Tag Archives: Ministry

#433: The Song “From Job”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #433, on the subject of The Song “From Job”.

This song doesn’t really have a title.  I’m bad at titles, and while I suppose in one sense the title here might have been obvious, I always called it the one from Job.

It’s called that because somewhere late in that book, after Job and his three friends have finished bickering about whether his suffering is attributable to some secret sin he has been harboring, Elihu speaks, and in the middle of his speech he speaks about the righteous man, saying of this best of men, He will sing to men and say, “I have sinned and perverted what is right, and it is not proper for me; He has redeemed my life from going to the pit; my soul shall see the light.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the words to a song in scripture and set them to music; it did require a few minor changes, but it produced this song about someone who thought himself fine but then recognized that he was not.

I wrote this when I was at Gordon College, probably after I got married but definitely while my cousin Peter Grosso was still attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the next town.  That hurt the song, because the first people for whom I played it were him and a couple of his fellow students, and their only reaction was that it was long.  It is long, but I realized after the fact that I should have mentioned they were expected to sing along on the choruses, which they didn’t do.  Because of that response I rarely ever performed it live, and this recording, which I ranked 26th for quality of performance and recording, was done live, another done in my living room with the air cleaner coming through when the automatic level control kicked up.  I ranked the song at 32nd, and Tristan did not include it on his list, but since then I’ve come to think that this is a very important song for our era, so despite it being number 31 overall I think it worth singing, primarily because the revival so many want begins not with worship or evangelism but with repentance among believers, and that’s what this song expresses.

From Job.

So here are the lyrics.

I was no worse than the next guy–
That’s what I told myself,
And I didn’t even see why
God would ask for something else.
But I wouldn’t help another
If it broke my life of ease,
So I sinned against my brother;
So I fell down on my knees.

I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

Well, I knew the twelve apostles
Had all done what Jesus said,
And I thought it was collosal
That God had raised Him from the dead,
But I didn’t really care about
What He had done that day.
But His love just kept on reachin’ out
‘Til I fin’ly came to say,

Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

Well, I once knew all the theory,
And I didn’t care a bit,
‘Cause it only made me weary
Try’n’ to make life’s pieces fit.
Now I’ve got Him on the inside–
He’s become my everything–
So I’ll shout it from the hillside,
‘Cause He’s taught me how to sing

Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The Bible says that death is the wages of sin,
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus our Lord.
He’s knockin’ at your heart, so won’t you open up and let Him in.

Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

Oh, and I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

Oh, and I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

If you’ve listened to this story
And you wonder what I mean,
When you’ve seen the land of glory
This life isn’t like it seemed.
Well, you’ve cheated, hated, cursed, lied–
Admit to God you’re wrong,
Then come join me on the hillside
And we’ll sing the world this song.

I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light,
Oh, I have sinned, and done what’s wrong for me,
Perverted what is right;
He redeemed my soul from misery,
My life has seen the light.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor”

#431: Mark Joseph Young En Français

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #431, on the subject of Mark Joseph Young En Français.

Over two decades ago, the respected Australian role playing game e-zine Places to Go, People to Be asked if they could translate an article series I had written for them, three parts under the title Law and Enforcement in Imaginary realms, to republish in their then-new French edition.  This was the beginning of a long and continuing relationship during which they continued translating my work into French for release to a wider audience.  Recently I received word that they were releasing the twenty-sixth such article, and I had often realized that I had not been keeping track of what they had published and ought to do that, at least for my own sake, but also for yours.

This is in roughly the sequence in which the articles were originally translated and posted.

  1. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 1re Partie : Les sources de la Loi, written for and still published at the Australian version back in perhaps 1998 and translated shortly thereafter, was entitled Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms Part I:  The Source of Law, and dealt with how legal systems develop from primitive tribal structures to modern governmental systems, and how we derive laws from that.
  2. La Loi et l’Ordre dans les Mondes Imaginaires – 2e partie : la procédure judiciaire was the second part, Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Course of Law, presenting the issues of who executes the law and how is it executed, including what rights people might or might not have.
  3. La Loi et l’ordre dans les mondes imaginaires – 3e partie : Les Forces de l’Ordre finishes the series with Law & Enforcement in Imaginary Realms:  The Force of Law, dealing with matters of how and why we punish criminals.
  4. Des pièces de monnaie invisibles was originally a Game Ideas Unlimited article (at Gaming Outpost), more recently republished by the Christian Gamers Guild as RPG-ology #34:  Invisible Coins, about an illusionist technique and referee control of play.
  5. Gauche ou droite ? was again from Game Ideas Unlimited, again republished as RPG-ology #47:  Left or Right?, one of my personal favorites and another illusionist technique.
  6. Dans l’esprit de la radio is an article I wrote for the Winter 2004 edition of the e-zine Daedalus, entitled In the Spirit of Radio, and no longer available in English on the web.  Fortuitously I downloaded that issue, so I have a copy, and although it was not easy to convert PDF into HTML I expect it to post in the RPG-ology series next spring.
  7. La Sagesse dans les jeux de rôles, originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wisdom about how to play a character said to be wiser than the player, but only partially preserved on the web in English, it is my hope to reconstruct this eventually.
  8. LNS : de la théorie à l’application is a translation of an article originally published at The Forge and still available there as of last look, as Applied Theory, discussing how to apply concepts of gamism, narrativism, and simulationism to game design.
  9. Théorie 101 – 1re partie : le système et l’espace imaginaire commun is a significant piece.  Some years after I had written the Law and Enforcement series for the Australian e-zine, their editors put out a general call for someone to summarize the main features of role playing game theory as it was then being expounded at The Forge.  Being at that time involved in that work, I offered to compose something, and this, Theory 101:  System and the Shared Imagined Space, was the first of three parts.  It explains the concepts system, credibility, authority, and other aspects of how games work “under the hood” as it were that enable the creations of a shared world.  This article was later republished by Gaming Outpost, and the three-article translation was compacted and published in the French print magazine Joie de Role.
  10. Théorie 101 – 2e partie : Le Truc Impossible Avant Le Petit Déj’ is the second of the three parts, Theory 101:  The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, discussing referee styles and how they resolve the conflict between the statement that the referee controls the story and the fact that the players control all the actions of its main characters.
  11. Théorie 101 – 3e partie : Les propositions créatives is the third part of the series, originally Theory 101:  Creative Agenda, discussing what is popularly called “GNS” or gamism, narrativism, and simulationism, the three primary approaches to player play, and what makes games fun for different people.
  12. Étreintes was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Embraces, and is scheduled to be reposted as RPG-ology #48:  Embraces on November 16 (2021); it deals with romance in role playing games.
  13. Valeurs was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Value, discussing what makes anything valuable or cheap.  It is on the list to be republished as an RPG-ology piece, but not yet scheduled.
  14. Récompenses was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Rewards, dealing with in-game reward systems, no longer available in English but on the list for eventually republication.
  15. Création de perso was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Chargen, about different ways of creating characters.  The English version only exists as a partial article, but eventually I hope to reconstruct it from the translation and republish it in RPG-ology.
  16. Du cash was originally Game Ideas Unlimited:  Cash, addressing the development of systems of exchange from barter through the invention of money in various forms to the future of electronic credit.  An English version exists, and will eventually be republished as an RPG-ology piece.
  17. Points négatifs was originally published as Game Ideas Unlimited:  Negative Points, a further discussion of character generation extolling the virtues of stronger and weaker characters.
  18. Maîtriser l’Horreur comes from closer to home, a translation of mark Joseph “young” web log post #132:  Writing Horror, about some of the elements that create a good horror story, whether for a book or for a game session.
  19. Moralité et conséquences : les fondamentaux oubliés. recovers the first article I wrote for someone else’s web site, Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials, originally published among the earliest articles at Gaming Outpost around 1997 and restored as mark Joseph “young” web log post #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials in 2018.
  20. Les Pactes avec le Diable is a translation of Faith and Gaming:  Deals, from the Christian Gamers Guild, about the Christian value in roleplaying deals with the devil.
  21. Le festin de Javan is again from the Christian Gamers Guild, Faith in Play #3:  Javan’s Feast, about an act of charity that rocked the game and impacted the players at the table.
  22. Histoire des Points de Vie was RPG-ology #3:  History of Hit Points, discussing the origin, development, and value of a fundamental mechanic in many games.
  23. Sentience was another Game Ideas Unlimited article, not spelled differently in English, and dealing with the elements of intelligence as a groundwork for creating alien minds.  It is scheduled for RPG-ology early next year.
  24. Funérailles reproduces another from Game Ideas Unlimited, this one republished recently as RPG-ology #46:  Deceased, asking why we don’t have funerals in our role playing games.
  25. Blessures is translated from Game Ideas Unlimited:  Wounds, addressing how events from adventures should impact character personality thereafter, which eventually should wind up in the RPG-ology series.
  26. Vous avez le droit de garder le silence… was more simply Game Ideas Unlimited:  Silence, about the relatively modern right against self-incrimination and how legal systems were different without it.  It, too, is slated for inclusion in the RPG-ology series.

The original French index on their site is here, for those more facile in French than I.  They expect to continue adding my material to their collection in the future, so I expect there may be a sequel to this article eventually.  My contributions are a drop in the ocean of excellent material they have gathered from a wealth of well-respected writers whom I will not begin to name for fear of omitting someone who ought to be mentioned.

#429: Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #429, on the subject of Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts.

In Teaneck, New Jersey, at the corner of River Road and Pomander Walk, there is a somewhat elegant retirement home.  It occupies the grounds formerly utilized by a small religious junior college, Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts, no longer there.

I attended that school when it had existed, under perhaps several different names, for a quarter of a century, and now participate in an unofficial alumni group on Facebook.  Periodically someone will post to the list asking what remains of the campus, and whether anyone might post a sign memorializing the location.  It was, after all, for many of these students a place of great significance, holy ground if not literally at least in function in their lives.  The answer has been the same for a number of years, that if you know where it was there is a grove of trees within which once stood an outdoor chapel, and the mortared stone “altar” of that chapel still stands, or apparently did last time anyone sought it.

To the students, that seems an inadequate testament to the great things which once happened there.  It was a turning point in many lives, a foundation for many ministries, a first meeting place for many important relationships.  Because of the timing in which it entered our lives and the Biblical principles it brought to us, it cannot have been less than that.  Yet there is nothing there.

There are memories, of course.  I can still see the buildings that once stood there–a chapel with classrooms, a dormitory, and several repurposed residential buildings which provided offices, cafeteria, library, rec center, and more student housing.  It was ever a small school, with one teacher for every dozen of the fewer than two hundred students, and the unofficial slogan, “At Luther, you’re not a number, you’re a rumor.”  It was not a place to be anonymous.

It has by now been gone longer than it had been there.  Periodically someone goes through the mad search to locate whatever institution currently maintains the school’s records and transcripts.

Hope for some kind of sign or marker is probably faint.  I doubt the school, shadowed as it was by the rather large Farleigh Dickenson University campus a block away, was ever of any significance to the people of Teaneck.  The Lutheran denominations which cooperatively supported it then have all by now merged and morphed into new ones.  It is ultimately only the alumni, those touched by its presence in the past, who remember it or care that it was ever there.

But then, the location is not important.

The legacy of Luther College is not the dirt on which it was built.  It is the lives of those who attended.  You whose faith was formed and informed by the teachers and other students in your time there, you who have carried that faith into the world and into the lives of others, you are the legacy of Luther College, the only part of what remains that ever mattered; and as that faith impacts others, that legacy spreads, the unimportant name of the place lost but the faith it engendered and nurtured growing and spreading.

A plaque or sign marking a location where some buildings once stood won’t matter to that.  Eventually even that stone altar will vanish from the world.  However, because of you, the faith built in you will not vanish from the world.  You are the marker that says Luther College was here.  That is the location that matters.

#428: The Song “To the Victor”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #428, on the subject of The Song “To the Victor”.

This is one of the very few praise songs I’ve written, and being a teacher I had to incorporate something extra so it’s structured as a trinitarian hymn.

I’m not sure whether that matters.

When I posted the song Why (listed and linked below) I mentioned that I preferred to have it segue from this song.  They are both worship songs, in the key of D, with similar instrumentation, beat, and tempo.  I did not do that here.

Cardiac Output performed this; I’m not certain whether we did it with two vocals or with the third middle vocal I omitted here.  At the time I made the recording, I was concerned about whether the vocals included unsupported parallel fourths and whether that would create the sort of acoustic problems for which they are known, but I thought it would be too much work to check for them and see if there was a simple fix, so I simply left out the middle voice.  That may be part of why I ranked it twenty-eighth for performance and recording, although it might also be because I didn’t really like the sound of my voice on the soprano part, particularly on the solo second verse.  I listed it twenty-fifth for quality of the song itself, and Tristan did not include it in his list, so it landed at number thirty.

This recording was one of the early vocals over midi instruments ones I made in the early aughts.  The midi guitar is not as expressive as a live acoustic version, but is technically fairly accurate, and the bass guitar adds something worthwhile.  The lead guitar at the end happens to facilitate a transition into Why, but predates the connection and provides a satisfying ending.

To the Victor.

So here are the lyrics.

Forever in Your hand
I will rest securely.
What can man
Do to me?
You set me free.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.

You sent Your Holy Blessed Son.
The fight is over now, the victory’s been won,
And all that’s left is for the praises to be sung
To the Victor, to our God, the three in one.

Forever in Your hand
I will rest securely.
What can man
Do to me?
You set me free.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.

You came and gave Your life to me.
You took away my death, and gave me eyes to see,
And now I know I will sing praise eternally
To the Victor, oh, my Lord, I sing to Thee.

Forever in Your hand
I will rest securely.
What can man
Do to me?
You set me free.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.

You came and filled me with your power.
You took my sin away, and caused my life to flower,
And now you pour on me your blessings like a shower.
To the Victor I’ll sing praises ev’ry hour.

Forever in Your hand
I will rest securely.
What can man
Do to me?
You set me free.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.
And I thank you for the love You give to me.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me”

Next song:  From Job

#415: Can the Exodus Story Be True?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #415, on the subject of Can the Exodus Story Be True?.

A Facebook contact sent me a link to an article, Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, and asked for my comments on it.  After some consideration, I determined that the only effective way to tackle such a massive undertaking was to create another web log miniseries.  Here it is.

The first point that must be considered is the early statement “…most experts and scholars dismiss the story as mythology.”  Although the article does mention that there are what it calls “literalists” who believe that the events happened, it cites none of them in its presentation, and this reflects a very particular form of bias among liberal scholarship.  We might call it a litmus test.

I heard Reverend David Redding talk about his own journey to faith, in which he ultimately confronted the question of whether the miracles reported in the Gospels actually occurred.  He noted that C. S. Lewis believed in miracles, which was interesting.  Lewis was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at both Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and a respected writer in the field of myth and legend.  However, liberal Bible scholars insisted that he was no scholar precisely because he believed in miracles.  (He wrote an excellent book on the subject, Miracles:  A Preliminary Study.)  Therein lay the problem:  no credible scholars believed in miracles because a belief in miracles automatically disqualified you from being a credible scholar.

Thus in citing scholars for the article, the author sticks to “credible” liberal scholars and ignores anyone who believes that the miraculous might have happened, dismissing them perfunctorily.  I note, for example, that a professor from Hebrew Union is cited.  Hebrew Union is liberal enough, as Jewish institutions go, that they conferred a degree on Dr. Marvin Wilson, as such authorizing him to teach at any synagogue.  Dr. Wilson is no liberal, but he is an Evangelical Episcopalian who was chairman of the Biblical Studies department at the Evangelical school Gordon College.  Conservative Jews are not comfortable with his rabbinic ordination.  He, incidentally, believes that the Exodus did occur.

Liberal scholars begin with the belief that miracles cannot happen and therefore never did happen, and that because of this any claimed historic accounts which contain them must be false.  It then becomes the task of the “scholar” to explain not how these things happened but how these documents which make impossible claims about supposed historic events came into existence.  You have a problem of presuppositions:  since these books contain records of impossible events requiring divine intervention to have occurred, they must be false, and we have to find another way to explain them.  The article begins from the assumption that the account is false, and looks for ways to demonstrate it, rather than approaching the evidence in an open and fair way.

In fairness, the article raises what must be called “practical” issues, and this series will attempt to address them in the articles ahead.

As a final caveat, I am not an Old Testament scholar.  My studies are very much focused on the New Testament; my Hebrew is limited to a few words which I cannot even spell because I do not know the Hebrew alphabet.  I studied these questions half a century ago, have lost all my books, and am working predominantly from memory.  I will recommend the work of Josh McDowell; his More Evidence That Demands A Verdict provided excellent insights into several of these issues and got Jeff Zurheide and me through a very grueling Old Testament Origins course (OT337) with Dr. G. Lloyd Carr back then.  He has written more since then, but I have not had the privilege of reading it.

#400: New Jersey 2021 Primary

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #400, on the subject of New Jersey 2021 Primary.

I must admit that the primary snuck up on me this year–it’s today, June 8th, 2021, and I only discovered this last night.  So I have rushed through a bit of research to get this for you.  We are electing a governor this year; that’s not all we’re electing, but that’s the big deal.

On the Democratic side, Governor Phil Murphy (pictured) is not exactly running unopposed.  Although his is the only name on the ballot, Lisa McCormick is formally listed as a write-in candidate.  Her name was struck from the ballot due to evidence that some of the signatures on her nominating petition were fraudulent.

On the Republican ballot, there are four contenders, but the leading percentage of voters as of yesterday had 38% undecided.  Otherwise, Jack Ciattarelli holds the lead with 29% of the voters in most recent polls and all the major endorsements.  He has served in the State Assembly, started two successful businesses, has an M.B.A. from Seton Hall, and owns a publishing company.  He recognizes Trump as the legitimate standard bearer of the party until a new leader is elected even though Biden won the 2020 election.  He promises economic improvement for the state.

Some distance behind him, at 23% of the vote, is Hirsh Singh, an avid Trump supporter who believes the 2020 election was fraudulent.  Singh is an engineer with a bachelor’s degree covering engineering science, biomedical engineering, and material science, with experience in the fields of missile defense, satellite navigation, and aviation security.  He has no political experience.

Philip Rizzo is third with 8% of the vote in the polls.  His bachelors from Villanova is in business management, he has held no previous political office, but he has worked in real estate and construction and served as a pastor.  He met with Trump in May at Mar-a-Lago, and compared his campaign to Trump’s 2016 run.

Finally, polling at 2%, is Brian Levine.  Former Mayor of Franklin Township and Somerset County Freeholder, his bachelors degree is in economics, from Rutgers, and he is a C.P.A.  He is running a grassroots campaign.  He says he supports some of Trump’s policies, but that the party needs to take its eyes off Trump and put them on economic issues.

In addition to the governor’s race, both New Jersey legislative houses are up for complete replacement.  Most of these races, though, are uncontested at the primary level, and those that are contested would take too much space and address too few readers to be worth covering here (we have forty districts).

I shall endeavor to provide additional information once the primary dust settles and we know who the candidates are for the November election.

#396: Why Music Matters

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #396, on the subject of Why Music Matters.

In a private group on Facebook, the Christian Music Network, someone named Esther Waraa asked this question:  Why is music important in praising the Lord?  I immediately decided this was a topic worth exploring, and I had already been saying that I needed a web log post this week, so here goes my exploration.

First, a few credentials and caveats.

I spent five years in Contemporary Christian Radio, but probably before most of you and many of today’s artists were born.  From that I have been publishing a series about the artists who were at the roots of the Christian Contemporary/Rock Music world, the most recent of these articles post #391:  Pat Terry, with links to forty-two previous articles going back to people like Larry Norman and Ralph Carmichael.  I have also been a musician all my life (my kindergarten teacher called me her little songbird), and have begun publishing some of my compositions, the most recent #393:  The Song “Why”, again with links reaching back to twenty-three previously released songs.  I know something about music and particularly about Christian music.

The caveat, though, is that I consider the act of leading worship to be pastoral ministry, leading believers to intimacy with God.  I am not a pastor; I am a teacher.  I have written extensively about that previously, a nine-part series culminating in #107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries which explains how music might be used in various ministry callings.  It also addresses the modern error that music is always specifically for worship, partly by contrasting it to the error of a previous generation, that music was always specifically for evangelism.  Indeed, music is for worship, but it’s also for evangelism, teaching, and other ministry functions–and sometimes it’s just for entertainment.  The question, though, specifically asked about “praising the Lord”, and thus is about pastoral ministry and worship music.

I am starting in an unlikely place–indeed, when I started thinking about this article I thought I would put this at the end, but the more I considered it the more I thought this really was a primary reason, if not the primary reason.  When we are told in Genesis that God made man in God’s image, up to that point about the only thing we had been told about God was that God created.  He spoke His creations into existence.  Thus the image of God in man is not that we have arms and legs, nor indeed that we have thought and speech and feelings, but ultimately that, like Him, we create.  Creation, usually in the form of artistic or artisinal expression, is the ultimate expression of the image of God in us, and as such is fundamentally glorifying to God.  Thus when we create music we reveal the divine, and when we use that creation to point to the divine we intensify that aspect.

The second point I am going to propose is that music is engaging.  In theory, you can praise God simply by thinking positive thoughts about Him, but you become more involved in that praise if you speak it aloud.  Put it in a poetic form, something with meter, rhyme, alliteration, and it becomes more engaging yet.  Give it a melody, and you become more involved.  Instrumental support, harmonies, other singers, all of this draws the worshipper into the worship.  In a very real sense, your worship is more focused, more intense, when it is sung to an accompaniment.

That suggests another point:  music encourages mutuality.  There is certainly nothing lacking in the glory to God when a hundred people in a room are each individually praising Him, each in his own words and his own way.  However, get that crowd singing the same words to the same music, and suddenly you have a unity, united voices all raising the same praise to God together.  Just as there is power when we agree in prayer, there is power when we agree in praise, and music facilitates that agreement powerfully.

I’m working my way down a list here, but the next point is not insignificant:  music is interesting.  I was a child in what might be termed “light liturgical” churches–people joining in a call to worship, perhaps a responsive reading, an invocation terminating in the Lord’s Prayer, a closing benediction.  I could sleep in those services, probably still today.  That’s not to denigrate the liturgy; for some people it is a great aid to worship.  However, the interesting points really were when we all sang the Doxology, the Gloria Patri, the several hymns.  Music held my attention then, and that matters.  People can easily be lulled into inattention with long prayers and praises, but even if someone else is doing the singing, music is usually interesting.

Finally, I think, music is memorable.  I touch on this in the series on music in ministry previously linked, but the point is that you can close a service with everyone repeating the Aaronic Benediction together, but if instead you close it with everyone singing a worship song, a significant number of people are going to walk out of there still singing their praise to God.  It might even pop back into their head later in the week.  People complain about what are called “earwigs”, that is, songs that get stuck in your head.  What, though, if the song stuck in your head is glorifying God?  Singing our praise now means we are likely to wind up doing so again later.

Thank you, Esther, for the question.  I hope this has been helpful.

#374: Christian Instrumental Music

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #374, on the subject of Christian Instrumental Music.

Quite a few years back my wife and I picked up a pair of soprano recorders, and within a few days were playing a duet of the hymn Glorious Things to Thee Are Spoken.  One night a gamer friend, Bob Schretzman, visited, and we played it for him.  He thanked us for playing one of his favorite songs, Deutschland Uber Alles, the German national anthem.

That came back to me this morning as the local Christian radio station played an instrumental version of a spiritual song, and it being familiar to me I had the words to the first verse running through my head–but I only remembered the first verse, so when the music repeated, so did those words.  That got me wondering.

I’ve previously noted that Christian record producer and recording artist Chris Christian (who discovered Amy Grant) disdained Christian instrumental music, challenging that what makes music Christian is the words.  He would sit on stage and play Alley Cat, and at the end of each line speak a word related to Christianity, and suggest that made it a Christian song.  I have a hard time disagreeing with that.  I know that when I hear instrumental versions of What Child Is This, particularly around Christmas, those words are in my head–but I won’t swear that at other times of the year I don’t hear the words to Greensleeves, and I’m sure there are many out there for whom those are the first lyrics that come to mind for that melody.  The Reformers often put Christian words to bawdy bar songs, because their converts knew the music; at what point did those become Christian melodies?  It certainly seems that what makes music Christian is the words.

On the other hand, Johann Sebastian Bach expressed the view that all of his music was written to glorify God.  We can certainly see that in the hundreds of chorales, the B Minor Mass, and other choral works–but how many of us are moved to worship by the Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor or the wealth of other fugues he wrote for organ or orchestra or chamber ensembles?  Does the fact that he says it is Christian music make it so?  Someone has written words celebrating Christmas to fit Pachelbel’s Canon; does that make the original song Christian?  What of Christian bands that do what would be called parodies of secular hits, replacing the original lyrics with Christian words?  In my 1970s band The Last Psalm our soprano sang the words to Amazing Grace to the music of The House of the Rising Sun (although I heard someone else do that first, and stole the idea from them); does that sanctify the music such that a folk song about life in a brothel becomes suitable as a Christian instrumental?

Perhaps we would like to claim that all music is ultimately Christian, and we might do that by asserting that all creative efforts are imitations of the image of God and so glorify Him to the degree that they in their greatness reflect His.  If music is a medium of communication, perhaps it can communicate something about God without being bound to words.  Yet Tubal-cain, father of all who played the pipe, was a descendant of Cain, not Seth, and so we might argue that all music is inherently secular unless it is somehow redeemed.

I lack the answer to this question.  I know musicians who perform instrumental music they assert is Christian, and it is usually arrangements of familiar hymns or other songs of faith.  I even have a collection of midi instrumental recordings of nine Christmas songs I arranged that I often play around the holidays.  Yet it still seems to me that for music to be Christian it must inspire thoughts of faith, and that seems to require words.

But then I come back to Bach, and wonder whether there is Christian instrumental music which inspires us to faith without using words.

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and PayPal.me, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.

#353: The Song “I Use to Think”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #353, on the subject of The Song “I Use to Think”.

I wrote this sixteenth song on the list almost certainly in late 1974 or early 1975.  I was reading a lot of C. S. Lewis at the time, and I recall at least playing it if not writing it on a piano in one of the halls at Farleigh Dickenson University’s Teaneck-Hackensack campus where I was working as a security guard.  In my mind there was a perhaps loose collection of aspects of life that were impossible without God, and this song managed to string four of them together.

I have perhaps always been a bit ambivalent about this song.  Although it was written while The Last Psalm was still together, it was not performed then.  Arguably I did not include it for TerraNova because I had not conceived vocals for it, but I also did not suggest it for Cardiac Output.  On the other hand, when I started recording the midi-based songs, this was the opener of the second disk; and Collision used it to open many concerts and as the opener of the album Of Worlds.  It is a Christian song in the sense that it undermines worldly values and concepts; it doesn’t put forward the answers.  It is very much about how modern knowledge without God leaves us without answers.

I ranked it twenty-sixth for the song itself, but this recording, from the Collision Of Worlds album, came in at number twelve, and Tristan likes the song, tying for number nine on his list.  (The ranking system is explained in connection with the first song, linked below.)  I do very much like how the title, which begins as a suggestion that I’ve learned otherwise, comes to the end to mean that–well, that would be a spoiler.

The lyrics were posted previously in connection with Cardiac Output mostly because I was looking for songs with minimal repetition in the words; There is an extensive discussion about it in connection with Collision.

I Use to Think.

So here are the words:

I use to think I loved you, and I told you once before
That as each day continued I would love you more and more.
I knew what I was feeling, and I thought that it was real,
But now I find that anything I feel is nothing more than how I feel.
They tell us in biology
It’s just a change in chemistry;
It’s just as plain as it can be
That love is not reality.
It’s not for you, it’s not for me–
A child is for posterity,
And if there are too many, we
Must bend to the society
It can’t be from up above;
Is that all there is to love?

I use to think that living meant that life would be worthwhile,
And so I searched for something, and I traveled many’a mile.
I thought life was important, and I sought to find out why,
But now I guess that anything I thought before was just another lie.
They tell us in astronomy
That’s one impossibility.
We’re just a tiny speck, you see,
Compared to one small galaxy.
What happens here could never be
Of such universality
To have a lasting memory
Beyond the world of you and me.
The sweat and the blood and strife–
Is that all there is to life?

I use to think that heaven was unquestionably true,
That God was up in heaven, and was watching what we do.
I thought if I did good then I would surely reach His throne.
But now I find that good is nothing more than just a preference of my own.
They tell us in philosophy
That that is all mythology.
It obviously couldn’t be–
A God is an absurdity,
And if there is no God, you see,
There can be no morality.
It’s only the majority
Preserving the society
It strikes me as rather odd:
Is that all there is to God?

I use to think that reason was the basis of my mind,
That reason was not doubted, and would not be for all time.
And so I did my thinking, and I thought through all my plans,
But reason is worth nothing now, because it’s clear that it is based on chance.
They tell us in psychology
That thinking works mechanic’ly:
A thought from our heredity
Is formed environmentally;
They tell us in anatomy
That thinking works electric’ly:
A jolt of electricity,
A slightly altered chemistry.
A brain can be built and bought.
Is that all there is to thought?

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love”

Next song:  God Said It Is Good