Sun of My Soul

So far during my time at Jackson Heights, I haven’t had much success with maintaining sermon series.  However, despite this dismal track record, I remain undeterred, and I’m going to launch another one that hopefully will appear periodically.  From time to time, I want to spend a sermon taking an in-depth look at one of the great hymns in our repertoire.

I think this exercise is valuable for several reasons.  First, it reminds us that we are supposed to sing with understanding, that we are supposed to think about the hymns that we sing, and that the hymns we sing are supposed to be worthy of thought.  Second, I know there are brethren who absolutely hated high-school English class and wouldn’t mind the help in decoding what some of our more obscure hymns are saying.  Third, even if the thoughts of these hymns weren’t contained in a hymn, they’d still be worthy of a sermon on their own, and we can benefit from contemplating them.  With these things in mind, then, let’s turn our attention to the stellar “Sun of My Soul”. Continue reading

Grace and Good Works

One of the great tensions in the Bible is the tension between faith and works.  If we’re not careful, it’s easy for us to overvalue one at the expense of the other.  If we put too much emphasis on faith, we might find ourselves believing that our actions don’t matter very much.  On the other hand, if we put too much emphasis on obedience, we might find ourselves believing that we are responsible for our own salvation rather than trusting in Jesus to save us.

The Bible, though, doesn’t really treat faith and works, obedience and grace, as opposites.  Instead, they’re complementary.  God’s grace motivates us to obey, and our faith stirs us up to good works.  We can’t properly glorify God without either, and we have to understand both.  This evening, then, let’s look together at a context from Titus that explores the connection between grace and good works. Continue reading

Solomon and God’s Dwelling Place

Most Christians know that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  However, there is considerable disagreement about what this means.  Does the Spirit indwell us in a personal, literal sense, or is there considerably more metaphor involved?

In our search for an answer to this question, 1 Kings 8 is one of the more useful texts in the Bible.  Even though in it, Solomon is concerned with what it means for God to dwell in His temple, New-Testament authors (particularly Paul) frequently borrow temple language to explore the dwelling of the Spirit in us. Continue reading

Wine and Women

These days, I consider myself pretty cynical when it comes to the outside world.  I think I have a pretty good idea what-all our society is up to.  However, a few weeks ago, Lauren sent me an article that made my jaw drop.  Apparently, one of the big trends among the soccer-mom set these days is drinking.  Alcohol consumption, especially wine, is way up for women who have kids at home.

This is a big change from the way things historically have been.  Back in the day, it was the men who did the drinking and the women who disapproved of it.  However, that’s no longer the case.  Women are rapidly catching up to men in drinking, binge drinking, and alcoholism.  I think this trend is all the more dangerous because of the innocuous way that it’s being presented, with ponytailed YouTubers joking about how their kids drive them to drink.  I have no idea how many people here drink at home, but I do know that it’s not a good idea for any of us.  Let’s consider, then, the unpleasant subject of wine and women. Continue reading

Psalm 136 and Repetition

A couple days ago, I posted about the hymn “Days of Elijah” and my complicated perspective on it.  Even though I didn’t introduce the topic myself, at one point, the conversation drifted to the bridge of “Days of Elijah”, which repeats the phrase “There’s no God like Jehovah,” about 20 times.  Lots of people don’t care for the repetition, said so, and provoked the usual online discussion/argument about repetition in hymns.  Continue reading

Are These the Days of Elijah?

I will admit to considerable ambivalence about the hymn “Days of Elijah”.  The tune is stirring, and it undeniably has lots of Biblical content that gives me a great deal to think about.  Nor, despite discussion to the contrary, do I think the hymn is premillennial.  (Note that, as always, only hymns that say something get criticized, while hymns that say nothing get a pass even though they teach nothing.  It’s hard to see the problems with what isn’t there.)  In short, there are many credits on the ledger.

On the debit side, though, I have to list the unfortunate couplet about David rebuilding the temple.  Yes, I’ve read the author’s defense.  No, I don’t buy it.  Instead, I think that one of the problems with writing a song in the church kitchen in half an hour is that you’re prone to make mistakes.  However, once people worldwide have started singing your mistake, it’s tough to admit that.

More than that, though, the content simply makes me uneasy.  The hymn brings in all sorts of Biblical concepts that fit together in a coherent picture, but I don’t think the picture is one that the author intended.  The music of the song is bouncy and upbeat, but the days that we’re singing about so happily are not.  Not at all. Continue reading