Here’s a list of songs that my family has found helpful and comforting as we’ve faced various forms of suffering:
It Is Well
Be Still My Soul
He Will Hold Me Fast
Lead Me To The Rock
I Will Never Leave You Alone
If you’re interested here’s my thoughts on singing songs of ministries that you disagree with.
*Photo by James Barr
Some “Christmas Songs” should be all the time Songs
We thankfully don’t limit songs that refer to the cross or the resurrection to Easter. So why do we limit songs about Christ’s advent and incarnation to the Christmas season?
Jesus’ coming and incarnation are not just relevant in December. Those profound truths are relevant in the summer too.
The word “Christmas” comes from what the day, December 25th, was set apart to do. It was set apart to be a “mass on Christ’s day.” That is, Christmas was a day designated to celebrate and contemplate Christ’s coming and why He came.
Christmas certainly has a worthy goal. Just as Easter (Resurrection Sunday!) is a special day set apart on the Lord’s day to especially celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We, however, can rightly remember Jesus’ resurrection every Sunday/Lord’s Day, indeed every day!
I am convinced certain “Christmas songs” should be more common throughout the year. Perhaps we should rename Christmas songs “Advent” or “Incarnation” songs. For that is what they’re about.
They are not about the hustle and bustle of the season. They have nothing really to do with red and green or Santa or reindeer or snow. But, Christ’s advent and incarnation have to do with everything because they affect everything.
We are amiss when we miss the relevance of Christ’s coming and incarnation in the spring, summer, and fall. Songs are partly meant to be sung to help us recall what we should never forget. They are a trumpet blast to our lousy memories.
So, some “Christmas songs” should be all the time songs.
Here are fives Advent/Incarnation songs we should sing year round:
Here’s why we should sing this song all year long: the song is great lyrically and musically. The lyrics might be a little archaic at points but it’s worth putting in the work to understand.
“Thou Rod of Jesse” refers to Jesus the Promised One. He is the one that brings victory from Satan’s plots. So, we can and should rejoice because Emmanuel (which means God with us) has come.
2. “O Holy Night”
How could you not appreciate those lines? And I don’t think those lines are just powerful during the Christmas holiday.
5. “Joy to the World”
*Photo by David Beale
What are your thoughts on using songs of ministries you disagree with?
I was recently asked this question by a dear Christian. I really appreciate this sibling in Christ and I appreciate their desire to honor our Lord. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
First, this is an important question because music is very important and teaches (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19).
And those who teach are held to a higher standard and must give an account (James 3:1).
Second, there is a lot I disagree with regarding a lot of different ministries.
I disagree with Presbyterians when it comes to some topics but gladly sing their worship songs and count them as my dear brothers and sisters. We should not, however, sing songs that are not theologically true. I believe all songs that are sung in public worship should be evaluated to make sure they are theologically accurate and beneficial.
Third, I believe we should also note that God speaks through and uses all sorts of people and things.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul rejoices that the gospel was being preached even when it was being preached from envy and rivalry (Phil. 1:15-18). God used Balaam and even spoke through the mouth of a donkey (Num. 22:1ff). Paul quoted secular poets. Israel plundered the Egyptians (Ex. 11:2-3; 12:35-36). They took things that were not used for God’s purposes and used them for God’s purposes.
“All truth is God’s truth.” Augustine said, “let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.”
John Calvin said something similar: “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” And he says this in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
“Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears.”
This actually happens a lot in biblical scholarship. There is a lot that Christian scholars glean from nonChristians and those who are heterodox and even heretics (e.g. historical studies and grammar).
If there is a place to learn from and quote thoroughly secular writers and artists it seems there is a place to also learn from and quote Christian writers and authors even when we disagree on important matters. I will say, however, that this point should be caveated with the fact that Paul said not to associate with someone who bears the name of brother but acts like an unbeliever (1 Cor. 5:11). So, this is not a carte blanche principle.
Fourth, of course, it would be ideal that all sources be thoroughly orthodox.
It should also be said that sometimes a qualification is in order so that people know that just because a certain person is referenced it does not mean that their whole system of belief or ministry is supported. I believe this is a wisdom issue. Nowhere does Scripture spell out what exactly this should look like in practice.
Fifth, we benefit from a lot of resources we don’t fully agree with.
I disagree with C.S. Lewis on some important issues but I have gleaned abundantly from his ministry. Also, Reginald Heber, the author of the famous hymn “Holy, holy, holy” was an Anglican priest and bishop. I believe that Jesus is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14-16) and I believe in the priesthood of all believers but I don’t agree with the modern-day office of priest. But, I’m still thankful to sing “Holy, holy, holy.”
Sixth, conscience may not permit some people from using resources from some ministries and that is okay.
Regarding issues about questionable matters, I have found these 13 questions helpful.
Lastly, here are some questions to consider.
I have found these four questions very helpful from Todd Wagner:
1. Are you examining everything you consume (sermons, books, music, movies) through the lens of God’s Word?
2. Does the song stand on its own, proclaiming the truth of God’s Word without explanation?
3. Is it possible to separate the truth being sung from the error of its associations?
4. Would using the song cause us to actively support an errant ministry?
So, I personally do not typically have a problem singing songs of ministries that I disagree with if the song that is being sung is correct theologically and will bless and build up the body of Christ.
 For example, there is a lot I disagree with about Bethel. See e.g. “9 Things You Should Know About the Bethel Church Movement.”
 Acts 17:28, Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 BC) and the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315–240 BC).
 On Christian Doctrine, II.18.
 See John Calvin’s commentary on Titus 1:12.
*Photo by Edward Cisneros
Singing songs of worship is a great means of encouragement and transformation.
“Worship is one of the most transforming activities for us to engage in as Christians… When we become duly impressed with God our lives change because the things that matter to us change.”
So, I encourage you to sing along with these songs or check out the playlist on Spotify.
“Be Thou My Vision” – Audrey Assad
“Beautiful Things” – Gungor
“Seasons” – Hillsong Worship
“Rescue” – Lauren Daigle
“Relief” – Wolves At The Gace
Scripture exhorts us to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19-20; Col. 3:15-17). The Westminster Directory of Public Worship concurs with Scripture and says, “It is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation.”
“Why do Christians sing when they are together?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers: “The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because here they can unite in the Word” (Life Together, 59). I think that’s an important point.
Notice that right before Paul says to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” he says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you [pl.] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). So, singing ought to be part of the ministry of the word. We ought to sing the Bible. We ought to sing Psalms and we ought to also sing biblically rich songs. So, that’s in part why the Directory says our “chief care must be to sing with understanding.”
When we sing songs to God, however, we are not just thinking. We are not just singing for the sake of singing or just edifying each other. We are recounting God’s truth and goodness and being moved anew to thanksgiving (cf. Ps. 78).
Psalm 115 is part of the Hallel Psalms. Hallel means, “praise.” Jesus would have sung the Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118) with His disciples on the eve of Passover. Psalm 114 speaks directly of the exodus. From a New Testament perspective, we know that the salvation which began in Egypt would be finally filled in and through Jesus.
The Hallel Psalms were probably the last psalms Jesus sang before His suffering and death (Mk. 14:26). Jesus would have sung Psalm 115 knowing that He was Himself definitively showing God’s glory, love, and faithfulness. It is amazing also that Jewish people concluded the Hallel Psalms with the prayer:
“From everlasting to everlasting thou art God; beside thee we have no king, redeemer, or savior; no liberator, deliverer, provider; none who takes pity in every time of distress or trouble. We have no king but thee.”
Truly! Apart from Messiah Jesus, there is no “no king, redeemer, or savior; no liberator, deliverer, provider.”
As we see in Psalm 115, idols are inept but God is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness. Whereas idols are inept God is involved. In fact, so involved that He came to this broken world in the form of Jesus Christ.
Idols are silver and gold but God came in flesh. Jesus has a mouth and with it, He spoke words of life. Jesus has eyes, and He saw this broken world and wept. Jesus has ears, and He heard the world’s bitter cries. Jesus has a nose, and He smelled the putrid smell of death. Jesus has human hands, and they were pierced. Jesus has feet, and they carried a cross, and were pinned to a cross. Jesus has a throat, and with it, He cried out: “my God, my God, why have Thou forsaken Me?!”
Look, he’s covered in dirt
The blood of his mother has mixed with the Earth
and she’s just a child who’s throbbing in pain
from the terror of birth by the light of a cave
now they’ve laid that small baby
where creatures come eat
like a meal for the swine who have no clue that he
is still holding together the world that they see
they don’t know just how low he has to go
The Psalms are important for a number of reasons. For one, they take up a fairly large portion of Scripture and they have been a comfort for many. Spurgeon, known as the “prince of preachers,” struggled with depression and he found comfort and solace in the Psalms. He spent some twenty years writing his three-volume commentary on the Psalms.
The Psalms are also important because we are exhorted to sing Psalms. The Psalms are important because they give powerful truths poetic expression. This is helpful because it not only helps us remember the truths but helps us feel the truth. The Psalms are beautiful and will have a very practical impact on us when we soak in them.
Interestingly, Scripture has laments in it and so does our surrounding culture. Most Christian circles, however, do not have laments. Why is this? Is it because Christians are always happy? And always live victoriously? I don’t think so.
If “worship” means singing songs of praise, as “worship” is very often used, then here are some goals of worship: We strive to build each other up (1 Cor. 14:26), be filled with God’s Word (Col. 3:16), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18ff), be a testimony to an unbelieving world (1 Cor. 14:24-15), and gives thanks to God for all He is and has done for us (Eph. 5:20). It is our joy to sing but we are also commanded to sing (e.g. Ps. 100:1-2). Singing is serious.
We do not, however, want to worship God merely in song for if our worship is only in song it is not true worship. We show what we worship by what we give worth. Jesus said, where your treasure is your heart will be also. Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters, but we will serve one. So, worship is inevitable; it is not a matter of if but of what or who. We will serve one or the other. We will worship.
Singing Cultivates a Heart of Thanksgiving
“And be thankful… singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).
“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20)
Another element of singing is thanksgiving. We sing to one another making melody to the Lord in our hearts (not just in our ears), giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:19b-20 cf. Col. 3:16).As we sing rich theological songs we come to see the glories that God has brought to us through Jesus and the regenerating work of the Spirit.
As we sing songs of praise to the Lord the song we make with our hearts is more important than the sound we make with our voices. Singing teaches and transforms us as we thank God for who He is and all He has done. As we thank God for who He is it serves a dual purpose, it also reminds us, we are so prone to forget (and thus, as the song says, “prone to wonder”). As we tell God that He is worthy we ourselves are reminded afresh that God is worthy.
Many of us sadly have a very shallow view of God. In the words of William Lane Craig, we have “a defective concept of God.” We sometimes view God
“as sort of a big chap up there and we appreciate him and we look up to him and so forth, but I think we don’t really understand why we worship God which is to adore God as the supreme good… He is the highest good. He is the paradigm of goodness. That is to say, God’s nature defines what goodness is. It is not as though God lives up to some external standard and does a good job at being good. He is goodness itself. Therefore, he is to be worshiped and adored because he is the highest good.”[i]
So we see that “worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participative. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration.”[ii] That’s in part why were told to make a joyful noise to the LORD, even when we don’t feel like it (Ps. 66:1; 81:1; 95:1, 2; 98:4, 6; 100:1). “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!” (Ps. 150:2-3).
We sing because we are thankful (Eph. 5:19b-20) even in the midst of suffering (see Acts 16:25). We do not merely work ourselves up into a frenzy but are moved into orderly worship by the Spirit as we have the eyes of our hearts enlightened (cf. Eph. 1:15-23). Again, we sing with our spirit, but we sing with our mind also (1 Cor. 14:15). Notice that when we look at the book of Nehemiah we see that revival came to God’s people in part through understanding the Scriptures and a retelling of God’s abundant grace to His people (Neh. 8:1ff).
When we sing songs to God we are not just thinking. We are not just singing for the sake of singing or just edifying each other. We are recounting God’s truth and goodness and being moved anew to thanksgiving (cf. Ps. 78). We are declaring God’s worth.
God is worthy not just of songs about Him, but songs of praise to Him.[iii] We may sing country songs, pop songs, etc. but those songs do not consciously praise anyone or anything. As we sing songs of praise we are consciously praising God, realizing He alone is worthy. We are purposely thanking God for all He is and has done. So, even when we don’t feel like it, we should still sing songs of hearty praise to the LORD. He is worthy!
So, what are some goals we have for our singing? We strive to build each other up (1 Cor. 14:26), be filled with God’s Word (Col. 3:16), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18ff), be a testimony to an unbelieving world (1 Cor. 14:24-15), and gives thanks to God for all He is and has done for us (Eph. 5:20). It is our joy to sing but we are also commanded to sing (cf. Ps. 100:1-2). Singing is serious. So, let’s do as Psalm 47:6 says:
“Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!”
[ii] Ronald Allen and Gordan Borror, Worship, Rediscovering the Missing Jewel [Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1982], 16.
[iii] “Since God is neither an a-personal truth…, contemplation is not appropriate as a way of relating to God. Adoration is. To adore God is not simply to behold the truth in a disinterested way, but to affirm one’s allegiance to God by praising God for his deeds in creation and redemption” (“Reflections on a Christian way of Being-in-the-World,” 209. Italics mine).