Best CoWo songs?

September 4, 2017. The DiM work here focuses primarily on Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) that plays on the airwaves. The goal is to encourage Christians to exercise Biblical discernment when a song plays on the radio. If you’re just listening for entertainment, then keep your guard up and treat every song as a “secular” song. What is the theology being presented in the lyric? Indeed, even secular music presents theology.

With so many Contemporary Worship (CoWo) songs making their way onto the CCM charts, we’ve had a lot of interest in the issue of CoWo (as opposed to historical didactic hymns). As I engage folks in conservative churches, I’m finding a lot of people insisting that the CoWo they have in their church is biblically solid. The problem is that they rarely name these songs. I’m interested in doing more evaluation of CoWo songs, but I want to deal with the songs folks genuinely believe to be biblically solid.

I would like to ask my readers to Contact Us or comment below with what you consider to be Biblically solid CoWo songs that cannot be found in a traditional Hymnal. This has nothing to do with the accompaniment. Trading an organ for a band without changing the lyric is perfectly fine to me and does not make it CoWo. The focus absolutely must be in the content of the lyric. If a contemporary band does a cover or remake of an old Hymn, I will be looking for what was removed from the song and what was added to it lyrically.

My comment section is moderated, so if you don’t want me to post your comment let me know in the comment. I’m asking for help on the research end of CoWo. If you think your church does excellent CoWo, I’d love a list of songs/artists you guys use.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship

disapproveCCM/Evangelical Worship Edition.

February 14, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship which currently sits at #17 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

Hillsong doesn’t write music for Biblical worship, they write mood music for mystical/emotional experiences sold with an empty promise of deepening your intimacy with God, not through reading and studying His word, but by directly experiencing God’s “Presence”. That is the theology they push, that is the aim of their marketing/money-making arm known as “Hillsong Worship”. They package an emotion and sell it as spirituality. This song earns a spot on our “Disapproved” list, but we will examine the theology behind the song by looking at what Hillsong says about it, and we’ll examine the clear scriptures. I don’t recommend including this song in your “contemporary worship” (COWO) service.

Video

Lyrics (via Hillsong)

Verse 1
You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

Chorus 1
What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Verse 2
You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus You brought heaven down
My sin was great Your love was greater
What could separate us now

Chorus 2
What a wonderful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Bridge
Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

Chorus 3
What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

Tags
What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus
What a powerful Name it is The Name of Jesus

Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood

Discussion

Hillsong teaches false doctrine. There is no getting around that and I’m definitely not inclined to side-step their false gospel. They push the Word of Faith (WoF) heresy. They don’t preach repentance. Brian Houston is a notorious bible-twister. Their doctrine of “worship” borrows heavily from New Age worship of “Presence” rather than a Biblical understanding of worship. They are the masters of emotional manipulation to create a feeling or, as they put it, an “atmosphere of worship” where they suggest that our act of worship, our sincerity in our singing/emotions actually invites the very presence of God into the room. Any music coming out of Hillsong is suspect due to the false teaching the pervades its halls. In the past, the better songs that Hillsong has put out have been edits or rewrites of older hymns, and they’ve always been less theologically sound than their original hymns. From what I can tell, this song seems to be a Hillsong original. To begin our discussion, let us look at how they describe the purpose and creation of this song in one of their blogs.

What A Beautiful Name Song Story
Hillsong Worship
13 October 2016

What hides in the name of Jesus?

The name of Jesus encompasses more than we can hope or imagine—more beauty, more wonder, more power.

Most of the song “What A Beautiful Name” was penned in a glorified cubicle in the suburbs of Sydney over a few days in December 2015. From there we spent months crafting the lyrics to riff on our core scriptures — Hebrews 1:1-4 and Colossians 1:15-20, 26-27 — yet be simple enough to make sense on a first reading. Hebrews 1:1-4 expresses with clarity and conciseness the supremacy of Jesus Christ — the radiance of God’s glory, the exact expression of His being, the creative conduit of His power. Jesus is God’s Word: powerful, authoritative and utterly supreme. He is the wonder of salvation, who reconciled us to God.

Let’s pause here for just a moment. What hides in the name of Jesus? Is a terrible way to start this discussion. Why are we starting with the notion of attempting to discover something about Jesus that He has not already revealed to us in His Word? The next statement is objectively true right up until the break in the sentence “—” . The writers of the song are focusing on the beauty, wonder, and power that is beyond our hope or imagining and is hidden in the name of Jesus. We’ll see where they go with this, but first let us examine their “core scriptures”, because I noticed something in their citation in the Colossians text. As for their Hebrews text, they’ve truncated the introduction to Hebrews to just the opening thought. I wish Hillsong would continue reading through Hebrews 2:4 to see where the opening argument is building. But notice the break in the verses in the Colossians citation. What is being skipped? Colossians 1:21-25. Let’s see what’s in there.

Colossians 1:21-26 (ESV) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

Here is what is missing from the Hillsong theology in general and specifically in the formulation of this song. Hillsong preaches a theology of glory, rather than the theology of the cross. Hillsong doesn’t preach Christ and Him crucified for our sin so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God saving us from wrath, Hillsong tries to move “beyond salvation” into us doing stuff to bring Him extra Glory. That’s how they teach worship, that’s how they teach prayer (WoF), and that’s how they teach intimacy with God (mysticism).  They skip over the verses that don’t fit their narrative. Paul is preaching the supremacy of Christ in our salvation, the hope of the gospel which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for “new revelations”, which is a big deal in Hillsong theology. The mystery hidden for ages and generations is now (the time of the Apostle Paul) revealed to his saints (the Church). Again, this cuts against the grain of Hillsong’s push for new knowledge, hidden secrets, and fresh revelation. So, they bounce back to the Hebrews 1:1-4 passage and camp out on the trailing thought that we now listen to Christ so that they can suggest there’s  more for us to know (reflecting back to the opening thought in this blog of “what’s hidden in the name of Jesus”).

To know God and to worship Him (“to enjoy Him forever”) is the most fundamental reason for our existence. As Jesus reveals the great mysteries of God, we come to know more of who God is, glimpsing new facets of His beauty, wonder and power.

“Beauty” evokes the tenderness of His love and the sweetness of His presence. “Wonder” speaks to our gratitude for salvation, awe at the lengths of His sacrifice. “Power” affirms His supremacy and Sovereignty—an exhortation to remember our access to the power of God in every situation, as we call upon and declare the Name of Jesus.

This section begins with a bit of a hat-tip to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (ref), “What is the chief end of man?” Where Hillsong gets squirrelly is in how they formulate and define what it means to “worship” and “enjoy” Him. Hillsong will not be looking to Westminster for this definition, they have their own. What we see next is the emphasis on the hidden secrets, the hidden knowledge, special revelation of the new facets of His beauty, wonder, and power. There is a bit of gnostic mysticism in this focus, and it’s being processed sensually (focusing on sensual themes of enjoying His beauty, wonder, and power).

Jesus has the Name above all others. Anything that we can name – from our greatest triumphs to our greatest challenges—comes under the authority of His Name. This song confesses that no greater beauty or source of wonder exists outside of Jesus, “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3). The song is also a statement that Jesus has no rival or equal. His power is unmatched and absolute.

It is interesting they keep building their case from the Hebrews text. Rather than pull from clear teaching of scripture, they keep embellishing this “radiance of God’s glory” motif. Understand that I’m in no way undercutting the Hebrews text, but this is an odd reference point for understanding the Name that is above all names. A clearer text would be Phil 2:1-11, for example.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) | Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Theology of the cross. Christ humbled Himself, and God has highly exalted Him. To what end? That every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But this end has already been secured by Christ in His finished work on the cross. We have no active role to play in this bringing glory to God. Ours is but to confess Christ.

The purpose of the song, as we’ll see in the close of the blog, isn’t to remind the listener of what Christ has already done; rather, it is to motivate the hearer to push for something more intimate, more fresh, more sensual.

Perhaps some of us understand God loves us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but haven’t grasped His power, ability and will to move strongly in our present circumstances. Or perhaps, we understand God as the supreme, omnipotent Deity He is, but have never known Him close and tender, as a friend acquainted with the depths of our humanity, knowing our flaws cannot perturb His love. Our prayer for this song is that we can all enter into a deeper, more lateral, revelation of the person of Jesus Christ—the epitome of beauty.

Rather nonsensical, mystical, and oddly sensual goal for this song. Stop pointing believers to their own emotions for deeper understanding of God, and start pointing them to the how Christ has already revealed Himself to the Church, in His Written Word.

Song Lyrics

Verse 1. The first two lines remind me of John 1:1-14. The third line, though… doesn’t quite make sense. It flies in the face of Romans 1:18-23, particularly v20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” That fourth line continues the nonsensical by suggesting Jesus’ hidden glory is now reveled in Himself. It’s intentionally obscured, because according to Hillsong theology, Christ’s glory must be pursued empirically, through their form of worship.

Chorus. The chorus in most Hillsong music generally serves as more of a mantra than a confession or teaching. This is especially true of today’s song.  It’s an emotional mantra meant to focus the congregant on imagining the hidden beauty of His Name. The intent is to create a sensation of “deep intimacy” with the Presence of God.

Verse 2. Just awful. This is a throw-away divine romance notion. God didn’t create Adam and Eve in heaven, He created them on Earth. The final destination for those who are of the household of Faith isn’t Heaven, it’s a New Heaven and a New Earth. We sinned. We rebelled against God. We deserve His eternal wrath and destruction.

Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Bridge. Its mystical form makes clarity hard to grasp here. It’s just a random collection of some of the attributes of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection without granting a unified proclamation of the Gospel. The focus here isn’t clarity of doctrine; rather, it is an emotional experience of the “beauty, wonder, and power of His Name”.

Conclusion

As always, Hillsong music is a dangerous brew of leaven. There are clear passages of scripture that we can turn for an understanding of the Name that is above all names, the Name of Jesus Christ. The Church is baptized into the Name of God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. There is much to be seen of God that He has revealed of Himself plainly to us in Scripture. The pursuit of hidden knowledge is dangerous and even deadly to our faith, particularly when that pursuit is encouraged empirically or sensually, looking within ourselves and our emotions rather than on the objective Word of God.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

Presentation1CCM/COWO Edition.

January 10, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman which currently sits at #2 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

The new year brings with it a full reset of the top 20 chart. Most of the songs currently on the chart are technically evangelical worship songs or contemporary worship (COWO) songs.

Today’s song was my favorite song from my old life of evangelicalism and NAR deception. I still catch myself humming this tune from time to time, and honestly I’ve been hoping this song wouldn’t pop up on the top 20 so I wouldn’t have to review it in light of Scripture. However, as it is now on the top 20 chart–review it, we shall! The song doesn’t stand on its own, but it can be good with a little bit biblical instruction. Let’s give the song a listen and then read through the lyric.

MattRedmanVEVO

Lyrics (via K-Love)

(Chorus)
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Chorus

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Chorus

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

(Chorus x2)

Jesus, I’ll worship Your holy name
Lord, I’ll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I’ll worship Your holy name
I’ll worship Your holy name

Discussion

The point of the song is to remind/encourage the listener to “bless the LORD, oh my soul”. This phrase needs some explanation to keep the listener clear of mysticism. For starters, let’s talk briefly about what it means to refer to one’s soul.

Oh my soul. To put it simply, your soul is your core being. For centuries theologians have debated whether we are made of 3 parts (mind, body/heart, soul) or 2 parts (body, soul/spirit) but however you decide to slice this, know that when Scripture speaks of the soul it is in reference to the core of a person. When Isaac was nearing death, he sent Esau out to prepare him his final meal so that his soul might bless Esau before he dies (Genesis 27:1-4 ESV). Such wording is to signify to Esau the seriousness of the matter. The opposite notion might be to give a blessing of lip-service only, or flattery. But no, Isaac was going to offer his best blessing to Esau. So when Esau learned that the blessing had been given to Jacob, we see Isaac’s response:

Genesis 27:33-38 (ESV) Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

So this is the seriousness with which we see the reference to blessing from our souls in Scripture. Of ourselves, we have very little blessing to bestow upon others… what we have we have received from the LORD. Isaac’s blessing is the Promise of God to his father, Abraham, that promise being the Messiah, the Christ, the Gospel of Salvation. Now, let’s talk about what the phrase “bless the LORD” indicates in Scripture.

Bless the LORD. Most often when we see this phrase throughout the old testament it is within the context of offering to the LORD praise and thanksgiving for what He has done. There is also a meaning of bending the knee to God in worship (בָּרַךְ Strongs H1288). Under the Mosaic covenant, there were offerings and sacrifices to be brought to the Temple in keeping with the Law. Such things might be done in an empty manner, but Blessing the LORD from the soul reflects the Greatest Commandment:

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

In the New Covenant of Christ’s Blood, we have nothing to offer Him but thanksgiving and praise for what Christ has done for us. We bring nothing to our Salvation but the sin that made Salvation necessary. So, while the phrase “bless the LORD” appears in the Old Testament, we need to approach it through the lens of the New Testament, Christ revealed. A good place to look is in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV) A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

So, the refrain or chorus of this song is a call for Christians to bless (worship/praise/give thanks to) the LORD in earnest, in truth, and from their whole being. That is a Biblically sound call to Worship the LORD God in Spirit and in Truth.

John 4:22-24 (ESV) You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Such worship is only possible by Faith. The unbelievers cannot worship the LORD God in Spirit or in Truth. They are dead in sins and trespasses. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Possible pitfalls

The refrain “Bless the LORD oh my soul” is a call to worship God, but is in itself not much of a statement of praise or thanksgiving to the LORD. For those who are young in the faith, it is perfectly acceptable to start here, in the same way that “Lord, have mercy on me” is a perfectly valid and earnest prayer for help in times of need. But singing the one line over and over again falls short of actually doing what the song is calling the listener to do. The verses start to get going in the right direction of praising/thanking the LORD God for what He has done. Sadly, these verses are short and half of the verse ends up turning back onto what the singer is going to do for God (keep singing). The temptation to view worship as a down-payment on a future blessing rather than thanksgiving for what God has already done is a pitfall common to COWO. It is so pervasive in COWO that it needs to be directly addressed and guarded against overtly. We DO NOT worship God to invite Him to do something in our midst. That is how the pagans worship their idols.

The notion of blessing the LORD from the soul can get extremely fouled up in evangelical circles. Often times the emphasis on the concept of worshiping the LORD from the soul ends up being placed on the emotions, as if your emotions are the anchor point of your soul. Our emotions are part of us, but they are deeply rooted in our flesh, and as such are corrupted by our sinful flesh and serve as a pitiful litmus for faith, worship, and praise. Our emotions are easily manipulated and shaped by purely physical/fleshly means and methods (music, lighting, vocals, etc). In the charismatic camp, this notion is taken further into gnostic mysticism by teaching that worshiping in spirit and in truth necessitates disconnecting or quieting the mind and releasing self-control of the body to the moving of a spirit. That’s where you get the glossolalia (ecstatic gibberish), kundalini style herky-jerky and folks laughing/wailing uncontrollably or being “slain in the spirit” and other such ridiculous nonsense that is allowed and even encouraged in the name of “praise and worship service”. This song calls the congregation to worship but doesn’t actually lead in that worship… so you might hear this song being performed during a COWO service of an otherwise Orthodox church (please stop doing this, folks) and mean one thing while at the local big-box-evangelical-nondenom-charismatic it’s being played specifically to elicit a mystical experience.

Conclusion

As a call to worship the LORD God, the song does its job. Whether or not the song is good depends fully upon the doctrine and practice of worship being applied by the listener. I’d like to see/hear a worship leader write more theologically rich verses to accompany the song’s refrain. The lyric of our hymns and songs selected for corporate worship should inform and instruct in the faith, not merely tickle the emotions. If your church has a COWO service (a topic for another time, perhaps) this song could be used appropriately, provided the congregation has a solid grasp of acceptable Worship in light of the Gospel. If you are said worship leader, I encourage you to engage in writing stronger verses that focus more on thanksgiving and praise to the LORD rather than a string of promises of what we’ll do for Him.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge