Many of Our Popular Songs and Choruses in Praise of Christ are Hollow and Unconvincing (AW Tozer)

Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing. Some are even shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of the love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover. How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by a true and Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such a love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste and reverent. Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge. He is the fairest among ten thousand, but He is also the Lord high and mighty. He is meek and lowly in heart, but He is also Lord and Christ who will surely come to be the judge of all men. No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presence.

AW Tozer
1897-1963

True Worship (Derek Prince)

It is primarily through the act of worship that our spirits enter into this union with God. In John 4:23-24, Jesus said: “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth …. God is Spirit, and [all] those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He made it clear that true worship must be an activity of our spirits.

In the contemporary church, there is little understanding of the nature of worship. Why? It is mainly because we do not discern the difference between the spirit and the soul. Worship is not entertainment. That belongs in the theatre, not the church.

Nor is worship the same as praise. We praise God with our souls, and it is right to do so. Through our praise we have access to God’s presence. But once we are in His presence, it is through worship that we enjoy true spiritual union with Him.

To be able to worship God in this way is the goal of salvation-first on earth, and then in heaven. It is the highest and holiest activity of which a human being is capable. It is only possible,’ however, when the soul and the body come into submission to the spirit, and in harmony with it. Such worship is often too profound for words. It becomes an intense and silent union with God.

As you read these words, is there a desire welling up in your heart for this kind of union with God that comes from true worship in your spirit? If so, let’s close this teaching with a prayer for this kind of union.

Dear Lord, I want to be united with You in spirit and in truth. Placing my faith in You, I deny the three impulses of my soul: “I want;” “I think;” “I feel. ” I put them to death, and I release my spirit for close and intimate fellowship with You. I worship You – my Lord and my creator. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Derek Prince
(1915-2003)

In Vain They Worship (David Wilkerson)

God takes the matter of worship very seriously. It is not a light thing to come into God’s house, a place blessed with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified’” (Leviticus 10:3).

The Lord was saying, “I will not be treated as an ordinary person. If you are going to enter into my presence, you must come before me carefully and responsibly because of my glory and majesty.” So many mental distractions can take place during prayer and worship, especially when we are in the house of God. Jesus actually called people hypocrites who came into his presence mouthing words of praise but whose minds and hearts were preoccupied. He spoke directly to them: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me’” (Matthew 15:7-9).

What about you? Most likely you are present in God’s house for at least an hour every week. So your body is in church but where is your mind? Your lips say, “I worship you, Lord!” but where do you allow your thoughts to take you during praise and worship? To family problems? Business matters?

You may argue that everything your mind focuses on is God’s business — your family, your obligations. Yet, keep in mind that the people Jesus addressed were worshipers who drew near to him with their lips, maybe even raised their hands and praised loudly. But where were their hearts, their minds, as they worshiped? If they were distracted in thought, then their worship was hypocritical — and worthless!

Do not take lightly his holy presence! We need to be mindful of the sanctity of God’s house and enter with a reverent heart.

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

What Songs to Chose for a Christian Funeral?

My pastor sometimes asks me to help him lead worship during a funerals that he conducts, and he typically requests me to sing these three hymns (which would be interspersed between his message):

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. Blessed Assurance
  3. What a Friend We Have in Jesus

These songs are fairly well-known, so I have never encountered an audience that has struggled with these songs.

A few other hymns/songs that I would add to this list (that is hymns/songs that are pretty well-recognised, and which the audience are unlikely to have difficulty singing) include:

  • Because He Lives
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • Abide with me

For novice guitar players, I need to warn you about ‘Blessed Assurance’. Most of the contemporary songs that we sing are played at 4/4 time, and ‘Blessed Assurance’ is traditionally played at 3/4 time. Hence, if you would like to play ‘Blessed Assurance’, you will need to know how to strum at 3/4 (waltz) timing. I learned this the hard way myself the first time I played the song at a funeral service. My pastor sang at the timing that he was familiar with (3/4), which made him seem as if he was singing ahead of me. As you can imagine, that was a rather embarassing experience, and the impromptu ‘solution’ that day was, of course, for me to stop strumming and to lead the rest of the song acapella.

The same actually goes with ‘Amazing Grace’. Traditionally, ‘Amazing Grace’ is played at 3/4 timing, but thanks to modern versions of the song which are played at 4/4 timing, I was able to pull off during the first funeral service that I led. However, these days, I play the song at 3/4 timing.

Incidentally, my pastor pastors the English speaking congregation, but sometimes, when he realises that there are a lot of non-English speaking people in the audience, he would add the Hokkien song ‘Hold My Hands’ (牵我的手).

In case you are not familiar, ‘Hold My Hands’ was written by Pastor Lim Ghee Tiong (a pastor from Sarawak), and a Youtube video of the song can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIUEnY8udKA

Now, if you find the above hymns to be too dated, and wish for something more contemporary, I can recommend the following songs:

The reason I recommend ‘In Christ Alone’, is that there is a particular verse in that song that deals with death, and which goes like this:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Similarly, for 10,000 Reasons, the last verse concerns death, and it goes like this:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Hope that helps.