I used to come up with a catchy melody and one good line, sit down for 20 minutes, write down the first rhymes that came to me, and call a song finished. Those songs have since disappeared.
These days, writing a song takes months or years. Much of that time is spent with the song put away, focused on other things. This time away from a song allows me to be more objective when I need to be critical of it and make revisions. Sure, it’s possible to write a great song in a matter of minutes–but that is simply not the norm. Time is an ingredient songwriters mustn’t neglect.
It’s so encouraging to read successful songwriters tell of struggling with a song for months and years. Sure, it’s great to know they’re human like me, but the greatest encouragement comes from knowing I’m on the right track and haven’t been wasting my time. I’m on the older side of 40 years of age now. I don’t have nearly the time I had when I started writing songs as a young lad–time as in both availability AND longevity. As a husband, dad, assistant pastor, and instructor it’s hard to carve out time to focus on writing; as a 40+ man, I have to make the time if I’m ever going to get it done.
I want to leave behind songs that bless the church long after I’m gone. In order for my writing to be timeless, I have to give it time. You too, young songwriter, should learn to give songs time–a lot of time. Those professional songwriters I mentioned earlier who say it takes months and months to write? Unfortunately, I didn’t learn it from them; I figured it out for myself through trial and error. I wish I HAD read them years ago because there’s so much I had to figure out on my own, learning and maturing over years …. Don’t reinvent the wheel: learn from me and my mistakes.
Save time now that you can give to your songs later.
There are melodies, verses, choruses, bridges, and lyrics on which I’ve been ruminating for years. Finding their fit has proven difficult, even intimidating, and possibly impossible! But I’ll keep at it and won’t let myself settle. I’ll only present to the church songs I think are worthy of her precious time.
Who’s telling you not to start a podcast?! That’s pessimistic and lacking vision. Go ahead and start one.
I don’t know everything, but I do know this: the world needs more podcasts. Here are some answers to common objections:
1. You Don’t Have the Time
After you read your Bible and pray, you have work to do in order to provide your family. Your wife deserves affection and adoration. Your kids are over the moon when you play with them. You need to smoke a pork shoulder and have family and friends from church over this weekend. You need to prepare for Bible study. You have all those things around the house that need to be done. That doesn’t leave much time for the most important thing: a PODCAST! But you’ve got 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM free, right?
2. The Market is Saturated
There might be 8,675,309 Christian podcasts to choose from, but YOU’RE going to say something unique and important and people are going to find you, subscribe, and persist in listening to your wisdom. Your voice needs to be heard on a global scale. Local, schmocal.
3. Good Production Ain’t Easy (or Cheap)
So, you found a cheap microphone and downloaded a free DAW (digital audio workstation). Your buddy who played guitar in high school is going to record some original intro music on his iPhone just for you. And hey, that old fitted sheet your wife wants to throw out would make a GREAT backdrop for when you start vlogging!
4. Your Local People Need Your Best
You’re totally not going through all this trouble to get listens from Reformed Twitter and RT adjacent podcast listeners. Some of your local folks will listen too! And sure you’ll devote your greatest efforts to making sure family worship and your preaching, teaching, Bible study, and evangelism through your local church are just as polished and click-worthy as that upcoming episode exposing Word of Faith heretics.
5. You Won’t Always Have Something Worth Saying
Go ahead: promise your listeners you’ll have fresh content every Monday and Wednesday with bonus episodes on Fridays for Patreon subscribers. You should probably go ahead and commit to live-streaming your Saturday morning open-air evangelism on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. You’re totally going to have something noteworthy to contribute to the Christian’s faithful understanding of current events multiple times a week. You’re not going to use filler or be repetitive. You’ll probably only use a fifth of your time to talk about your sponsor.
Plus, there are so many out there competing for limited listening time.
Therefore, I’ve put a lot of time into something very few people listen to. I’m so glad to have met great folks through the podcast over the last 18 months, but the return on my time investment is just not worth it. I can spend that time praying, meditating on God’s Word, reading, with family, working on the homestead, etc.
Plus, I’ve found that several audio Bible apps pretty much do what I’ve been doing with the Scripture Memory format. Furthermore, the brilliant Dustin Benge recently started a podcast that is basically the Rapid Theology format. And trust me–he’s much better at it than I am!
Maybe I’ll pop up in your podcast feed from time to time with the informal episodes like I used to. But that’ll have to come after spiritual disciplines, family, church, homesteading, and work.
24 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, 25 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, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
We encountered Colossians 1:24 in our scripture memory passage earlier this week, and that verse is particularly difficult to understand given the phrase, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body ….” On the surface, it appears Paul is saying the work of Christ was not sufficient for salvation, but that Paul himself must contribute something to finish the work of salvation for the people of God.
Well, let’s not look at this verse in a vacuum. Remember: we allow Scripture to interpret scripture. What do other parts of the Bible have to say about Jesus Christ and his work to secure our redemption?
1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
Ephesians 1:7 tells us concerning Jesus: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace …”
Of Jesus, Hebrews 9:12 says: “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
And Paul writes in Romans 3:24-25 that God’s people QUOTE “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
Christ’s suffering of the punishment we deserved for our sins is sufficient to redeem a people for his own possession. Since Paul clearly is talking about something other than the effectiveness of Jesus Christ’s suffering and afflictions, it becomes a question of just what he does mean. Here’s what I believe is clear in the context, so bear in mind Paul finished his thought in the sentence in question by talking about his ministry:
Notice Paul uses here his favorite word picture to teach us about the church: the body. Paul says he’s filling up what is lacking QUOTE “for the sake of his body, that is, the church …” And remember that Paul told us explicitly just a few verses prior what Christ’s place is in the body: the head. So whatever Paul is talking about is for the sake of the church, but not its redemption. Thus, I believe it is about the building up of the church, or in other words, the growth of the church–God the Son’s Kingdom. Redemption came through the first cause, Jesus Christ. Expansion comes through the means God typically uses: people. People who minister.
Think about the mission of the church: to make disciples. In discipling, we have discipline–in our context, the spiritual disciplines. Our serving and suffering sanctifies us and can be used by God in the salvation and sanctification of others. It’s not that there is anything lacking in Christ’s afflictions unto salvation, but there are afflictions—there is suffering—to come to Paul, John, the martyrs, and in likely small ways to you and me, and these afflictions are for the sake of the church which grows every day because of the power of the Gospel ordinarily so through the means of its members. Listen to …
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Paul writes in Romans 5 of Jesus and the fact that QUOTE “2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” verses, 2-4.
1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”
Finally, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy he beautifully ties together mission as a member of Christ’s body, suffering for the sake of Christ, and eternal hope found in Christ:
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
This is how I learn long texts. Say it with me, read along, and listen more than once!
Colossians 1:24-29 ESV
24 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, 25 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, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, 25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.
Of the several categories of the Psalms, lament and imprecatory are the two that really suffer from a lack of teaching in the modern American church, to the point of being completely ignored in many settings. Even so, the difficulty our modern sensibilities face with the lament Psalms is nothing compared to that of the imprecatory Psalms. Why? Simply read the definition: an imprecation, according to Merriam-Webster, is a curse; or the act of invoking evil upon another. Psalm 10, verses 12 through 15 are an example of imprecatory prayer in the Psalms:
12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. 13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? 14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.
Recently, in the December 27, 2020 Sunday School lesson from Bible Studies for Life, a publication of the Southern Baptist Convention entity Lifeway, the commentary in the leader guide said the imprecatory psalms are, QUOTE “pre-Christian,” and, QUOTE “don’t fully reflect the ethic taught by Jesus” ENDQUOTE. Did what is ethical or moral change with Jesus Christ establishing the New Covenant? No, but imprecatory prayer does warrant an awareness and certain posture of our hearts before God.
Bob Rodgers, pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, caused quite a stir on Sunday, January 10th when he prayed curses down upon those to whom he attributed election theft and cheating. QUOTE “Father those that have lied, those that have stolen this election, those that have cheated I place the curse of God upon them. … I curse you with poverty, I curse you with the worst year you’ve ever had in the name of the lord” ENDQUOTE. Several pastors local to Rodgers have publicly rebuked him, with one describing his prayer as QUOTE “hate and evil in the name of God …” ENDQUOTE.
Rodgers appeared to alter his stance somewhat after the backlash, removing the video of the curses from social media and telling a WHAS reporter, QUOTE “This is a prayer not to curse people but to curse the demonic forces that people have allowed to rule them. … I do pray that trouble will come to them if they don’t repent and that they will turn from their wicked ways” ENDQUOTE.
So who’s right? Is it necessarily “hate and evil in the name of God” to “place the curse of God” on others? We know King David prayed imprecatory prayers. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote imprecatory psalms. But we must remember the immortal–yet re-contextualized here–words of Matt Chandler: QUOTE “You’re not David!” ENDQUOTE We don’t know with 100% certainty who is God’s enemy; we don’t know who is elect. We do know we are to love our neighbor and that God loves justice. Psalm 33, verses four and five say: “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”
We will not err in seeking a balance of love for our neighbor and love for God’s law. We will not err in seeking a balance of mercy and justice. In exercising wisdom, we see there is a place for praying imprecatory prayers with love as the main reason to do so. Dr. William VanDoodewaard says when he prayed with his family concerning a dictator, they prayed, QUOTE “Oh Lord, please convert this man; but if he’s not going to repent, please remove him” ENDQUOTE. Take care to remember Ephesians 6:12 when you pray: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
With a careful reading of the New Testament, we see examples of properly prayed imprecations. Dr. Robert Godfrey said, QUOTE “it is not illegitimate to use the imprecations of the psalter to pray for judgment on God’s enemies. Every time we pray, ‘Come quickly Lord Jesus,’ we’re praying an imprecation on God’s enemies. When Jesus comes again, there will be judgment for God’s enemies” ENDQUOTE. And Dr. Albert Mohler contends that our Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed an imprecation in a sense, and taught us to do so at that, in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Dr. Mohler indicated that in the Lord’s Prayer is the reality that QUOTE “[t]here is a judgment coming” PAUSE.
14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
This review is not timely. Aniol published By the Waters of Babylon in 2015. After I discovered him and his book through an acquaintance who is one of his students, I let it sit too long in my online shopping cart before I finally purchased it on January 9.
Structure and Theme
I read it in three days–quite the feat for a father of two young daughters if I say so myself. It is not light reading, but is certainly accessible. There is much background information and theory, but application is there. I would argue Aniol gives readers the tools to apply biblical worship principles rather than doing so much of the work for us. Aniol’s main contribution here is groundwork for most of the book: historical information (transformationalism; the missional church), comparing historical and contemporary understandings (definitions of mission and culture), and where understandings and definitions split from biblical bases (culture is the behavior of depraved individuals). The payoff is in the last third of the book, where Aniol lays out his case for a biblical relationship between worship and mission: the glory of God is foremost, worship is our purpose, and mission is the church’s God-given task to make disciples who are worshipers; or simply, “disciple-worshipers.”
The proper approach to culture, Aniol says, “could be called the sanctificationist approach” which he states, “simply seeks to apply what the Bible has to say about behavior to every area of the Christian’s life” (116). The missional church movement, as helpful as it has been in increasing overall zeal for evangelism, accepted the contemporary anthropological definition of culture and adapted to that. In doing so, their corporate worship time became a) primarily evangelistic, and b) simply a tool for the church to use in fulfilling its mission–a secondary to support the primary.
The Assembly of the Saints
Aniol, on the other hand, makes a compelling and biblical argument that the weekly gathering of the saints on the Lord’s Day is a sacred event, a time set apart as regulated by God for his glory and our edification: ” … corporate worship is the public acting out of the spiritual realities of worship; it is a weekly dramatic re-creation of drawing near to God through Christ by faith” (135). And since the Bible includes various “kinds of imaginative forms God chose to communicate his truth” (158), it follows that ” … the truth must include not only the expression of right doctrine but also the expression of right imagination. The imagination is shaped and cultivated through aesthetic forms” (157). In other words: the manner matters. For example, corporate worship may make us happy–even making us smile with delight in God, but it must be serious. A lack of seriousness in genre or conduct teaches otherwise.
Should every elder who plans and/or executes a worship service read this? YES. Should every elder who focuses on music in the church read this? YES. However, what is obvious (and I am thankful for it) is that Aniol sees worship not simply as music or the arts, but a way of life for the believer with a special regard for the assembly of the body to whom the believer belongs.
Additional suggested reading topics based on this book:
Two-kingdoms theology, ecclesiology, the regulative principle of worship, biblical genres.
This is how I learn long texts. Say it with me, read along, and listen more than once!
Colossians 1:21-23 ESV
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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.
This week’s Rapid Theology episode of The Backroads Baptist was inspired by Monday’s memory verses and questions that arise when one reads “the firstborn of all creation” concerning Jesus.
Our scripture memory passage earlier this week came from Colossians 1, and focuses on the Second Person of the Trinity: The Son of God, Jesus Christ. There’s a very interesting and wonderful descriptor of Jesus included twice. Listen:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [there’s number one; the firstborn] of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn [second time that word’s shown up; the firstborn] from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
So, this word “firstborn”–does it mean Jesus is a created being? Does it mean he had a beginning? If not (and I think you all know Jesus is not created, but eternal; if not …), what does it mean? First of all, rest assured that Jesus is not caused. God the Son is most assuredly God. We affirm paragraph 2 of chapter 8 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English:
QUOTE “The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, is truly and eternally God. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the same in substance and equal with him. He made the world and sustains and governs everything he has made. When the fullness of time came, he took upon himself human nature, with all the essential properties and common weaknesses of it but without sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary … Two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without converting one into the other or mixing them together to produce a different or blended nature. This person is truly God and truly man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and humanity.” ENDQUOTE If you have any doubt, look to the first verse of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
As we look at a word like “firstborn” that without any qualification refers to a created being with a beginning, it’s important to look at the whole of scripture and indeed to let scripture interpret scripture. “Firstborn” appears elsewhere. There’s:
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Now, here’s what firstborn means–conceptually we see three distinct reasons the Holy Spirit inspired the word “firstborn,” but bear in mind they are functionally inseparable in Christ’s role in our redemption. The first is Christ’s position. He is the firstborn in that he is the heir, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ 27 And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
The second is this: Jesus is the firstborn in his incarnation, in that he QUOTE “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, …” John 1:14
Finally, Jesus Christ is the firstborn in his occupation–his finished salvific work:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Time does not permit me to read other pertinent passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 and Hebrews 2:9-12. Read those and you will see more clarity in how Jesus is the firstborn in his position, incarnation, and occupation. But I do want to specifically answer one burning question you might, like I did, have about the “from the dead” part of “the firstborn from the dead” What about those resurrected before Jesus, like the widow’s son in Luke 7, Jairus’s daughter, or Lazarus? Weren’t they raised from the deadbefore Jesus? Listen to Paul in Acts 26:
22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
How can Jesus be the “first to rise from the dead” when those I mentioned–the widow’s son, Jairus’s daughter, Lazarus–when they were resurrected prior to Christ’s resurrection? The answer lies in understanding what it truly means to “rise from the dead” in the context of the redemption of God’s people. Back to the widow’s son, Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus: what happened to them eventually? They died. Jesus, however, triumphed over death. He rose from the grave victorious, nevermore to die. The first to defeat death, and the victor on our behalf.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
This is how I learn long texts. Say it with me, read along, and listen more than once!
Colossians 1:15-20 ESV
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.