Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Incarnation and A Song

The incarnation of Christ and His work on the cross is the center of human history. Period. All of history and revelation prior to this miraculous condescension of God pointed to this event. All of the subsequent moments and seconds look back to that time, in groaning anticipation of the second coming and final consummation in time of the realities of that work. Christ, through the incarnation, death on the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension have purchased finally and completely all the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20) and the final victory that we await as pilgrims in these "last days."

This is the theological framework and backdrop that we often think about when we talk about the incarnation. It is the factual and real culmination of God's work. In heaven, we will be around the throne singing glory and honor to the lamb, who was slain and has bought for himself a people to praise Him forever and ever (Revelation 5:9-10). All true! All gloriously true. But no one could possibly read through the Gospels (much less the OT law and prophets) and miss the fact that the coming of the King of Kings would have social ramifications as well as theological ones. Jesus came feeding the hungry. Jesus came healing the sick. Jesus came and touched leapers - unclean, unholy, unfit. Jesus arrived and said that he came not to be served, but to serve AND give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

I have a tendency to glory in the last half of that statement. I sing with vigor and my heart wrenches in pain as I contemplate the agony of the sinless dying to ransom many, but I rarely wrench in agony and distress when I think of the multitudes of desperate, sick, and hungry around me. I have little affection for the emerging church or for the liberal protestantism in our country today, but I do see that they have one critique of the modern evangelical church that is apropos. It is our reluctance to get dirty to serve the poor. We have megachurches building massive buildings with bookstores and coffee shoppes, all in the name of Christ. Christ tells us to lay up treasures in heaven and not here on earth, but we have a decadent and misguided streak in the American evangelical church that believes that as Christians, our communities are to be established to care for ourselves and promote an ease in our lives that is found nowhere in scripture. We are commanded to remember that we are pilgrims and strangers in this land and we are awaiting, just like Abraham a far greater city that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). We are "just passing through" as the song says. Hebrews tells us that this is the reason that Abraham lived in tents all his life. He, different than other tribes at the time, never built homes and walls and fortifications because He was waiting for the heavenly city.
It is time that we make our ministries look more like Christ's own and less like Six Flags, or the local mall.

The hymn text below draws these two great truths together. Beginning with his life and ministry in the first verse, we contemplate the compassion and physical ministry of Christ. In the second, we are directed toward the great truth of Christ's accomplished work on the Cross. And in the second, with resolve, the hymnist proclaims submission to Christ by imitating his life and praying for the power and Spirit to not shrink back from carrying our cross, even if it ends in death just as Christ's did. It is a serious hymn. The refrain is a prayer for Christ, incarnate and eternal to captivate our hearts that are so prone to wander and prone to complacency toward the other half of Christ's mission.

Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2002 Thankyou Music

With a prayer You fed the hungry,
With a cry You stilled the storm;
With a look You had compassion
On the desperate and forlorn.
With a touch You healed the leper,
With a shout You raised the dead;
With a word expelled the demons,
With a blessing broke the bread.

Love incarnate, love divine,
Captivate this heart of mine
Till all I do speaks of You.

As a sheep before the shearer
You were silent in Your pain;
You endured humiliation
At the hands of those You’d made.
And as hell unleashed its fury
You were lifted on a tree,
Crying ‘Father God, forgive them,
Place their punishment on Me.’

I will feed the poor and hungry,
I will stand up for the truth;
I will take my cross and follow
To the corners of the earth.
And I ask that You so fill me
With Your peace, Your power, Your breath,
That I never love my life so much
To shrink from facing death.

This hymn is written by Stuart Townend of How Deep the Father's Love For Us and In Christ Alone fame. He lives in Brighton, England and works in the music publishing industry. He has 3 children and is involved in worship leadership at Church of Christ the King in Brighton.

To hear Stuart Townend speak about the challenges of writing Modern Hymns and Worship Music, see October 5, 2005 HERE.

For purchase a recording of this song see HERE.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In 1991, the Southern Baptist Convention press, now Lifeway, gave us the Baptist Hymnal. This hymnal is the one my church uses today. Lifeway is currently working on the New Baptist Hymnal, scheduled to be released July 1, 2008. This new offering will contain around 650 songs, only a few less than the prior version. Lifeway is also supplementing the pew version with an online resource and database of 1000 songs that will be available to churches in various formats: a multimedia database of texts, a recorded database for churches without musicians and, orchestrated accompaniments for larger churches. Lifeway is hoping to add 100 songs per year to this online database, giving churches access to new songs as well as all the old standards that many baptist churches love to sing.

The aim of such an online database is to provide a centralized resource for worship planning and to confront some of the problems of hymnal publishing that are unique to our digital age and to put better tools into the hands of worship planners, giving more options than the standard pew publication provides. It also shows foreword thinking for those on the mission field and small churches who may be worshiping where musicians are not available. Granted, the idea of playing an MP3 recording for my congregation to sing to is not exciting to me, but considering that most of our convention's churches have less than 100 members, with limited budgets for paying accompanists, it appears that Lifeway is truly seeking to help churches where they are.

The printed hymnal will be dually titled The Baptist Hymnal and The Worship Hymnal. Both editions will be available hardbound in order to market the hymnal to non SBC churches who may share our hymn tradition and theological perspectives but may be of another denomination and aren't interested in many of the "changes" to texts that many other published hymnals of the past few decades have indulged, such as gender neutrality and theological tweaking to take away "unhelpful" themes like "sin" and "judgment" and "eschatological triumph." Many denominations today find these as unnecessarily provocative and harmful to the christian message and have changed traditional hymn texts accordingly.

The publishers say that they have found that most Southern Baptist churches use around 300 of the hymns in the 1991 hymnal. They have retained these baptist standards and are supplementing these with over 200 new songs that have been published in other hymnals but have been absent from the Baptist Hymnal. They also will debut over 100 hymns that have never been published in any hymnal to date. Maybe this will include modern hymns like "In Christ Alone." I'm crossing my fingers.

Oh, in one article, they explain that "I'll fly away" will make it back into this edition. That will make my church family glad!

For more information, check out for news and updates on the new hymnal project.

Puritan Reading Challenge

I am taking the Puritan reading challenge. You can click the button at the top right of the blog above my profile if you would like to join and find out more information about what it is all about...or press:

If you don't own these books, be sure to check the link. Reformed Heritage books is selling all 12 paperbacks in one bundle for $65.oo, nearly 40% off. If you do not have a plan for study in this new year beyond normal Bible reading, then this would be a wonderful way to incorporate devotional christian reading into your life. I am looking foreward to this and hope many of you can join with me and take the Puritan Reading Challenge.