New Resource for Hymns: Systematic Hymnology

Do you love hymns as much as we do? Be sure to check out John Gardner’s new blog, Systematic Hymnology! This will be the new home for some of the content that has previously been posted on this blog, with new stories and studies based on the music of the Church added several times a week. Be sure to check back often to see how much we have to learn from our great heritage of hymns! You’ll also find lots of good resources for discovering new artists and songwriters, as well as arrangements that will serve local churches, particularly our own.


John Wesley’s Instructions for Singing

Thanks to the Doxology & Theology Blog for pointing out this list of seven instructions given by John Wesley in the introduction to his Select Hymns, a collection published in 1761:

  1. “Learn these Tunes before you learn any others ….
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here without altering or mending them at all …
  3. Sing ALL. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can …
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength …
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony …
  6. Sing in Time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it … and take care not to sing too slow…
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself or any other creature.”

Are You on Twitter?

I’ve been working to compile and maintain a list of SSBC members who are on Twitter. If you’re a twitterer, check to make sure you’re on the list, and help me out by adding anyone who isn’t there yet! If you’d like to get signed up, I also have some basic instructions on how to get started here. I’m looking forward to following and interacting with many more Stevens Street folks soon!

Choosing Music for Corporate Worship

Ever wonder what kind of thought process goes into selecting the music we sing in corporate worship? The other day I wrote out some things that went into my decision for the set list we used this past Sunday. You can check it out here.

I’m always thankful for the opportunity to lead our congregation in singing praise to our God, but am even more thankful that the man who does this most weeks consistently models a thoughtful approach to worship leading and song selection. Robert will be back this Sunday!

Spring Book Reviews

My reading from the last few months has included some really great books! Here are some short summaries. If you see something that interests you, click on over for a full review. As always, if you come across any good books, let me know about them!

“Here’s Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math” by Alex Bellos

I’ll be honest: I bought this book based on the title alone. I don’t really like math, and was shocked to discover that the genre of “recreational math books” actually existed. However, this ended up being a really fun and interesting book of math-related stories and a pure joy to read! A very pleasant surprise!

Recommended for: People who love numbers and/or short stories. Even if you hate math, you’d probably still like this book. Read the full review.

“The Family Worship Book: A Resource for Family Devotions” by Terry L. Johnson

The title pretty much describes this one. It is a resource book to aid husbands and fathers to carry out our mandate to lead our families in worship in the home. In addition to several helpful and encouraging practical considerations, it contains a hymnal, a ten year Bible reading schedule, Scripture memory aids, two catechisms, and some historical writings on family worship. It has been a huge benefit to my family; Nate loves to go grab the book off the shelf every night!

Recommended for: Husbands and dads. Read the full review.

“Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God” by David Platt

This is the sequel to David Platt’s runaway success, Radical. I’ve been encouraged to see many from our church reading the first book, and hope that this one will prove to be as popular! I actually found it to be more helpful than the first one, though I don’t think one should read it without having first read Radical. The first book has transformed the way many Christians think about their faith; its sequel aims to do the same for the church. After all, individual Christians can only do so much to change the world around them. It is the Church through whom God has promised to bring His purposes to completion before Christ returns!

Recommended for: Everyone who read and enjoyed Radical. Read the full review.

“Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning” by Nancy Pearcey

At the year’s halfway point, this is holding steady as my favorite book of 2011. Nancy Pearcey was a student of Francis Schaeffer, and continues his work in the field of apologetics and worldview studies. This is absolutely the best book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read quite a few!) on the impact of art, music, and literature on our culture, and the Christian’s role in shaping the culture and resisting the “secular assault”.

Recommended for: Those with an interest in pop culture and the arts, or who wish to advance the cause of Christ in our culture. Read the full review.

“Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem” by Jay W. Richards

Despite the cheesy subtitle, this is a very good book that corrects what the author identifies as eight economic myths which are commonly believed by both proponents and opponents of capitalism. He makes a very strong case for a free-market economy being the best available option, though tempers our expectations by reminding us that there can be no “perfect” economy this side of the Lord’s return because all men and all systems are tainted by sin. He also contrasts Biblical ethics with the philosophies of capitalists Ayn Rand and F.A. Hayek.

Recommended for: Those with an interest in politics and/or economics, regardless of your views on capitalism. Read the full review.

“George Müller: Delighted in God” by Roger Steer

George Müller’s legacy is one of prayer and great faithfulness. A 19th-century playboy-turned-preacher, he is most known for the orphanages he founded, which cared for over 10,000 children during his lifetime. He also kept a remarkable prayer journal, in which he recorded well over 50,000 answers to prayer! As if that weren’t enough, he also began a new career as a traveling evangelist when he was in his 70’s, and still managed to preach in 42 countries (many multiple times) without the benefit of high speed travel. This biography was an incredible encouragement to me, and a boon to my prayer life.

Recommended for: Fans of biographies, orphans, and/or prayer. Read the full review here.

“Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices” by Mosab Hassan Yousef

This is the New York Times bestselling autobiography of the son of the head of the Hamas terror organization, who joined an Israeli counter-terrorism espionage force and eventually became a Christian. He talks about the difficulties encountered living this double life (not least of which was the decision to hand his father over to the authorities rather than risk his almost certain assassination), and about his love for the Palestinian people. It’s an incredible story from someone whose obedience to Christ’s call to “love your enemies” carried some very weighty consequences.

Recommended for: Those who seek insight into the complex political and religious landscape in the Middle East, from someone with a very unique perspective. Read the full review.

“The Monster in the Hollows: The Wingfeather Saga, Book Three” by Andrew Peterson

I love reading non-fiction as much as anyone (and more than most), but nothing beats a great story! Andrew Peterson’s “Wingfeather Saga” has been one of the most enjoyable sets of books I’ve read in a loooooong time. This is the third in the series, with one more due sometime next year. I can’t recommend it highly enough, particularly for families with children. The books aren’t children’s books per se, but they will definitely have a certain appeal for kids as well as their parents!

Recommended for: Fans of The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other epic fantasy fiction series, which pretty much includes everyone who has ever read those book. You’ll love these, too! Read the full review.

“Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom” by Ron Paul

I intend to read books by several candidates in the run-up to the next presidential election, but this was my first. The latest from Dr. Paul is a great overview of his entire political philosophy; rather than focusing on any one issue, he devotes a few pages each to 50 topics, from Abortion to Zionism. I find him to be an intriguing man, and am curious to see how he fares in next year’s primary.

Recommended for: Politically-interested folks who want to stay as informed as possible about those who are contending for our votes. Read the full review.

“Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

One of the best selling books of the last half decade, the authors of Freakonomics sought to apply the science of economic thought to fields other than finance. After all, one of the prime motivations of the book was the belief that economics is a wonderful method for finding answers, but that most economists just don’t ask interesting questions. The result is a fascinating and totally original book that asks and answers questions like, “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” and “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real estate agents?” It’s a best seller for a reason!

Recommended for: Readers who like something a little different. Read the full review.

“The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H.” by George Steiner

This is one of the most controversial novels written in the last several decades. Steiner, a Jew, writes a piece of alternative historical fiction in which Hitler did not die in 1945, but escaped to hide out in the Amazon. A group of Nazi hunters finds him, and tries to take him to trial, but traveling through the rainforest with a 90-year-old man is difficult. The main controversy comes in the end, when Hitler speaks in his own defense at his trial, not only rationalizing his actions, but insisting that Jews ought to be indebted to him. The novel creates some very provocative questions in the minds of readers about the nature of evil and the power of words.

Recommended for: Philosophers, historians, and people who don’t mind a book that challenges the intellect. Read the full review.

Hymnology: Creation Sings the Father’s Song

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
~ 2 Chronicles 16:31-34

Hymn Story

This hymn is the result of another collaboration between Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend, the combination which has produced so many great hymns in the last decade. The most distinctive thing about this particular hymn musically is its meter (time signature). We don’t often sing mixed meter songs corporately, as they can be very difficult to pick up in one hearing. In Creation Sings, however, the mixed meter just “works”. Though the time signature in the verses shifts every measure between 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 (the choruses stay in 3/4), congregations seem to catch on quickly. This is the mark of an extraordinarily well-written hymn for the church!

 The rest of this entry has been moved to the new Systematic Hymnology blog. Read it here.

Book Review Survey

I haven’t put any book reviews on here in about five months, but I’ve added a whole lot on my personal blog. Here’s a quick summary of the books I’ve reviewed since my last post on here, with links to the full reviews for those who are interested in learning more. Lots of great books out there (I’ve only included here the ones that I recommend)!

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper

One of the most influential books in my life. If you want to kick-start your passionate pursuit of God, this one will do it!

Recommended for: Absolutely everyone. Read the full review.

“The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name” by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Easily the best children’s Bible I’ve seen. It presents every story as more than a story, by constantly pointing to Jesus Christ. Nate’s not quite old enough for this one, but he still loves to look at the pictures!

Recommended for: Anyone with young children or grandchildren. Read the full review.

“Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” by J.I. Packer

Re-read this on the 50th anniversary of it’s publishing. It’s a modern classic that brilliantly deals with arguably the most difficult concept in Scripture: reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility.

Recommended for: Anyone with a heart for seeing lost people saved… which had better be you! Read the full review.

“The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings” by Peter Kreeft

An educational and enjoyable investigation of the philosophical worldview of J.R.R. Tolkien evidenced in his books about Middle-Earth.

Recommended for: Fans of the LOTR series. Read the full review.

“Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People” by Calvin Stapert

A professor of music from Calvin College writes about the history and significance of one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of music… and one of my personal favorites!

Recommended for: Those who love Handel’s Messiah, or music history. Read the full review.

“The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men” by Dr. Richard D. Phillips

A short but excellent book focusing on God’s calling for men at home, work, and church. Much more Scripturally sound than many other popular men’s books, such as Wild At Heart.

Recommended for: Men and the women who love them. Read the full review.

“Religion Saves (and Nine Other Misconceptions)” by Mark Driscoll

A sermon series preached by Mark Driscoll to address nine big questions collected in an online poll, expanded and edited into book form.

Recommended for: Those who have questions about things like birth control, sex, and predestination. Read the full review.

“The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges

God tells us to “be holy as I am holy”… but how do we do that? This is one of the best attempts to answer that question. A book to read over and over.

Recommended for: All Christians. Read the full review.

“Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality” by Wesley Hill

A thought-provoking and heart-wrenching testimony of a Christian man tempted with homosexual desires, who has chosen celibate obedience to God’s Word and reliance upon the Holy Spirit to resist temptation.

Recommended for: Those with a heart for ministry to people experiencing same-sex attraction. Read the full review.

“Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling” by Andy Crouch

A very influential book about the Christian’s role in influencing culture. Lots to think about in this one… I’ll probably read it again at some point.

Recommended for: Christians who wonder how best they can make a difference in the world using the gifts God has given them. Read the full review.

“The Sword: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy Book 1)” by Brian Litfin

The first in a new fantasy fiction series set several centuries in Earth’s future, where a supervirus and nuclear war have killed off most of the population and sent the world back to the bronze age. After hundreds of years of polytheistic religion, God’s Word is rediscovered and once again begins to turn the world upside down.

Recommended for: Fans of fantasy fiction, or those who just love a good story. Read the full review.

“The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin” by Douglas Bond

Another novel, this one a work of historical fiction. The story follows the life of John Calvin through the eyes of a lifelong rival. More exciting than a traditional biography, but contains many quotes from historical works by Calvin and other great Reformers.

Recommended for: Those with an interest in church history or historical fiction. Read the full review.

“The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate” by John H. Walton

A controversial book published in 2009 proposing a very non-traditional reading of the Bible’s first chapter. I can’t affirm all of the author’s conclusions, but I was fascinated by this book. I love books that make me re-think my convictions.

Recommended for: Those interested in the creation/evolution debate. Read the full review here.

“Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

A response against the dearth of anti-church books that have hit the shelves of Christian bookstores in the last decade. It is refreshing to hear a rational, honest appeal for Christians to love and actively participate in the life of Christ’s bride.

Recommended for: Anyone, but especially those who are disillusioned or disappointed with the church. Read the full review.

Gospel-Driven Life, The, Michael Horton, 978-0-8010-1319-5“The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World” by Michael Horton

There have been a lot of books written recently about what should “drive” the life of a Christian. This one brings the focus back to where it must always be: the gospel of Jesus Christ, and our responsibility to proclaim it in word and deed to a world that desperately needs it.

Recommended for: Everybody; we can all use more gospel, and Horton is a wonderful teacher. Read the full review.

“Romans (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)” by R.C. Sproul

One of my favorite preachers writing a commentary on the best book in the Bible = a winning combination! I’ve now read the first two commentaries in this series and both have been excellent. I can’t wait to continue the series as more are published!

Recommended for: Serious students of God’s Word looking for a substantial but readable (i.e. – not too academic) commentary on the book of Romans. Read the full review.

“From the Library of A.W. Tozer: Selections from Writers Who Influences His Spiritual Journey” complied by James Stuart Bell

A unique concept. Bell has compiled a daily reader focusing on eight themes prominent in the writing os A.W. Tozer. The readings are taken from books found in Tozer’s personal library; he was known as a voracious reader of good books… no wonder I like him so much!

Recommended for: Tozer fans, and those looking for a good introduction into the writings of great authors from throughout church history. Read the full review.

“The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life” by Bradley Green

A professor of theology from Union University traces the connection between the intellect and the Christian faith, and why institutions of learning have always followed the spread of the gospel.

Recommended for: People who are tired of hearing that Christianity must be anti-intellect. Read the full review.

Any books you’d like to recommend? Share them in the comments!