprised at the number of responses and by the content of some of them.  For me, the question was quite serious. Faced with the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, including the beheading of children, how does the church sing? And, if we do, what do we sing?

Looking over the suggestions made by many friends, it was clear to me that the church in America doesn’t have a very deep bench when it comes to persecution and martyrdom. Musician Bob Bennett  made the suggestion of Martyr Song by Erick Nelson that appears on the classic album by Erick and Michelle Pillar called “The Misfit.”   It’s a powerful song of hope that actually sings about the martyrs of the early church but could apply to today as well.  Still, there aren’t many like that.  P.J Hudson nailed it when he made this comment:

“Songs are a reflection of culture. America does not have any songs appropriate for martyrdom because America does not have martyrdom taking place within its own borders. The answer to this question can be found with God’s psalmists who are hiding from their predators in the middle east and north Africa.”

What songs do those psalmists sing? What words do they use? How do they approach their dangerous surroundings or approaching death? I plan to explore that for a future post.

The suggestions offered told me that the church has four primary types of songs in the face of tragedy and trial:

1) Songs of Sovereignty - songs that remind us that God is in control and always worthy of our worship.

Crown Him With Many Crowns
Holy Holy Holy
A Mighty Fortress
This is My Father’s World
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
The Church’s One Foundation
The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Ghost Ship)
Even in Sorrow (Slater Armstrong)

2) Songs of Comfort - note: most of these are largely self-referential and sung in the first person. I found most of these lacking in helping us to weep with those weep. It would take an able worship leader to help people sing these as intercessory prayer for others as opposed to having them simply turn inward towards our own trials.

Be Still My Soul
Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.
Jesus Loves Me
It is Well
Blessed Be Your Name (Redman)
God of Angel Armies
O Heart Bereaved And Lonely
When My Heart is Torn Asunder (Wickham)
The King of Love My Shepherd Is

3) Songs of Commitment - a renewal of our own commitment in the face of trails and the sacrifice of others.

Make my Life a Prayer
Blessed Be Your Name (Redman)
I Shall Not Want – Audrey Assad
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
O Love that Will Not Let Me Go
Rise Up O Men of God

3) Songs of Battle - songs of warfare against the prince of darkness.

The Battle Belongs to the Lord
Onward Christian Soldiers
Lead On O King Eternal
Note: these are songs about battle, being ready for battle, going into battle, etc… What you don’t find are actual attacks against the principalities and powers. We are told to resist, to tear down strongholds, to wage war. How would that be addressed in song?  I’d like to hear your suggestions.

As for last Sunday, what songs did we end up singing? Here’s the list with key verses from each:

1) A Mighty Fortress
And tho’ this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thru us
The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure
For lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That word above all earthly pow’rs
No thanks to them abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever

2) Hope of the Nations (Brian Doerksen)

Jesus hope of the nations
Jesus comfort for all who mourn
You are the source of heaven’s hope on earth
Jesus light in the darkness
Jesus truth in each circumstance
You are the source of heaven’s light on earth

3) Your Name (Andy Bromley)

Your name higher than them all
Holy One of God the Lord of lords, Your name.
Your name, Heaven’s only Son
High and lifted up forevermore, Your name
And the nations bow, And their kingdoms fall
Every king and priest, Every prince and lord
Falling to their knees, Will acknowledge You
We will lift our voice in praise
Honour Your name

4) Oceans – Almost didn’t do this one. It was a song of faith in the midst of trial but was lacking that cry for others I was looking for. So my wife and I rewrote the bridge and this is what we sang Sunday:

Open wide the gates of glory for the dying
For the saints who have been faithful
in the dark days of their trial.

Show your mercy to the hungry and the frightened
Scatter all those who love violence
Show the nations you are mighty

5) The Church’s One Foundation – This was our communion hymn.

Though with a scornful wonder, Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping;  Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

The church shall never perish, Her dear Lord to defend
To guide, sustain and cherish, is with her to the end
Though there be those that hate her, and false sons in her pale
Against a foe or traitor, She ever shall prevail

Mid toil and tribulation, And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
‘Til, with the vision glorious, Her longing eyes are blessed,
And the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

Does Your Worship Prepare People to Die?

“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

church cemetaryAugustine told us that the “law of prayer is the law of belief.”  In other words, what touches the heart is what tends to be remembered and treasured. In our day we could easily say that the law of song is the law of belief. I have many volumes of systematic theology on my shelves. Few of those will ever be read by the average believer, and not one line in any of those books will be remembered more than the lyrics of beloved hymns.  If music is a vital means of imparting spiritual truth to the hearts of God’s people, then it’s important we present as full a spectrum of theology as possible. That includes the reality of death.

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

We all face the inevitability of it. Sometimes we’re reminded by the sudden and shocking departure of a loved one, or their slow descent into the shadows of death through disease. Sometimes the descent is our own. What about our young men and women in the military, or our police and rescue squads that place themselves in harms way? What about their families who face the threat with them?  How do we prepare our people to view death through the prism of hope and not despair? In part, we sing about it.

Songs about death don’t fall into the category of “happy-clappy,” and so they are often avoided. But the Scriptures don’t avoid it and neither should we. We must be preparing people to die, not simply react to death when it comes. We sing songs about facing trials and difficulties with faith. Why? Simply as a reaction? No! We sing those worship songs because they prepare the heart and fortify faith for the trials we surely will face. I’m grateful for two “re-tuned” hymns I have found genuinely full of faith in the face of death. These hymns I have used for funerals but, I have also used them in our worship service.They are not maudlin or cheesy, but instead rich in metaphor and truth. They also bring the hope we have in the face of death straight to our hearts and minds. Songs of hope help us live in the power of faith in future grace.

I’m going to share the lyrics to both songs here along with the links to where the sheet music can be obtained. Are there other songs about death you could suggest that might provide the same hope and truth?

It is Not Death to Die – Bob Kauflin

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864), Translated by George Bethune (1847), Music, Chorus, and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin. Sovereign Grace Music

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lyrics, chord charts, piano and string scores.

Good Night by Matthew Smith

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears
To heavenly joy and freedom
From earthly bonds and fears
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

Why thus so sadly weeping
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious
Though now He bids us part
Oft have we met in gladness
And we shall meet again
All sorrow left behind us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I go to see His glory
Whom we have loved below
I go, the blessed angels
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed
I go to find again
And wait for you to join us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I hear the Savior calling–
The joyful hour has come
The angel-guards are ready
To guide me to our home
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

from Watch The Rising Day, released 17 August 2010

©2010 Detuned Radio Music
Written by Matthew S. Smith
Based in part on a hymn text by an unknown German writer, translated by Jane Borthwick

Find sheet music for Matthew Smith’s songs here.

Spurgeon on Dealing with Temptation

C.H. Spurgeon“It is easier to crush the egg–than to kill the serpent!”

It is prudent to break up all the eggs we can find, before the reptiles are hatched!

Just so, far greater wisdom will be shown in early dealing with a temptation, than in allowing it time to make headway. It is best to correct ourselves early and unhesitatingly to stamp out the first sparks of evil desire, before passion rises to a flame! 

A child can crush a serpent’s egg–but who will contend with the venomous creature which may be hatched from it, if it is left unbroken? 

So is it with that vice which stings like a viper! The first glass can readily be refused; it is quite another matter to stop when the wine has entered the brain. The first lust we may readily avoid; but when unchaste desires are fully aroused, who shall bridle them?

O Lord, teach me to crush sin early, lest it should gather strength and crush me!


(Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883)
Many thanks to Grace Gems for the above post)

Tullian Tchividjian on Worship

Tullian.JPGWe ought to experience God with the totality of our being in worship. Worship services ought to inform the mind intellectually, engage the heart emotionally, and bend the will volitionally. God wants thoughtful worshippers who believe, emotional worshippers who behold, and obedient worshippers who behave. God-centered worship produces people who think deeply about God, feel passionately for God, and live urgently in response to God. Therefore, when we meet God in worship, we should expect a combination of gravity and gladness, depth and delight, doctrine and devotion, precept and passion, truth and love.
- Tullian Tchividjian

Worship by Tullian Tchividjian taken from Don’t Call it a Comeback, edited by Kevin DeYoung, copyright 2011, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187,, p. 219-220.


Jesus the Bridegroom by Brant Pitre (Image)

pitre-jesus-the-bridegroom-cover-w350The themes in scripture that are woven into its tapestry from Genesis to Revelation, are, in part, what give the Bible both its authority and beauty. Years ago I read a work by the late J. Sidlow Baxter called The Master Theme of the Bible in which he traced the theme of the Lamb of God throughout the scripture. I remember being both deeply encouraged and filled with wonder at this singular thread that stretched the breadth of God’s Word. I had that same experience reading Jesus the Bridegroom by Brant Pitre as he explores the theme of the God who wants to marry His people. Dr. Pitre is Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  With a Ph.D. in New Testament and ancient Judaism, Pirte’s passion is to help people “see” the message of scripture through the lens of ancient Jewish eyes. He makes use of a wide range of extrabiblical Jewish writings (which he is careful to insist are not “inspired”) and quotes heavily from these Rabbinic sources to add color and insight to the New Testament.

This world is the betrothal… the wedding will be in the days of the Messiah. – Exodus Rabbah 15:31

Pitre endeavors to present Yahweh not only as the creator but as the One who desires to be “united to His creatures in an everlasting relationship that is so intimate, so permanent, so sacrificial, and so life-giving that it can only be described as a marriage between Creator and creatures, between God and human beings, between YHWH and Israel.”  Pitre traces this idea beginning with the “divine wedding” covenant at Mount Sinai, through the spiritual adulteries of Israel and into the moment when John the Baptist describes himself as the “friend of the Bridegroom.” (Jn. 3:29) The Bridegroom is Jesus, the Incarnate One, who has come to win the redemption of His bride. Pitre works through the accounts of the wedding at Cana, the woman at the well, the last supper and the passion of Christ, showing the remarkable connections between them, the prophets and the Jewish traditions. (The observations on the wedding at Cana and the Samaritan woman are more than worth the price of the book.) The story finds its culmination in the marriage supper of the Lamb and a vision of the glorious bride of Christ.

For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. – Isaiah 54:5

Pitre’s Roman Catholicism is quite evident in some of his application but there is a wealth of insight here that any Protestant would be rewarded by and I found a great deal of the language not often used in Protestant literature to be refreshing. Roman Catholic thought is most evident in the chapter called “The Bridal Mysteries” in which the subjects of baptism, Eucharist, marriage and virginity are discussed. Even though there is much that I would disagree with Pitre on, I found an enhancement of my own views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper while the material on marriage and virginity were outstanding. Pitre’s illumination of marriage from Paul’s letters and the Jewish sources is very instructive and interprets the union in a remarkable way. As we face the current onslaught of support for gay marriage, there is much here that explains why that aberration is the complete antithesis of God’s design for marriage. Pitre doesn’t mention gay marriage but he so elevates the mystery of marriage (Eph. 5:32) that it insists only on the union of man and woman. Furthermore, and I say this with compassion and understanding the sacrifice involved, the section on virginity or “consecrated celibacy” is a positive and holy direction for those Christians who struggle with same sex attraction.

Pitre concludes the book with a meditation on the  Samaritan women. He highlights Jesus, the bridegroom, waiting for this woman to ask her for a drink. Jesus “thirst” was a prelude to the moment in which he would offer her the gift of living water. This quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is, frankly, one of the most  lovely things I have ever read:

“‘If you knew the gift of God!’ The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”

I know some of my more reformed friends will not be able to crawl out of their anti-catholic shells far enough to appreciate this but that would be their loss. The notion of prayer as an encounter between God’s thirst and ours? That is priceless.Jesus is ever at the well, wooing his bride and inviting us to partake of the living water he alone can offer.