TAKING THE WINGS OF PRAISE Why We Must Sing
1. Our Songs Breathe Trust in Him
Morning is up! Whate’er the weather, Night yields to praise, Singing in feather. Chorus of joy Starting the day’s chores. Still heard at dusk Thanking for day’s stores. Might all our ways 1
C. Doug Blair, 2012
Copy the wee bird, Filled with God’s praise, Ever by him heard. Then so much more Bless’ed a sojourn, Would we but sing; His tune of trust learn. Life is a thrill, Vivid and stirring, Join in the song Each day occurring. Father in Heaven Waits with rich treasure, Loosed by our praise, Giving him pleasure. Sometimes the sun Warms all our heartstrings, Bursting with song For gifts his love brings. Other times, praise, Sacrifice dearest, Meets cloudy days, Singing faith clearest. Whate’er befalls, Music uplifted Always enthralls The breast so gifted. Yet ours much more Gladsome a chorus. Jesus prepares Endless spring for us!
Title: Taking the Wings of Praise
2. Our Songs Bring Him Delight
There must have been Some sunny days, In golden meadow fair; When free from crowds And free from toil, You sought the purer air. And as you strolled The verdant paths, The wee birds met you there. Did not they sing At your approach Their fanfare, clear and sweet? Did not they peer From wayside nests To note your passing feet? Or else display Above your head Some agile, aerial treat. Oh, villager, Oh, carpenter, Oh, rabbi to the meek. â€˜Twas you who reached From Unseen Halls To form each wing and beak. â€˜Twas you ordained The feathered friends So delicate and weak. Then from the fields And azure skies, 3
You passed to City’s din. To show to powers Their shallow hope, Perhaps, their souls to win. In temple halls Where Paschal doves Were slaughtered for men’s sin. Title: Bird Watcher
3. Our Songs Celebrate His Patterns
Look to the top Of the poplar. Lifeless, and Armoured with glaze. Monochrome sky For a back-drop. Monochrome mood Now, for days. Caught in the Doldrums of winter, Dampened and Chilled to the core. Hear him, the pure Note of promise. Fluid and full, Troubadour. Perched above all That is dreary. Scarlet friend, come With spring’s tune. Singing the Prophecy clearly:
“It’ll come, It’ll come, soon.” Title: Cardinal
4. Our Songs Cause Us to Wonder
The command is to come together to worship. More than to "fellowship" (when did that become a verb?). More than to receive teaching or communion. We owe Christ everything. Our songs should repeatedly name His wonderful name with thanksgiving and adoration. Too many "renewal" songs are ambivalent naming the Lord or the Holy One. Say that powerful name. Say it! Jesus! Acts 4: 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. I remember a revival crusade at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto about 1985. It featured the Jimmy Swaggart Ministry and its joyous Pentecostal flavour of music. Approximately 40 percent of the program would be given to music. I looked across to the opposite arena seats, probably some 5000 people in my view, and they all appeared to be singing, smiling and clapping their hands. The obvious unity of the moment arrested my attention, and suddenly it dawned on me that I was also hearing waves at the sea-shore, "the sound of many waters". I recalled the Revelation speaking of the voice of the glorified Jesus and of the redeemed crowd in this context. (Rev.1:15 and 14:2 and 19:6). It was wonderful. For me worship will cause a desire either to sing along, laugh or cry. It must not be a performance requiring me to listen respectfully and sit on my hands. Much "soaking music" has this characteristic. Although it may be professional and moving, it is NOT worship. Recently I added to a blog a video clip from You Tube featuring Michael W. Smith and his release "Deep in Love with You". Here is a minister in song in the spirit of King David. Often Michael will get a crowd going on a selection and then he will stop singing to appreciate the worship of the audience. A complete reversal of the "entertainment process". Remarkable! Thank you and God bless you, Michael. Title: Wondrous Worship
5. Our Songs Will Recite the Good Old Lessons
Readers of this blog probably have noticed that I bemoan the dwindling use of the good old hymns in our church services. Recently I posted the lyrics of the classic entitled "The Church's One Foundation". I might also think of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", "He Leadeth Me", "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" or "It is Finished".
In some sanctuaries the old hymnals are found in the pews as a testimonial to our heritage, but rarely picked up. My goodness, these songs have five or six or more verses. Much too long for the attention span of the average parishioner...and to stand while singing? Hardly. Instead we resort to the overhead screen, bright colour and selections with no more than three verses. These songs do not teach. They fail to name the name Jesus. Under the guise of worship they often state the obvious: 1."You are Lord" 2. "I give you my all" 3. "You are welcome in this place" 4. "Take us to a higher place". To many the lyrics are unfamiliar and without order. Less rhyme. No recognizable chorus. Anyone over forty-five years old despairs of getting into the selection. No matter, the Praise Team are professional and loud and the whole thing becomes a performance rather than a participation. One cannot hear oneself sing; neither the people around him, and thus the communal aspect of the worship is diminished. And the sanctuary has been darkened down for the overhead screen. No looking at your Bibles during the "segment". No observing your neighbours in the act of worship. No giving of a smile or a friendly wink to anyone nearby. Then there is the matter of "soaking" music in some churches. Simple, reverent choruses repeated over and over and over. Eventually only the Praise Team have the stamina. The general body of worshipers appear to have gotten themselves into the eyes closed, hands folded to the lips, seemingly ecstatic phase. Meditating on the Father's love, or some such thing. At a place like Toronto Airport Church they have the "liberty" to lie down on the floor and go to sleep. We don't need anything like this stultifying our times together, regardless of the talent up front! We need to take the effort to stand together with enthusiasm and proclaim in music the pillars of our faith, hope and overcoming. We are not consumers in all of this. We are givers...of thanks, of adoration, of respectful recitation of the great old truths most worthy of being remembered. Remembered to each other and to the next generation. The plague of dwindling literacy is also in this. The same can be said about sermons which dare not use more than one or two Bible verses as a foundation before Pastor goes into his journey of personal comment, ethics 7
or anecdote. Pastors, give them bread! Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts! Homer Simpson in that irreverent, long-running TV series comments to a friend on Gospel music: "Just take your average love song and throw in the name Lord or Jesus". Evidently Homer and I have been to some of the same services. Title: Great Lyrics
6. Our Songs Will Welcome His Arrival
Loudly the children Sang praises at his coming, Lading the cobbles With branches of the palm. Paying him homage With blended hearts and voices, Gracing his entrance With echoes of the psalm: “Bless’ed is he that Cometh in the Lord’s name, Jesus, Hosanna To David’s greater son!” “Daughter of Zion, Your King is at the threshold, Bringing salvation, This meek and lowly one.” No prancing charger To bear the Prince of Ages, Only a donkey, At peaceful, plodding pace.
No blasting herald Announcing great deliverance, Only the simple With song, perfecting praise. Bless’ed these child-like Who see their King so plainly, Bringing their problems And needs to one so kind. Theirs is the conquest Which passes understanding. Theirs is the Kingdom The learn’ed cannot find. ZECHARIAH 9: 9 Rejoice greatly. O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Title: Out of the Mouths of Babes
7. Our Songs Celebrate the Saviour’s Finished Work
A matchless joy Crossed his face, As he pulled out the piano bench, Cracked the spine of the hymnal, Cracked his fingers for good measure, And, after one long breath, Looked around the parlour For harmony helpers; To begin.
Sunday evening service Had been a special one. Visitors were welcomed; And invited to share Any words of encouragement. Pastor’s wife had read The scripture portion: Something from Colossians, Christ, by whom all things consist. She always managed To make the Word of God Sound conversational, Personal, promising. Truly, God’s love- letter To the heart of each listener. Elder Jamieson led us in prayer: “Larger hearts, Lord; greater challenges, Greater assurances through the blood of Jesus.” Pastor’s son told us Of his recent travel. Church conference in Halifax. One free night out. The restaurant, the old man In the corner booth. The gentle inclusion of him In their conversation. His past losses; And the light of Christ dawning gently. The message had been delivered with power: “The Two Shortest Verses”. “Jesus wept.” “Rejoice evermore.” The Gospel reduced to four words. What an exchange! His tears- our joy. How the preacher could illustrate the story. 10
Such atmosphere, insight, encouragement; Weaving it all together. And now, the “seventh-inning stretch”. Making our way to the parlour My favourite part, hearty choruses, Gathered around Sandy’s piano. Word was, it had had its Fifteenth re-tuning. The soul-focus of many A crisp Christmas, bright Easter, Baptism and Thanksgiving. Sandy was its fourth Master of the Ivories. Ruddy, compact, middling-height, Powerful forearms and grasp. Joyful lover of the Cross, Pentecost, the Lord’s Table, Healing. Friend of many a hurting one. Visitor when the chips were down. Showing Christ in shoe-leather. For the first few pieces, It seemed as if Madge’s beautiful Soprano carried us through. Then came “Power in the Blood”, “He is All You Need”, “Jesus Set Me Free.”. (Friends catching on now with gusto. Sandy’s power and flair evident.) “He’s Coming Back on a Silver Cloud of Glory”. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”. The change came with Barry’s tenor solo: “It Matters to Him About You” The emotion soon flowed from the group. 11
Uninhibited, sincere, thankful. Individual voices lost in the blend. “There is Room at The Cross for You”, “Amazing Grace”, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, “He Was There All the Time” Sandy’s final notes lifted the hall in magic. Thus it was for five years of college. That small town in the valley. My brother and I walking home, ‘Neath the stars, message and music And ministry glowing in our hearts. Then graduation, and I to my students, And he to the Christless poor Across the sea. And each with a “parlour piano.” Title: Gospel Piano
8. Our Songs Share in His Passion
Lovely evening, Lovely garden, Just the setting For some rest. At the outskirts Of the city, Peaceful bower For my nest. Comes a human With his following, Hardly making Any sound. 12
Three are with him In the darkness, Kneeling lowly On the ground. Coo-coo-ah, now He is weeping, With his face raised T’ward the sky. While the others Nestle, sleeping; Surely they must Hear him cry? All else quiet, But his pleading With someone I Cannot see. Oh, dear human, Were I able To flit down And comfort thee! Coo-coo-ah, yes He’s the same one, Who comes often To this place. Yet I hardly Recognize him, For the tension In his face… Comes a breaking In his pleading, And the strain now Turns serene.
Just as if Some bless’ed answer, Has arrived from Him unseen. Coo-coo-ah, look! Men are coming, Of a harder Rugged kind! Coo-coo-ah, flee! They mean trouble For whomever They may find! Coo-coo-ah, Man, Do not stand there Just as if you Do not mind! For a moment, Hesitating, They examine What they’ve found. Then he speaks; His words of power Send them reeling To the ground! Here’s your chance, Friend, Head for cover! While they stagger In the dust. All your youngsters Seized the moment, They are fleeing As you must!
But he simply Stands before them As the fetters Are applied. Oh, you could have Kept your freedom, Oh, if you had Only tried! Troops and torches, Disappearing, With my human Well in hand. Children saved, while He is taken. Yes, I think I Understand. Coo-coo-ah, Coo-coo-ah, Coo-coo-ahhhhâ€Śâ€Ś. Title: A Watch of Nightingales
9. Our Songs Comfort the Wounded Heart (This one is by Robert Service.) MUSIC IN THE BUSH by Robert Service (1907 Dodd, Mead and Company) O'er the dark pines she sees the silver moon, And in the west, all tremulous, a star; And soothing sweet she hears the mellow tune Of cow-bells jangled in the fields afar. 15
Quite listless, for her daily stint is done, She stands, sad exile, at her rose-wreathed door, And sends her love eternal with the sun That goes to gild the land she'll see no more. The grave, gaunt pines imprison her sad gaze, All still the sky and darkling drearily; She feels the chilly breath of dear, dead days Come sifting through the alders eerily. Oh, how the roses riot in their bloom! The curtains stir as with an ancient pain; Her old piano gleams from out the gloom And waits and waits her tender touch in vain. But now her hands like moonlight brush the keys With velvet grace -- melodious delight; And now a sad refrain from over seas Goes sobbing on the bosom of the night; And now she sings. (O! singer in the gloom, Voicing a sorrow we can ne'er express, Here in the Farness where we few have room Unshamed to show our love and tenderness, Our hearts will echo, till they beat no more, That song of sadness and of motherland; And, stretched in deathless love to England's shore, Some day she'll hearken and she'll understand.) A prima-donna in the shining past, But now a mother growing old and gray, She thinks of how she held a people fast In thrall, and gleaned the triumphs of a day. She sees a sea of faces like a dream; She sees herself a queen of song once more; She sees lips part in rapture, eyes agleam; She sings as never once she sang before.
She sings a wild, sweet song that throbs with pain, The added pain of life that transcends art -A song of home, a deep, celestial strain, The glorious swan-song of a dying heart. A lame tramp comes along the railway track, A grizzled dog whose day is nearly done; He passes, pauses, then comes slowly back And listens there -- an audience of one. She sings -- her golden voice is passion-fraught, As when she charmed a thousand eager ears; He listens trembling, and she knows it not, And down his hollow cheeks roll bitter tears. She ceases and is still, as if to pray; There is no sound, the stars are all alight -Only a wretch who stumbles on his way, Only a vagrant sobbing in the night. Title: Music in the Bush
10. Our Songs Summon the Angels
The mid-week evening service had just concluded at Victory Tabernacle and Assistant Pastor Michael was spending a few moments with Board member Jake Klassen at the back of the sanctuary. The service had been pleasant with a sense of some liberty in the people to give testimony or a word of scripture in the "sharing time". But the topic of their discussion was the Sunday morning service just past. It had been the launch of a new format which had been under consideration for months. New "renewal" praise. A larger, more contemporary band. A new audio-visual system to facilitate sermon messages and to hook into satellite meetings from ministries of interest. 17
They were discussing what they had observed in the praise session. New songs which were an adjustment for the people. No matter. The band had jacked up the volume. The praise team carried the lyrics with gusto. The people would catch on to the use of the overhead screen. Hadn't used the old Hymn Books once that morning. Neither the old choruses. Had avoided straight out Bible reading for more time in the music. Unquestionably the experiment had proved exciting. They were really moving into a new era. Perhaps now more people might come. Praise God! Suddenly they noticed a tall stranger standing closer to the back door with coat on and head bowed. It was obvious that he had been listening, but he took no step forward to engage. They smiled courteously and continued their discussion. Five minutes later it was time to wrap up. He was still there, but now his gaze was fixed upon them. Pastor Mike said, "What's your name friend? May we help you somehow?" The stranger took a few seconds to respond. He appeared in his late thirties. His look and his dress were anything but contemporary. His salt and pepper brown hair perhaps a little too long. He responded, "My name is Jordan. I was just wondering whether you folks cancelled the service on Sunday morning past?" "Far from it, Jordan," blurted Jake, "we had one of our greatest gatherings. Such enthusiasm. Such excitement. Such freshness. Quite a new thing for us all." The visitor responded, "I am the Angel Jordan. Several of us have been assigned to watch over your flock and to report. This past Sunday we heard nothing from you people and wondered what was wrong." Then he was gone. Luke 12: 8Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of 18
God. (With thanks for the story to some seasoned evangelist-missionary friends.) Title: Heard on High
11. Our Songs Recall Previous Victories
"I tell ya Chester, that Newton's a Jonah, he is. Temper quick as mercury. Wicked tongue ta shame even my drunken Uncle Tammas. He's no good for tha ship, I fear. Be lookin' fer whales, boy. Be lookin' fer this storm to roise." The other, moving his pipe to the opposite side of the large jaw, mumbled, "Mmmm... Why is it d'ya think that Captin shows 'im such peticular favour? Even afore I came belowdecks he had turned over the helm to John. I've had no fearsome grief from the lad, ceptin' for his dour looks betimes. But still ye could be right, old friend." And above, John Newton gripped the wheel these past forty minutes and noted the coming screech in the rigging. The plaintive growl and roll of the big hull. The wash of water being taken in. The pounding of his own heart. He had overheard a litle of the "Jonah talk". Had seen the increasing scowls on the faces of men without guile. Men who were loyal and brave, but gravely superstitious. Was he near the end? Were all of them? After ninety minutes, relief came to peel the rigid hands from the wheel and to slap the back and to push toward the staircase. A dozen paces from his station, a giant surge soaked the deck and hurled John to the rail. He thought, 'Oh wretched, lost, vile, friendless man that I am'. Hurried below. In the closeness of his bunk, the others elsewhere on duty, he felt as condemned as the black cargo of despairing souls he had sometimes
transported; as far from the love of God or man as that rebellious prophet at the bottom of the sea. Though Newton had never received theretofore any message or mission from on high. But now words and petitions were issuing from his innermost person, and a sense of the presence of God was leading him on and driving the storm from his consciousness. That night of May 10, 1748, one godless sea-farer received the quickening realization and release of "Amazing Grace". His subsequent message, music and ministry would help end the slave trade in the British Empire; would help many souls of all colours to cast off the shackles of unbelief and trespass. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed. Title: That Jonah, Newton
12. Our Songs Tell of Our Right Standing Obsequious. That's the word that the topical Bible used concerning Mephibosheth the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. The story is told in 2 Samuel 9: 8And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Mephibesheth could not imagine that he held a place of favour with King David, but such is the strength of covenant, a blood covenant cut between David and Jonathan for the life-long support of each other's families. This bond of love and of promise caused David to overlook all of the struggle which he had suffered at the hands of Saul. His only desire was to bless the one who was cringing before him. 20
The dictionary defines the curious word "obsequious" as having a servile deference to or fawning, slavish attitude toward a superior. There is a pathetic shortcoming of relationship in this. The one in leadership should desire honest, courteous, open-faced partnership. Certainly Jesus was and is such a leader, or Elder Brother. In holiness circles, it seems to me, that we confuse submission with the "groveling posture". We go on about our unworthiness, when all the while the Lord is expecting us to take and to act upon our inheritance. It was bought with the tremendous price of Calvary. Our pathetic and somewhat insincere shows of humility are out of line. Certainly we owe Jesus everything, but the message of grace is "Step up to the table. Enjoy it. Grow in usefulness with it. Give earnest thanks. You are family." I like what Jesus said to His disciples in the Upper Room in John 15: 15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. Recently I heard a jubilant song with a chorus that is worth repeating here: I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. He calls me, "Friend". Title: Obsequious
13. Our Songs are for the Sheer Joy of It Come now, together, Let’s sing for the joy of it. Gather with brothers And sisters of grace. Tell of the stories Of Jesus the marvelous Captain of courage Who died in our place. Whate’er the trouble Preceding the glad refrain Soon it will vanish Like mists of the morn. Saints with new vistas Of God in the commonplace. Shaking the tambourine, Sounding the horn. Title: Let’s Sing Together