Authentic Praise

Greetings to all who take the time to follow my feeble attempt at blogging. I have not posted for over a month! The church I pastor is going through a merger with another, much larger church. The process of transition along with pastoral care of my church and working bi-vocationally have taken their toll on my time. We would appreciate your prayers concerning the merger process. It’s a new experience for all of us, but promises great things for the kingdom of God.

I received a comment to my last blog entry, “Rethinking the Garden,” from a nice person whose user name is “A Narrow Path.” He asked me several questions related to free will that I knew would take me some time to answer. I replied that I would address his questions in a new blog entry, but that it would take me some time. I did not imagine it would take this long, but life had other plans. Stay tuned.


book-3510326_1280Recently, someone suggested a song to be used at church. My first response to such requests, if I am not familiar with the song, is to study the lyrics and evaluate them according to the scriptures. I know that authors sometimes take a poetic privilege to make the words of a song fit or rhyme, but as shepherd of the flock, I feel the need to make sure that the language of the song does not conflict with the word of God. [1]

The title of the song requested is “Praise His Name” written by Bruce Haynes. [2] There are several versions of the song on YouTube if you would like to hear it. The song is very pretty with an emotional appeal to the love of God for His people. The motivation behind the song is to encourage those who are hurting to find relief in the comfort of God. There is truth in the song. Nevertheless, a review of the lyrics should reveal that the song contains enough false doctrine to cause us to avoid using it as a true testimony of God’s providence.

Praise can change your circumstances

Here is the first part of the song:

When you’re up against a wall and your mountain seems so tall
And you realize that life’s not always fair
You can run away and hide, let the old man decide
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer

Prayer or praise may change your circumstances, but that is not a promise from Scripture. Praise may bring a peace to our hearts, cause our faith to increase, grow us in Christ, and make the circumstances more bearable, but praise will not bring a loved one back to life or prevent us from suffering through some very painful adversities.

Once when Peter was arrested and imprisoned, Peter’s friends prayed, and God miraculously released him. On another occasion, before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed that the Father might take the cup of suffering away, but Jesus still went to the cross. God does not promise to change our circumstances, but He does promise that He will always be with the believer through those circumstances.

Praise can cause God to take away pain

When everything falls apart praise His name
When you have a broken heart raise your hands and say
Lord, You’re all I need, You’re everything to me
And He’ll take the pain away

The first three lines of this part of the song are correct. When we lose control of life, we should praise God, because God himself may have sent those very circumstances to mold you into the image of Christ or to teach you some vital truth of faith.

2 Cor. 4:17 This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

I encourage you to read Romans 5:3-5 and all of Hebrews 12:6-11. [3] Here is an excerpt from the Hebrews reference…

The Lord disciplines the one he loves… but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (v. 6a, 10b-11)

No matter how beautiful the song, the danger is that its beauty masks incorrect biblical doctrine. To say that if we praise His name, He will take the pain away is a false promise that cannot be supported by Scripture. The sentiment behind the song is good, but the truth is that it appears to say that if we do something good for God, God is obligated to do something good for us in return, but that is never the case. God is a debtor to no one for anything. He may grant us a blessing in return for our obedience, but He is not obligated to do so. (See Job 41:11, Romans 11:35-36)

We can praise our hurt away

When it seem you’re all alone praise His name
When you feel you can’t go on just raise your hands and say
Greater is He that is within me
And you can praise the hurt away if you’ll just praise His name

Here again, the first three lines are absolutely correct. Our answer to everything that happens should be to praise the God who created us and who called us to salvation by grace. Then the song takes a decided turn away from truth.

We cannot praise the hurt away. People who profess Christ as Savior die every day of torture and pain and persecution who are certainly praying and praising God. But God has a perfect plan that for them includes persecution. Paul prayed three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” God did not remove it, because it kept Paul humble. His eye is on the sparrow, but still, at times, the sparrow falls to the ground.

Our word of testimony can overcome loneliness

Oh, you can overcome by the blood of the lamb
And by the word of your testimony
You’ll see the darkness go as your faith begins to grow
You’re not alone so how can you be lonely

In this part of the song, the author has taken a portion out of context and made it mean something that I do not believe God intended it to mean. Although the expression of our faith in prayer and praise may certainly help us to overcome loneliness, we should not use biblical language out of context to prove a point.

In Acts 14:3, Luke explains to Theophilus how Paul and Barnabas were forced to flee from Iconium when they were threatened with stoning because of their continued “testimony unto the word of grace.”

In Revelation 1:9, John tells how he was exiled to the island of Patmos “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

In Revelation 6:9, during his vision of the throne room of God, John saw under the altar “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” meaning that they would not surrender their faith in God in the face of certain death.

The phrase “word of testimony” comes from the Revelation. In Revelation 12:11, the word of the testimony of the saints was the means by which martyrs overcame the “accuser of our brethren,” or Satan. But that testimony led to their death, not their deliverance from the darkness of adversity and pain.

There is no biblical promise that our words of testimony will deliver us from loneliness, pain, adversity, or evil, but may, in fact, lead to more pain and even death.

Conclusion

There are many songs that we sing in church that we have sung for so long without ever questioning their biblical accuracy. There are many new songs that we love to listen to for which we have never given due theological consideration.

The purpose here is not to condemn the songwriter or those who sing this particular song, but to encourage us to pay attention to what we confess in song. False doctrine is not typically apparent, but sneaks up on us in beautiful and often subtle ways.

Be a Berean.


NOTES

[1] Picture credit: book-3510326_1280, https://pixabay.com/photos/book-old-cover-literature-text-3510326/

[2] Praise His Name, Bruce Haynes Lee Hendrix © 1999 Willow Branch Publishing Remaining portion is unaffiliated, Administrators Music Services, Inc.

[3] It is unfortunate for modern readers that the KJV used the word “chastening” when the word means to discipline, but does not necessarily include punishment. Definition of the word according to Spiros Zhodiates: “Originally to bring up a child, to educate, used of activity directed toward the moral and spiritual nurture and training of the child, to influence conscious will and action.” (CWSB Dictionary)

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