Encouragement in Christ

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Encourage each other,
With how we live our lives,
Let us stand firm in unity,
As we strive side by side.

And comfort each other,
With the gospel of Christ,
Let us not fear the enemy,
As we flee from his lies.

Encourage each other,
Though the suff’ring is long,
To always trust the Lord Jesus,
And make His gospel known.

Dear brothers and sisters,
All those cleansed by His blood,
Have affection and sympathy,
As we cling to this God.

Let us honor the cross,
As we lay down our lives,
And be encouragers for all,
To have the mind of Christ.

Behind the lines

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.

This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

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. (Philippians 1:27-2:4 ESV)

Gleanings from “God’s Lyrics”

One of the books that has shaped how I think and write is God’s Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs by Douglas Sean O’Donnell.

O’Donnell’s helpful work examines 6 songs in the Old Testament:

  • Two Songs of Moses (Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32)
  • Song of Deborah (Judges 5)
  • Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2)
  • Song of David (2 Samuel 22)
  • Song of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3)

He then gives us four major themes found in each:

  1. The Lord is at the center; that is, our God is addressed, adored, and “enlarged.”
  2. His mighty acts in salvation history are recounted.
  3. His acts of judgment are rejoiced in.
  4. His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged.

O’Donnell does a great job of reminding worship songwriters of where the focus of our songs should be. Is the song centered on God or man? Can we sing the song before Him? Who are we worshiping?

This doesn’t mean we can’t write and sing songs about our lives and what God has done in and through our lives. We shouldn’t  ignore the human element and how we relate to God and each other.  For instance, many of the Psalms were written about man’s struggles. Our songs can use first person pronouns. As O’Donnell points out:

“The problem is not the use of the first person pronoun, as many music critics claim. Rather, it is self-love lyrics! There is a subtle but significant difference between “The LORD exults in my heart” and “My heart exults in the LORD.” The latter perfectly balances personal references with praise for God.”

O’Donnell makes the case that the songwriting pendulum has swung heavily toward man centered lyrics (but not all). He compares the most popular Christian songs and hymns with these 6 songs from the Old Testament and it’s an eye-opening read.

The biggest impact this book has had on my writing is the simple reminder to keep the focus on God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The words we choose to use can make all the difference.  My goal is to swing the pendulum back a bit, but I’m sure I have written (and will write) lyrics that need improvement in this area.

The next time you’re writing a song, poem, prayer, or devotion, check to see if it passes the God centered test (you could also say the gospel centered test).

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