Modern Praise Music: It’s Not The Melody That Counts; It’s The Motive

The word motive can be understood to mean the reason someone does something, or the driving force behind an action.


  1. producing physical or mechanical motion.
    “motive power”
  2. causing or being the reason for something.
    “motive principle”

When it comes to who we are in Christ, having good intentions is not always a reliable motive. Rather, what moves us should be God himself. He is to be the one who not only supplies our motive principle but also our motive power.

I saw a great example of motive power and principle in a video mash-up of 20th Century movie clips set to 21st Century music. The films’ dancers remind me of people praising God, but there will be more on that in a bit. First, enjoy the show because whether you like Bruno Mars or classic movies, this is a mash-up that you’ll wind up watching more than once.*

None of the film clips were sped up or slowed down. It took careful editing to accomplish this, but it happened under the experienced hand of the video’s creator.

Motivational Singing

The Bible repeatedly – from Psalms to Revelation – calls upon God’s people to sing a new song to the Lord. The newness is not in the subject of our praise, though. It’s always a song about God. It’s our experience of him that seems new to us, and this is what gets expressed in these “new” songs we sing. That is why a hymn written centuries ago can seem fresh to one who has never heard God’s praise expressed quite that way before. It’s also why new songs of praise are being written and introduced in church services every week.

It’s also why words written long ago can be reintroduced when put to newly crafted melodies. The words expressing our praise are not dependent on a music style but on the One we praise. Also, in a very real sense, our ability to praise is not dependent on us but on the One who created us.

What moves us to praise, after all, is not ourselves but the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. Jesus himself praised his Father in heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit:

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (Luke 10:21.)

The Holy Spirit filled Jesus with joy that showed itself in praise of the Father. The motivation was joy, and it resulted in a divine movement of praise.

To get back to the film clips for a moment, you notice that each of those dancers seemed to be in perfect sync with a song not even written during their lifetimes. What motivated them? Their love of dance is my best guess. The video’s creator took their dancing and crafted it into a new way of seeing it. We do not see a changed motive, but merely a new way of experiencing it.

This is how it is with praise music, both ancient and modern. Our motive is to praise God and it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to do so. How we express it may look or sound different than it did in centuries past but it is the same motive power within us.

Isaac Watts captured the timelessness of God’s praise in these words:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone

Past, present and future come together in the One who moves us to praise him eternally.

Now there’s a motive for you.


*When you watch the video a second time, put on the closed captioning (the cc button at the bottom of the video’s screen) and it will list the movies as they come along.

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Women are Needy, Fearful and Full of Feelings? Good Thing Men Are Around!

[From the archives.]

There are a pair of blog posts over at Reformed Baptist Fellowship styled as catechisms, one for Christian wives and the other for Christian husbands. They aren’t really catechisms, but more lists of advice. There are glimmers of helpfulness in them, but for the most part they are awful. Simply awful.

One main problem is that these aren’t really catechisms, and to call them such gives them an air of authority that is just not there. As Patricia Hunt said, this pair of posts “offers no scriptural proofs with his ‘catechism’? Catechisms are for doctrine, doctrine rests on scripture.” There is no scriptural support for any statement in the posts. None.

An even bigger problem is that the writer, a Reformed Baptist pastor, premises the whole thing on faulty doctrine. In the preamble to each post he writes that his purpose is to help people who find themselves in difficult marriages to non-Christians, particularly those marriages where the spouse is “especially ungodly.”

That’s a huge doctrinal mistake. There is no relative degree of godliness or ungodliness for those who do not belong to Christ. The only godliness possible is in those who have the spirit of Christ within them. (Romans 8:9-10.) It is part of the faith that every one who belongs to Jesus has been given (Ephesians 2:8-9), and without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6.)

This is Reformed Doctrine 101, and I can’t imagine this pastor being so mistaken on it not once but in both blog posts. The real problem though is that this premise leads the reader to think that all which follows in these “catechisms” is to be measured by how much ungodliness is in the unbelieving spouse, rather than guiding the reader to an understanding that the unbelieving spouse – being without the Spirit – is completely unable to understand the relationship the Christian wife or husband has with God. (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

The posts continue to fail on practical as well as doctrinal grounds repeatedly.

Mistreated Spouses Get Better Than They Deserve?

Take questions 11 and 12 in each post. (I’ll quote the one directed to women. He wrote the identical advice to men, just switching the spousal roles.)

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Q12.    How good a wife am I to my husband?

A12.    Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my husband as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the excellent wife that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my husband.

If interpreted to mean that all of us deserve death for our sins and therefor anything we receive short of that is more than we deserve, then I suppose he might have some scriptural basis for this. But in the context of two posts on marriage relationships, that interpretation just doesn’t hold up. No, these points are in the context of how people treat one another.

That’s where one of the real big problems comes in, as many commenters to the posts there have shown. He tells women that this advice is a blessing worthy of memorization that will help them in difficult marriages. He then admonishes them that even if this advice does not actually help their “difficult marriage” their husbands are still treating them better than they deserve.

This pastor completely ignores the fact that many people are not treated better than they deserve by their spouses. They are married to people who hurt them. You would think that someone charged with pastoral care of God’s people would know that and write marital advice accordingly.

Women are Needy, Fearful and Full of Feelings!

The post for husbands also includes this point:

Q6.      What is it to live with my wife in an understanding way?

A6.      It is to show her honor as the weaker vessel, being sensitive to her needs, fears, and feelings; to nourish and cherish her with the love and affection of Christ.

This is yet another point where the writer’s blending of a Bible verse with his own take on women and men is conflated in a manner contrary to the meaning of that verse. It looks like he is starting from the biblical instruction that husbands are to treat wives “with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7). He then puts his own gloss on the word weakness, identifying it as the wife’s “needs, fears, and feelings.”

How he went from Peter’s use of the word “weaker” to identifying the weakness as wives having fears and needs and feelings reveals more about his view of women culturally than scripturally, because the Bible does not say women are fearful or needy or full of feelings in ways that men don’t share.

As one commenter to the post on these “catechisms” at Spiritual Sounding Board pointed out the sexist nature of the pastor’s advice:

Women aren’t the only ones who can be afraid, needy, and insecure. I’ve known plenty of men who had those characteristics.

I have too. Does that mean the husband is the weaker partner in those marriages? How could he be if the pastor is correct in his reading of 1 Peter 3:7? No, the real answer is that there is no inherently weaker partner in a marriage merely by virtue of which one has a Y chromosome. The original Greek just won’t allow that understanding to hold up.

So here’s my advice to married people, and to everyone else too:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10.)


… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)

The rest is merely details.


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Blind Rage Is Not An Internet Superpower


A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1.)

Mockers stir up a city,
    but the wise turn away anger.
(Proverbs 29:8.)

For … stirring up anger produces strife.
(Proverbs 30:3.)

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
(Romans 12:18.)


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Black Friday and Me – a tale of survival

[From the archives.]


Black Friday holds no attraction for me, no allure, no batting eyelashes drawing me to the stores.

And yet I went to the mall on Black Friday.

A Question Never Before Posed to Me

Late Thanksgiving night my wife asked how early I wanted to get up to go to the mall. This is most definitely not one of our annual conversations, because I’ve never gone to the mall the day after Thanksgiving. Not once. This year was different, though. There we were in San Diego visiting family and our son was able to join us for the holiday for the first time in years. He was the one who wanted to hit the stores before they ran out of what he was looking for.

You might be thinking, But why did you need to get up to go with them, Tim?

Good question.

He was staying at his sister’s apartment near her university, about 20 minutes from my in-laws’ house where we were staying. She was leaving early to spend the day in Disneyland with her young cousin.* That meant she couldn’t bring her brother to us – wrong direction for a drive to Disneyland – so we needed to go to him. (For those readers with younger kids who look forward to the day when you won’t have to drive them around any longer, good luck with that.) We awoke in the dark and drove through ground fog to pick him up.

With all the horror stories about how bad Black Friday is, I feared the worst.


What I thought we’d see (Wikimedia)

I was surprised to see the parking lot virtually empty. Seriously. We pulled into a parking spot three spaces from the front door of the department store.

More like what we saw (The Bay City Times)

More like what we saw
(The Bay City Times)

My wife and son separated to find their stores while I went in search of coffee. I ordered a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee, sat down with my book and iPad, and waited for them to summon me when ready to go. An hour later they did and we left. The parking lot was barely more occupied than when we arrived.

Then it was off to the next mall.

Unmet Expectations

Me being anxious (source)

Me being anxious

My expectations of the Black Friday shopping experience went unmet. This type of thing happens to me occasionally. It probably happens to you too.

Getting worked up over nothing is a common pastime. Jesus warns against it:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matthew 6:34.)

There are doomsayers galore out there who try to convince me that all is lost. That’s what the reports about Black Friday shopping always say. And I bet there is partial truth to those reports, based on what I see on the news each holiday season. But there is complete truth in what God says:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans. (Psalm 118:8.)


Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25.)

Whether it’s shopping hype put out by news media eager for viewers or it’s predictions of doom and promises of deliverance peddled by someone trying to sell something, trusting humans and living in fear of worldly events is a fool’s game. God is our refuge, the one who keeps his people safe. As the psalmist said:

I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:11, NLT.)

Me being not anxious (source)

Me being not anxious

With God, Black Friday is past. He has brought his people into the eternal Sunday of Resurrection life in Christ.

No wonder we can trust him.


*It was our daughter’s birthday the next day and this trip to Disneyland was our gift to her. Why I didn’t insist on going with them is a mystery.


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Thanksgiving Lamb

[Originally posted Thanksgiving 2013.]

Lots of people like to have turkey on Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to focus on the Thanksgiving Lamb.

If you offer an animal from the flock as a fellowship offering to the Lord, you are to offer a male or female without defect. If you offer a lamb, you are to present it before the Lord. (Leviticus 3:6-7.)

Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. … The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning. (Leviticus 7:13, 15.)

Lambs as offerings of thanksgiving. Have you ever considered what this means for Thanksgiving Day? Have you considered what this means for your life in Jesus?

Jesus is the one Isaiah spoke of when he said:

… he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7.)

Jesus is the one John the Baptist spoke of when he said:

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29.)

Jesus is the one John the Apostle wrote of when he recorded the heavenly choir singing;

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! (Revelation 5:12.)

Jesus is the one the writer of Hebrews spoke of when he said:

We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10.)

We have much to be thankful for in Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, the offering that never needs repeating.

This Thanksgiving I give thanks for the Lamb.


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Giving Thanks For My Taste Buds

[From the archives, a post about food – physical and spiritual – and giving thanks.]

I love my taste buds. I figure God loves them too, since he made them. He even tells us to imagine what it means to taste him and to receive his blessing by doing so: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8.) So that gives me yet another thing to love about God, because I do love my taste buds and I do love his blessings!

My Taste Buds, My Taste Buddies

I love the way food tastes, how it feels, the sight of it on the platter or in a bowl or filling a cup, the smell of a cooking kitchen.  One of my philosophies about food (and I have several) is that I’ll try just about anything that is standard fare somewhere on the planet. That has led me to try a lot of foods, and almost always to my benefit. My taste buds get to experience sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory tastes. Alone or in combination, these render some wonderful experiences in my mouth.

So I’m pretty indiscriminate, yet very appreciative, when it comes to good eats. I can eat pizza every day for a week and still say yes if someone suggests it for the next meal. Soup can be black bean or butternut squash, gazpacho or garbanzo, lentil or leek, or just about anything else that sits well in a bowl. Casseroles? Bring ‘em on, along with steaks, ribs, cutlets and burgers too. If you think all I’m after are the hearty dishes I can assure you that fresh fruits and vegetables are always around our house, and happily where we live in California they’re in abundant supply year round.

When you stop to think about it – believe me, I have – God didn’t have to give us such wonderful senses of taste and smell so we can enjoy our food so much. He could have given us merely moderate senses so that we would eat what we need to for sustenance but not necessarily have the ability to enjoy food to such an extravagant degree.

And that’s what it is, extravagance. Our God has created us with extravagant grace and it’s a common grace for all, just like being able to breathe air and enjoy the feel of warm sunlight on our skin and marvel at the sights offered by a walk through a pine forest. To that list I add taste buds. Ex-tra-va-GANCE!

God’s Word, God’s Menu

You might wonder, though, whether God really cares as much about food and how I interact with it as I let on here. Is there a spiritual component to all this, an eternal significance to how we relate to food? I say yes, and I think the Bible does too.

The Bible not only uses food imagery in describing our relationship with God and all the goodness he has for his people, but the Bible tells us that we can actually partake of God in a spiritual sense just as we do food in the physical sense. Here are some examples.

He invites us to his feast and overwhelms us with his love:

“Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.” (Song of Songs 2:4-5.)

Can’t afford the price of admission? God’s covering the tab for you:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55: 1-2.)

God’s refreshment satisfies us abundantly:

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14.)

And both our hunger and thirst are eternally satisfied (awesome!):

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35.)

With God the functional and the spiritual are always inseparable, so can these word pictures that use food perhaps be more than mere metaphors? Yes, and Jesus – the Living Water and Bread of Life himself – showed us how.

Spiritual and temporal significance

John 2:1-12 depicts a scene most of us can relate to: a wedding reception. But the wedding coordinator miscalculated the supply of wine needed for all the guests, and feared he had a disaster on his hands. So what did Jesus do? On the urging of his mother, he turned water into wine. Not just any old wine in a box, as some of us might have done if we were there and rushed off to the nearest convenience store for supplies, but a fine noteworthy wine:

“Then [Jesus] told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:8-11.)

To say that God’s food is only spiritual or to say that our enjoyment of food is only functional misses the point entirely. God gave us taste buds as part of our very beings so that we can understand what it means to taste and see that he is good. How do we know this? Because by this miracle, by not only seeing what Jesus did but also tasting the wine as proof of how good he is, the disciples believed.

Feasting on God

One day we will all join in a feast that will allow our spirits and our bodies to experience together God’s sustenance as it is truly meant to be enjoyed, because “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9.)

Yes, blessed indeed. In the meantime, I will enjoy the good food God gives me to taste here and now as a reminder of the great banquet to come.


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There is Still Time to be a Defiant Woman – wisdom from Sarah Christine Schwartz at The Junia Project

Sarah Christine Schwartz has a post up today at The Junia Project. In reading it I found myself wanting to share just about every line as a quote. Instead I decided to excerpt a passage and let read the rest for yourself.

Don’t for one moment believe that because you’re a woman, you must sacrifice passion or conviction in order to be heard, or that you must be quiet and small and relentlessly pleasant in order to fit someone else’s definition of ladylike.

If I tell you it’s a thrilling read, I’m understating the point. Click here to read the rest.


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Chocolate Proverb


Goodness comes in many hues, from pale milkiness to darkest cocoa. Just like chocolate. (Image source:Wikimedia)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8.)


P.S. White chocolate is chocolate by grace, not by birthright.


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The Right Teacher at the Right Time

the right teacher

[Today’s guest post on what it takes to teach is from Jeannie Prinsen, one of my favorite people to read on the internet. She’s taught writing and English for a long time now but here she reveals how it all began by catching her unawares, and how she became the right teacher at the right time.]


“Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for.”
(Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints.)

When I graduated from university in 1985 with a B.A. in English, I was 21 years old. I had no real career plan, but I did get a part-time job as a research assistant for one of my former English professors. This job was perfect for me: holed up in a tiny office in the university library, I read articles from literary journals and wrote summaries of them.

Then one day I got a phone call from another former professor, who was also the English Department head. The person who had been teaching the weekly evening course in Composition had just quit in mid-semester. Would I take over the course for the rest of the term? I said yes.

This was in the days before you could go online and find free lesson plans, worksheets, or writing exercises. I didn’t even have a typewriter, let alone a computer. I went back to my notes and textbook from the same course (which I’d taken four years earlier), and by the time the first class rolled around I had some tentative plans.

I walked in that first evening feeling anxious. I was greeted by a class of about 20 people, most of them older part-time students. When I asked them what they had learned so far in the course, I got snorts of derision in response. “NOTHING!” they said – and then they spent the next fifteen minutes venting about their previous instructor. His long, incoherent monologues and in-class smoking figured largely among the complaints.

Then we got to work, starting from scratch with basic concepts like the funnel-shaped introductory paragraph and other old standbys. I don’t remember much of the actual content I taught over those few weeks, but I remember the experience: how glad the students were to see me every Wednesday, how keen they were to learn how to write essays and improve their style, and how kind and appreciative they were when the term ended.

I briefly mentioned this episode in a comment here on Tim’s blog recently, and he asked me to turn it into a blog post. When he did, the first thing that came to my mind was the concept of impostor syndrome:  that sense that we’re really not qualified or competent to do the thing we’re doing – and that sooner or later someone else (possibly the entire world) is going to realize it and we’ll be “outed.”

I felt some of that when I was teaching the course.


I had an extremely, uh, fresh BA in English. I had pretty much zero life experience. Many of the people in the class were two or three times my age. I really shouldn’t have been doing this job – should I? But that didn’t matter to the students: they seemed to prefer a naïve 21-year-old over a jaded smoker (and possibly drinker) who thought he was too good to be a first-year composition teacher.

I had a few other classroom-teaching experiences after that one. Some went well; others did not. In every case, there were times when I felt that nagging sense that I was doing something I wasn’t qualified to do. But I think being young actually helped me: when you’re 21, you feel optimistic and able to tackle anything, but you lose some of that attitude when you get older – at least I have. I’ve become happier and more comfortable in my own skin than I was when I was 21; that’s indisputable. But if I got a phone call today asking me take over a course halfway through the term (“Oh, and can you start next Wednesday?”), I’m not sure I’d say yes – at least not as quickly as I did then.

Another thing age teaches, I think, is that most of our significant life challenges aren’t things that someone phones us up and asks us to do. They just happen to us. And that sense of being unqualified and incapable can be even stronger in those instances. I didn’t sign up to be a special needs parent, for example – and notwithstanding kind, well-meant comments like “Special kids are always given special parents,” most of the time I don’t feel at all capable of the task. Yet time after time, I see other people gracefully facing their un-asked for challenges: they may have their impostor-syndrome moments, but they don’t let that deter them from what they know, deep down, they’re called to do. Observing such people makes me think it might be possible for me to do the impossible, too.

Impostor syndrome is an especially unhelpful concept when it comes to faith. The Bible is loaded with examples of people who didn’t feel qualified or adequate for the tasks they were called to do:

  • Moses thought he didn’t speak well enough to lead the Israelites (Exodus 6:30)
  • David, youngest of his family, didn’t impress anyone as future king material (1 Samuel 16)
  • Abraham and Sarah were 90+ and childless – not ideal candidates to parent a “great nation” of people (Genesis 17)
  • Mary was a teenager who could hardly comprehend the news that she would give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38)

And there are many others: Esther, Paul, Samuel, pretty much all of Jesus’ disciples … actually, we would be hard pressed to find many Bible heroes who were fully qualified for their roles before they stepped into them. They were called; they responded; and God gave them what they needed to fulfill the task. The saying “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called” may be a cliché – but as with most clichés, there’s a profound truth behind the familiar words.

Have you been asked to do something you feel unqualified to do? Are you facing a challenge that you didn’t sign up for, that overwhelms you, and that you don’t feel one bit capable of fulfilling? Take heart. How prepared, qualified, or competent you feel may have nothing to do with how well you can do the task. Don’t let fear of being outed as an impostor hold you back; trust God to enable you. And remember, as Hebrews 12:1 says, there’s a whole cloud of witnesses – many of whom probably felt like impostors too – cheering you on.


The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
(1 Samuel 16:7.)


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You Are God’s Delight – the Bible tells me so

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17.)


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