A reason to sing and shout Hallelujah, in a new way.

For 14 years, a song entitled “Hallelujah” that was made famous by Jeff Buckley has captured the hearts of millions of people.  It is simple, yet mesmerizing; many people have cherished and sung this melody.  It has been beloved by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  With just a brief listen to the lyrics, however, anyone who knows anything about the Bible may be confused by its story.  It does little for painting an accurate picture of the biblical narrative, and the “Hallelujahs” being sung do not seem to be pointed at the God of the Bible. The music for the song is beautiful, but the lyrics leave believers wanting more.

A few months back, videos of people singing this song were popping up all over social media.  On a challenge from a pastor, Heath Walton (a singer/songwriter from Roopville, Georgia) wrote some theologically sound lyrics to this ever so popular song.  He wrote the song in a few hours.  The new lyrics lay out the gospel message in a powerful way.  The first time I heard it, I wept with both joy and humility.  I wept because it was my story. If you are a Christian, it is your story too.  Jesus is firmly standing at the center of the song; the hero of it all.  In only 3 minutes, Heath writes about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.  He also writes of God’s wrath and how He merits grace upon all who believe.  It is a song that should cause the Christian to worship.

Today, I have put this song on YouTube with added visuals in hopes that during this Easter season you can be reminded of the Gospel both in song, in your ears, and through the pathway of your eyes.  I am not a video editor by trade, but I hope this is something that you can watch and enjoy while you think about Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection this Easter season.

If you like the song as much as I do, and would like to hear more from Heath, you can check out his music HERE

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

“Now that’s a good movie!” . . . or is it? How to discern what is okay in entertainment.

In 2012, the average American making 50k a year spent over $2600 on entertainment.  That is about $200 a month.  That is more than the average person gives to charity annually.  We are entertained in many different ways; movies, music, games, sports, etc.   Americans spend more time and money on entertainment today than any other nation in the history or the world.  We like to be entertained.  There is nothing wrong with being entertained.   In fact, if the Westminster Catechism is correct stating that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” then good godly entertainment is certainly one way we can enjoy Him.  However, not all (or even most) entertainment that we spend money on today falls under the “godly entertainment” category.  Let us not say, on the other hand, that all entertainment must be inherently Christian for Christians to partake in and enjoy.

Is it okay to watch and enjoy a football, soccer, or baseball game without feeling sinful?  Most certainly!  Nevertheless, there is also a way to watch these things and it be sinful, depending on your motive.  How are we to discern what to watch and listen to in the way of entertainment?  I believe the Philippians 4:8 test is the best way to do this.  Paul wrote,

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Before you turn on The Game of Thorns or Downton Abby, and before you download that new Taylor Swift album, take this test and hopefully you will be able to see if you should be spending your time, money, and energy on it.  Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions.

Is it True?

Can this (movie, book, TV program, etc.) be found in God’s Word as something that is true?  For example, can you listen to a love song not written by a Christian? I would say yes, as long as it is something that lines up with the truth of God, and is not distorting it.  If it lines up with the truth that is found in scripture and your conscience allows . . why not?  Remember that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.

Is it Honorable?

This is to say, is it something that is honorable to God?  Is it something where people are making light of sex? Then no, this is not honorable. Is it a game that glorifies violence? Again, I would say no, that is not honorable. What about a book that makes you lust after its character?  Is that honorable? NO!  You get the point.

Is it Just?

Is this something that is in harmony with God’s Word?  What about music that is glorifying getting drunk or songs where the singer is bragging about themselves?  I don’t think these are things that are justifiable to the Lord.  And what about watching some kid being beat up on YouTube?  Sorry, I don’t think that is justifiable entertainment either.

Is it Pure?

Is this promoting good or godly morals?  Is the music video, TV show, or movie that is showing people making out in a provocative way okay?  The question is, how is watching this going to make you more pure?  Peering through a window watching a couple make out would be a good way to have yourself arrested wouldn’t it?  There is not much difference in watching it on TV.  If it is not pure, you do not need to be entertained by it.

Is it Lovely?

Is this pleasing, kind, or gracious?  Is it okay to read a good hearted story about someone overcoming adversity?  Sure, we all love to hear these kinds of stories.  Actually, it often points us to the gospel.  There are plenty of feel good movies and books that are not overtly Christian that fall into this category.  However, if it is not pleasing, kind, or gracious, then the Philippians 4:8 test would say to “not think on these things.”  It is inevitable that you will have to face things that are not lovely in your life, but to openly be entertained by them is a different matter.

Is it Commendable?

Is it respectful?  Is it of high character?  Is this something that you could recommend to your friends or a Christian family?  I love war movies.  My all time favorite is Braveheart (but only the edited version).  I have recommended it to many people over the years.  However, there are some songs, articles, TV shows, and movies that could never fall under this category that I have been sinfully amused by in the past.  If you would not be willing tore commend it to your pastor, there is a great chance the Lord would not want you to participate in being entertained by it either.

These seven questions have helped guide me into making better choices in entertainment for my family.  They apply to movies, music, books, and even sporting events.  I love all sorts of entertainment. So, if Paul can quote a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) and it become part of the canon, it seems to be okay to be entertained by things that are not distinctly Christian as well as long as they fall into the above listed guidelines.  The next time you want to run to the theater to watch the newest flick, or click to download the newest album on iTunes . . . take the Philippians 4:8 test first and see if it is something the Lord would be okay with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Worshiping God in Song . . . here’s 50 of them.

One of my favorite acts of worship is to hear a great exposition of scripture.  It can fill me, and break me at the same time.  I love good preaching.  However, it is not the only act of worship that I love.  A carefully crafted, theologically sound song can make my spirit leap for joy and my heart and mouth sing praises to the Lord.  I love to hear a congregation of believers sing worship and praise to the Lord.  Not every song that we sing in our corporate worship fits the “carefully crafted theologically sound” criteria.  It is true that we all have different theological bents that come out in the songs that we sing.  This is understandable.  Nevertheless, there are some songs that transcend denominational loyalties and should call for all Christians to lift their hands (although they may just be a mental hand lifting if you are more conservative,) and hearts in praise, or bow low in worship to the King.

Over the past year, I have been compiling a list of songs that I feel fit well into the above mentioned category.  Some are very old, and some are very new.  Scripture does tell us to “sing a new song” but it also implores us to sing “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”  So, the list below will be made up of songs that span different centuries, different continents, and different theological leanings.  This list is not exhaustive, but here are 50 songs that we would do well to sing unto the Lord with a grateful heart and attitude.  If you click on the song, it will direct you to a site where you can listen to it. You may have a song that I have missed that would fit well. If so, feel free to leave a comment with a name of the song.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

10,000 Reasons

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Alas and did my Savior Bleed
All creatures of our God and King
All I Have is Christ
All I once held dear (Knowing You)
And Can It Be That I Should Gain
Be unto Your name
Be thou my vision
Before, the throne of God above
Behold Our God
Blessed Be Your Name
Creation Song
Come, Praise and Glorify
Come, Thou Almighty King
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Days of Elijah
Hail the Day
Hallelujah What a Savior (Man of Sorrow)
He Knows My Name
He Leadeth Me
Hide Away In the Love of Jesus
Holy, Holy, Holy
How Deep The Father’s Love for Us
How Great Thou Art
In Christ Alone
It is Well 
Glory To God
Grace Greater than all our sins
Jesus, Lover of my Soul
Jesus Paid it All
Lamb of God
Name above all names
Nothing That my hands can do
Now why this Fear
The Love of God
The Wonderful Cross
There is a Fountin Filled With Blood
O’ The Deep Deep Love of Jesus
O How Marvelous (I Stand Amazed) 
Our Great God
Our Song From Age to Age
Praise to the Lord, The Almighty
Revelation Song
Salvation Belongs to our God
See the Conquer
Sing To Jesus
Song of Moses
Speak Oh Lord
What a Wonderus Love is This
Your Name

A Good Beat . . . Bad Lyrics: Why Theology Matters in Music

Have you ever been riding down the road scanning through the radio and you happen upon a song that you have not heard in 10 or 15 years?  If you are anything like me, (or most people, I assume) the lyrics that you have not sung in over a decade somehow find their way, almost without error, to the tip of your tongue.  It is amazing how we can store that type of information in our minds for such a long period of time, when at other times it is hard to even bring to mind a single verse of scripture that we have been trying to memorize.  Recently I had the privilege of attending a conference in Douglasville, Georgia, called G3.  One of the preachers there, Dr. Steve Lawson, told a story where John and Charles Wesley were arguing over who would be the preacher and who would be the hymn writer of their movement.  After arguing back and forth for a while Charles finally relented and told his brother John that he could be the preacher, but said in 100 years more people would remember his hymns and be more shaped by his words than John’s preaching.  These words, I believe, most certainly came true.

Music matters to God.  If you are much of a student of God’s word it would not take you long to see this as true.  The longest book in the Bible (Psalms) is mostly dedicated to written songs about Him.  Many instruments are listed in scripture.  There is singing in heaven.  Music matters to God.   If this is true, I think it would be wise of us to try to be more discerning in the music that we sing.  Today, you can find literally any type of genre of music that has been “Christianized.”  We have Christian Hip-Hop, Rock, Country, and even Hard-core.  This blog in no way is trying to single out a genre of music, but to try to bring to mind what matters most to God in the music.  I have heard so many “good beats” in Christian music that is moving by themselves, but when you add the watered down (sometimes  heretical) lyrics to that song, it just make me shake my head in disbelief.

Music matters to God . . . and so does the theology in it.  If a song has bad theology, it does not matter how good the music is that goes along with it.  If the words do not accurately describe the Lord and His word, I believe it would be wise for us to stay away from singing these types of songs in corporate worship.

There are three reasons why I believe theology matters in music and why I believe we should have good discernment in the songs that we sing in our corporate services (or even at home for that matter).

Music is for the Lord

                God ordained music to be played and sung for His glory.  “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2). “Sing aloud to God our strength” (Ps. 81:1). “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1).  He gave many different people, from kings, to shepherds, to priests the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and write songs of worship and praise to Him.  The distinguishing factor in almost every song recorded in scripture is that it focuses on the Lord, rather than man.  God is the hero worthy of praise and worship.  Godly music is to focus on Him, and not us.   This is why good theology is so important in songs.  If it is not about Him, it is not worth singing in church.

Music is for the Church

                The primary reason for music is to glorify God (as is every aspect of life, actually), but he also gives it as a gift to the church as a way to express our praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to Him.  The first thing the Israelites did when they came out from the Red Sea was to sing a song of praise to the Lord (Exodus 15).  Paul instructs us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19.  It seems that godly music should be a part of our daily life.  The early church, when they gathered, would almost always sing to the Lord.  The church has been worshiping and praising the Lord for thousands of years.  It is a gift, but it is also a command.  If we are commanded to do so, I believe it is imperative that we do so “in Spirit and in Truth.”  That means that our heart needs to be right before the Lord to be singing to Him; but it also means that our words need to be accurately portraying who He is, and what He has done.  Taking your focus off of him and putting it on you (or us) is dangerous, and not honoring.

Music Teaches Us

                One of the reasons the church has written songs throughout the years is to help teach biblical truths.  When something is put to music or rhyme it is often easier to remember.  The truth is, a lot of people get their theology from the music that they sing.  When a song gets stuck in your head, the words can easily come up at any moment.  If you get your theology from a county song you might believe that when you die you will become an angel or that when you die everyone goes to heaven (even if they lived a life full of sin like drunkenness and continual one-night stands).  These types of songs may be entertaining to some, but the reality is that many buy into their theology without ever looking into the truth of the Word.  Music teaches us because it is an easy way to remember large amounts of words in a coherent consecutive way.  Knowing this to be true, would it not be wise to make sure that the songs we are singing line up completely with scripture?  This is why, again, theology matters in music.

Music is a wonderful gift from God.  It moves us, shapes us, and teaches us about life.  So, if you are preparing music for your service next Sunday, or in your home for family worship, or just scanning the radio in your car, be sure to think about the words that are being sung.  Are they glorifying to God?  Are they making much of God?  Are they putting Him at the forefront of the story…or someone else?  There is certainly a place for love songs, and simply just fun songs about life, but when we gather to worship the Lord . . . we need to make sure we are truly worshiping in Spirit and IN TRUTH.  This is why theology in music matters.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Student Minister Adam B. Burrell