Monday, May 18, 2009

God's Own Child I Gladly Say It

God's own child, I gladly say it:
I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it,
Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth's treasure many?
I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free
Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger:
Jesus' cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me
Since my Baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood,
Sprinkling me with Jesus' blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation:
I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I've traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise!


While we're on the topic of baptism, I decided to post this "new" hymn that is in CW Supplement. Despite being an old text (newly translated) and tune, I find this hymn very fresh and relevant. The hymn expresses the great joy believers have because of their baptism, each stanza joyously proclaiming, "I am baptized into Christ!". The first stanza gives the plan of Salvation, the basis of our baptism.

Stanzas two, three, and four each definatly expresses victory over sin, Satan, and death. They have no power over me, for, I am baptized into Christ! Through our baptism, Christ has given us victory over the dark forces of the world. By his power and through his gracious gifts, we are able to defeat them.

I always find special joy in singing about heaven. Baptism reminds us of our heavenward goal. Stanza five reminds us of this, and makes us yearn for then.

Learn and teach this hymn. The words are beautiful and timeless.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Father Welcomes

Father welcomes all his children
to his fam'ly through his Son.
Father giving His salvation;
Life forever has been won.

Little children, come to me,
for my kingdom is of these.
Love and new life have I to give,
Pardon for your sin.

In the water, in the Word,
in His promise, be assured;
All who believe and are baptized
have been born again.

Let us daily die to sin;
let us daily rise with Him,
Walk in the love of Christ our Lord,
Live in the peace of God.

I like the simplicity of the language while still containing much doctrine and proclamation. The song echos a couple portions of Luther's Small Catechism on baptism:

Second: What does Baptism do for us?

Baptism works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. What are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

Fourth: What does baptizing with water mean?

Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written?
St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, "We were buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
I think we can always use more reminders of our baptism.

Your thoughts?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Voice of Truth

Another one sent in by a reader, recently used for worship:
Oh, what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And he's holding out his hand.

But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again
"Boy, you'll never win,
you'll never win."

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

Oh, what I would do
to have the kind of strength it takes
To stand before a giant
with just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound
of a thousand warriors
shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand.

But the giant's calling out
my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
time and time again
"Boy you'll never win,
you'll never win."

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
to put the giant on the ground
and the waves they don't seem so high
from on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
singing over me.

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says "do not be afraid"
And the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me (calling out to me)
I will choose to listen and believe (I will choose to listen and believe)
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

I will listen and believe
I will listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe
'Cause Jesus you are the voice of truth
And I will listen to you.. oh you are.

This week something a little different. Hoping not to come off as "the authority," I'd like to open it up to all of you right away for discussion and comments for evaluation. What do you think about this song? Is it appropriate for worship? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

O Worship the King

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His wonderful love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

All hail to the King in splendor enthroned,
Glad praises we bring, Thy wonders make known.
Returning victorious great conqueror of sin,
King Jesus, all gracious, our victory will win.


I notice that there are several variants of the text available online. I took this one from a church bulletin. None of them vary significantly in content.

This hymn names many of the different names of God and calls for his worship and praise. It uses quite beautiful and flowery language. But it doesn't really say a whole lot about the Christian faith nor proclaim much about Christ. It comes the closest in the very last two lines, but still says very little for all the words expended. Some lines are very vague and perhaps leave quite a bit up to interpretation.

I think a hymn like this sometimes passes the test to be used for church unfortunately simply because it is a hymn and uses church-like language - on the surface it sounds like a rather Lutheran hymn. But does it preach the Gospel? Teach the law? No, not very convincingly. We can do better.

Update: Several readers pointed out that I may have been too harsh in my evaluation. Read on in the comments for some more good discussion...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Wonderful Cross

Oh the wonderful cross
Oh the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die
and find that I
may truly live
Oh the wonderful cross
Oh the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace
Draw near and bless Your name

Verse 1
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

Verse 2
See from His head His hands His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

Verse 3
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul my life my all

A reader sent in these lyrics by email about a week ago and asked that I might review them. I know it is not Lent anymore, but I wanted some time to think them over and still accommodate his request. I am going to focus on the added refrain for this review.

Assuming "cross" in this song is poetic synonymn for the Gospel message.

"Oh the wonderful cross"

This reflects joy in the Gospel. My concern here is that this becomes the focal point of the entire song (it is repeated four times in the refrain, and the refrain is repeated several times); however, it does not contain any Gospel substance. You kind of get caught up in this little phrase rather than actually reflect on actual Gospel substance - as is contained the hymn text. Many CCM writers intentionalize building emotion in the music and intentionalize making it memorable: *apart from the Gospel* and make no qualms about doing - in fact, they believe that is what makes a good worship song. There is nothing wrong with emotion in music, but the emotion needs come from the Gospel message and not be artificially created by "moving" music. I think there are many worse examples of this happening, but is a concern here.

"Bids me come and die / and find that I / may truly live"

I think we can understand these lines in one of two ways:

1. The Gospel message compels us to come and make a choice to die where we then find true life in Christ.

2. The Gospel message calls us, we come by the Holy Spirit's guidance, we are born again in baptism, our sinful nature dies within us through daily sorrow and repentence, and we truly live in Christ.

I would hazard a guess that the songwriters sing it as #1, as that squares with their teaching and practice, and I believe Lutherans would sing it as #2. I'm not a big fan of songs that do this - allow room for a double meaning and then we sing it, meaning some of the words in a way different than originally intended. There is a hymn in Christian Worship that does this and makes me a little uncomfortable every time we sing it. Sure, you and I can put on my Lutheran eyes and understand it correctly -- but what about the visitor? Is it a clear confession of Christ to the visitor? What about the member that is weak in faith?

"All who gather here / by grace draw near / and bless Your name"

This is Biblical. Perhaps confusing for some in WELS but is fine.

Conclusion: One could understand this text in a way that is doctrinally correct or doctrinally incorrect. The refrain, repeated again and again, does not really add much understanding to the hymn text or further proclaim the Gospel; in fact, it seems to add a little bit of unclarity. Is it wrong for a congregation to use it? Not necessarily, but given the enormous number jewels available in Christian music, why not choose something else, or even the same hymn without the issues this new refrain introduces?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

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


He is risen! He is risen indeed!

What a beautiful text with which to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. There is no mistaking what this song is about: Christ, who he is, what he has done, and what it means for us. "In Christ alone my hope is found" is a solid and clear teaching of the church, a powerful confession of faith. Stanzas 2 and 3 lay out the story of salvation, from Christmas to Good Friday to Easter. This text points out our sins that condemn us: "ev'ry sin on Him was laid," "scorned by the ones he came to save," sin, whose curse had a grip on me. Make no mistake as to how my sin was paid for: it was "bought with the precious blood of Christ."

Free from stranglehold that Satan has over us, we are alive in Christ. In Christ, too, we are safe. And in Christ, he will take us Home to heaven.

This song is packed with clear Gospel proclamation. It points to our risen Savior. I believe the melody supports the text well.

Praise our risen Lord and Savior for his death and resurrection, that we have hope and peace in Jesus.


For further reading and a criticism about one of the lines, check here. In my read-through I did not understand that line in a sense that would be false doctrine, but if you think that your congregation or visitors might, then it would be wise not to use it. Use your discernment.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Memorable lyrics, Singable melody

A reader, Steve, made a good point yesterday in a comment:

"Getting some memorable lyrics with a singable melody into a person's head so that he or she sings it throughout the week is a very powerful thing. Personally, I have difficulty doing this with most, but not all, hymns. The key, as you know, is to find the right songs."

I agree with this. The trouble is, it isn't a great idea to substitute good songs with memorable songs that are weak or don't really say anything about God. Is it possible to have good and strong, but simple and memorable songs?

I think that this is a strength of using the western rite. The western rite makes use of short, memorable songs with texts carefully chosen from Scripture that tell the story of Salvation and take us through the church year every week. This isn't to say that you have to use the settings in the hymnal - there are literally thousands of settings available for every sort of instrumentation - but it would probably be wise to keep using the same settings that you do choose for the very reason of being memorable and something familiar for the people. Personally, I very much like the first new setting that is in Christian Worship Supplement. The second setting in it is nice as well as it is easy to pick up - it uses already familiar hymn tunes (that you get to pick) for the church songs. But there are many, many others available as well.

I've noticed that most churches I've visited that try contemporary worship, even those keeping a liturgical framework, tend to eliminate these songs. I think that's too bad... as they are a very strong part of our Lutheran worship - and there are opportunities for variety (some would call this being contemporary) by changing the setting or instrumentation.

As to other songs, I think Luther's call to poets and musicians of his day to get together and write new music is still valid today. Consider this 2005 song written and composed by WELS members available here (note: LCMS blog).