Most hymnals will group the songs by theme. For instance, you want to sing a song about the resurrection. You can look at the themes in the back of the hymnal or at the top of the pages and find whole sections of songs about the resurrection of Christ. Or what about songs about God’s goodness or God’s word? Find that section in your hymnal, and there are almost always multiple songs grouped together underneath that theme.
God tells us emphatically, “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6)! I love that God commands us to do things that are so enjoyable. I love to sing. One practical tool that we have at our disposal is a hymnal. I love hymnals. It’s been a habit of mine to collect hymnals for years. Some are good and some are… well, let’s just say we won’t be singing all of the songs in some hymnals in glory. But there are some great hymnals. It’s amazing to be able to sing songs that the Reformers sang. It’s a privilege to sing songs that have passed the test of time, both the content of the songs and the character of the authors. When we sing these old songs, we are able to confess the truth of God’s Word hand in hand with those who have gone before us. Wonderful stuff. (I love new songs too, but I’m getting to the point).
Often people are intimidated by hymnals. Maybe you think that you have to be able to read music to really enjoy a hymnal. Maybe you think you need to be able to play an instrument (or carry a tune) to sing those songs. I hope to dispel those rumors! I want to give you some practical ways to use a hymnal in personal, family, and corporate worship.
Enjoy the Poetry
Good hymn writers take the beautiful words of God and turn them into beautiful pieces of poetry. Here’s an example: “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free, His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me” (O For a Thousand Tongues). Or what about this one from John Newton: “Now let us join with hearts and tongues, And emulate the angels’ songs; Yea, sinners may address their King, In songs that angels cannot sing. They praise the Lamb who once was slain; But we can add a higher strain; Not only say, “He suffer’d thus, “But that he suffer’d all for us” (Men Honoured Above Angels).
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By David Gelernter — 2 weeks ago
An intelligent designer might seem more necessary than ever now that we understand so much cellular biology, and the impossibly long odds facing any attempt to design proteins by chance, or assemble the regulatory mechanisms that control the life cycle of a cell. Meyer doesn’t reject Darwinian evolution. He only rejects it as a sufficient theory of life as we know it. He’s made a painstaking investigation of Darwin’s theory and has rejected it for many good reasons that he has carefully explained. He didn’t rush to embrace intelligent design. Just the opposite. But the explosion of detailed, precise information that was necessary to build the brand-new Cambrian organisms, and the fact that the information was encoded, represented symbolically, in DNA nucleotides, suggests to Meyer that an intelligent designer must have been responsible.
Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory. Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview. Accepting the theory as settled truth—no more subject to debate than the earth being round or the sky blue or force being mass times acceleration—certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views; which in turn is an essential first step towards being taken seriously in any part of modern intellectual life. But what if Darwin was wrong?
Like so many others, I grew up with Darwin’s theory, and had always believed it was true. I had heard doubts over the years from well-informed, sometimes brilliant people, but I had my hands full cultivating my garden, and it was easier to let biology take care of itself. But in recent years, reading and discussion have shut that road down for good.
This is sad. It is no victory of any sort for religion. It is a defeat for human ingenuity. It means one less beautiful idea in our world, and one more hugely difficult and important problem back on mankind’s to-do list. But we each need to make our peace with the facts, and not try to make life on earth simpler than it really is.
Charles Darwin explained monumental change by making one basic assumption—all life-forms descend from a common ancestor—and adding two simple processes anyone can understand: random, heritable variation and natural selection. Out of these simple ingredients, conceived to be operating blindly over hundreds of millions of years, he conjured up change that seems like the deliberate unfolding of a grand plan, designed and carried out with superhuman genius. Could nature really have pulled out of its hat the invention of life, of increasingly sophisticated life-forms and, ultimately, the unique-in-the-cosmos (so far as we know) human mind—given no strategy but trial and error? The mindless accumulation of small changes? It is an astounding idea. Yet Darwin’s brilliant and lovely theory explains how it could have happened.
Its beauty is important. Beauty is often a telltale sign of truth. Beauty is our guide to the intellectual universe—walking beside us through the uncharted wilderness, pointing us in the right direction, keeping us on track—most of the time.
Demolishing a Worldview
There’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.
Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. He cannot answer the big question. Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer, which collects some of the arguments Meyer’s book stirred up. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore. Bringing to bear the work of many dozen scientists over many decades, Meyer, who after a stint as a geophysicist in Dallas earned a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge and now directs the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact.
Meyer doesn’t only demolish Darwin; he defends a replacement theory, intelligent design (I.D.). Although I can’t accept intelligent design as Meyer presents it, he does show that it is a plain case of the emperor’s new clothes: it says aloud what anyone who ponders biology must think, at some point, while sifting possible answers to hard questions. Intelligent design as Meyer explains it never uses religious arguments, draws religious conclusions, or refers to religion in any way. It does underline an obvious but important truth: Darwin’s mission was exactly to explain the flagrant appearance of design in nature.
The religion is all on the other side. Meyer and other proponents of I.D. are the dispassionate intellectuals making orderly scientific arguments. Some I.D.-haters have shown themselves willing to use any argument—fair or not, true or not, ad hominem or not—to keep this dangerous idea locked in a box forever. They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.
As for Biblical religion, it forces its way into the discussion although Meyer didn’t invite it, and neither did Darwin. Some have always been bothered by the harm Darwin is said to have done religion. His theory has been thought by some naïfs (fundamentalists as well as intellectuals) to have shown or alleged that the Bible is wrong, and Judeo-Christian religion bunk. But this view assumes a childishly primitive reading of Scripture. Anyone can see that there are two different creation stories in Genesis, one based on seven days, the other on the Garden of Eden. When the Bible gives us two different versions of one story, it stands to reason that the facts on which they disagree are without basic religious significance. The facts on which they agree are the ones that matter: God created the universe, and put man there for a reason. Darwin has nothing to say on these or any other key religious issues.
Fundamentalists and intellectuals might go on arguing these things forever. But normal people will want to come to grips with Meyer and the downfall of a beautiful idea. I will mention several of his arguments, one of them in (just a bit of) detail. This is one of the most important intellectual issues of modern times, and every thinking person has the right and duty to judge for himself.
Looking for Evidence
Darwin himself had reservations about his theory, shared by some of the most important biologists of his time. And the problems that worried him have only grown more substantial over the decades. In the famous “Cambrian explosion” of around half a billion years ago, a striking variety of new organisms—including the first-ever animals—pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years. This great outburst followed many hundreds of millions of years of slow growth and scanty fossils, mainly of single-celled organisms, dating back to the origins of life roughly three and half billion years ago.
Darwin’s theory predicts that new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life. Those brave new Cambrian creatures must therefore have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated. They could not have all blown out suddenly, like a bunch of geysers. Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors: Darwinian evolution is gradual, step-by-step. All those predecessors must have come together, further back, into a series of branches leading down to the (long ago) trunk.
But those predecessors of the Cambrian creatures are missing. Darwin himself was disturbed by their absence from the fossil record. He believed they would turn up eventually. Some of his contemporaries (such as the eminent Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz) held that the fossil record was clear enough already, and showed that Darwin’s theory was wrong. Perhaps only a few sites had been searched for fossils, but they had been searched straight down. The Cambrian explosion had been unearthed, and beneath those Cambrian creatures their Precambrian predecessors should have been waiting—and weren’t. In fact, the fossil record as a whole lacked the upward-branching structure Darwin predicted.
The trunk was supposed to branch into many different species, each species giving rise to many genera, and towards the top of the tree you would find so much diversity that you could distinguish separate phyla—the large divisions (sponges, mosses, mollusks, chordates, and so on) that comprise the kingdoms of animals, plants, and several others—take your pick. But, as Berlinski points out, the fossil record shows the opposite: “representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes.” In general, “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” The incremental development of new species is largely not there. Those missing pre-Cambrian organisms have still not turned up. (Although fossils are subject to interpretation, and some biologists place pre-Cambrian life-forms closer than others to the new-fangled Cambrian creatures.)
Some researchers have guessed that those missing Precambrian precursors were too small or too soft-bodied to have made good fossils. Meyer notes that fossil traces of ancient bacteria and single-celled algae have been discovered: smallness per se doesn’t mean that an organism can’t leave fossil traces—although the existence of fossils depends on the surroundings in which the organism lived, and the history of the relevant rock during the ages since it died. The story is similar for soft-bodied organisms. Hard-bodied forms are more likely to be fossilized than soft-bodied ones, but many fossils of soft-bodied organisms and body parts do exist. Precambrian fossil deposits have been discovered in which tiny, soft-bodied embryo sponges are preserved—but no predecessors to the celebrity organisms of the Cambrian explosion.
This sort of negative evidence can’t ever be conclusive. But the ever-expanding fossil archives don’t look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified—according to many reputable paleontologists, anyway. When does the clock run out on those predictions? Never. But any thoughtful person must ask himself whether scientists today are looking for evidence that bears on Darwin, or looking to explain away evidence that contradicts him. There are some of each. Scientists are only human, and their thinking (like everyone else’s) is colored by emotion.
The Advent of Molecular Biology
Darwin’s main problem, however, is molecular biology. There was no such thing in his own time. We now see from inside what he could only see from outside, as if he had developed a theory of mobile phone evolution without knowing that there were computers and software inside or what the digital revolution was all about. Under the circumstances, he did brilliantly.
Biology in his time was for naturalists, not laboratory scientists. Doctor Dolittle was a naturalist. (He is the hero of the wonderful children’s books by Hugh Lofting, now unfortunately nearing extinction.) The doctor loved animals and understood them, and had a sharp eye for all of nature not too different from Wordsworth’s or Goethe’s. But the character of the field has changed, and it’s not surprising that old theories don’t necessarily still work.
Darwin’s theory is simple to grasp; its simplicity is the heart of its brilliance and power. We all know that variation occurs naturally among individuals of the same type—white or black sheep, dove-gray versus off-white or pale beige pigeons, boring and sullen undergraduates versus charming, lissome ones. We all know that many variations have no effect on a creature’s prospects, but some do. A sheep born with extra-warm wool will presumably do better at surviving a rough Scottish winter than his normal-wooled friends. Such a sheep would be more likely than normal sheep to live long enough to mate, and pass on its superior trait to the next generation. Over millions of years, small good-for-survival variations accumulate, and eventually (says Darwin) you have a brand new species. The same mechanism naturally favors genes that are right for the local environment—warm wool in Scotland, light and comfortable wool for the tropics, other varieties for mountains and deserts. Thus one species (your standard sheep) might eventually become four specialized ones. And thus new species should develop from old in the upward-branching tree pattern Darwin described.
By Davy Ellison — 1 year ago
In the Old Testament, the word salvation refers to both physical and spiritual deliverance. But as we read the Bible in its entirety, we soon come to see that all physical deliverance is simply an illustration of the great spiritual deliverance that God offers in his son Jesus. In the depths, as Christians, we must never forget that it is in Christ alone our hope is found—for there alone is sin dealt with.
A single image, from my first few visits to London, is impressed on my mind: the view from the top of an escalator in the larger Underground Tube stations. I remember standing looking at this enormous moving stairway, tilted at a frightening angle, inching slowly but steadily into the depths of London’s underground. Imagine gazing at hundreds of people on this downward trajectory into the belly of London.
This image of downward motion is one which is created by the book of Jonah in the first two chapters. Initially, Jonah goes down to the port of Joppa (1:3). Once aboard a ship, Jonah goes down to the inner part and lies down (1:5). Jonah is then thrown from the deck down into the raging sea (1:15). In chapter 2 Jonah then recalls being thrown down into the sea (2:3), where he then sinks down (2:3, 5)—finally sinking down to the sea floor (2:6).
For two entire chapters Jonah has been moving downward. In chapter 2, we therefore find him in the depths. But from those depths Jonah shares four truths that might encourage those of us who are likewise in the depths.
Truth #1 – God is Sovereign
We should be amazed at the sovereignty of God in the story of Jonah. It is stated explicitly in 1:17 as it is noted that the LORD ‘appointed’ a fish to swallow Jonah—it isn’t a chance happening, it isn’t a stroke of good fortune—God has orchestrated it. Not only does the fish swallow Jonah, but at God’s command he spits him out again (2:10). It isn’t just the fish that is under God’s control, however, it is also the waves. In 1:4 we are told that the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea to create in the storm. But, in chapter 2 Jonah himself acknowledges it is God’s doing (v. 3): ‘your waves and your billows’. God is sovereign. There can be no doubt about it. All these circumstances—both the waves and the fish—it is all at God’s beck and call.
In the depths Jonah is careful to encourage us to remember God is sovereign. No matter what we face we can face it with confidence because God is in control of all things. When we feel we are drowning in life, God can send a ‘fish’ to rescue us. We must trust our God; no, we can trust our God.
Truth #2 – God Answers Prayer
Jonah asserts this truth before he even gives us the content of his prayer (2:1–2). Even from the depths God hears and answers prayer. Jonah’s situation was desperate. He is struggling to keep his head above water in verse 3, by verse 5 the seaweed is pulling him under and so in verse 6 he has reached the sea floor—alternatively known as death. This prophet of the LORD, who thought he could escape God’s call on his life, is facing the end of his life. It is here, for the very first time in the book, that Jonah calls out to God.
The sad reality is that sometimes we must be brought to the end of ourselves before we seek God. Often it is only in the most desperate of circumstances that we will cry out to God. How is this supposed to be encouraging? Because when we do, God hears and answers. This is Jonah’s testimony (2:2, 7). Cry out to God, speak to him, tell him how you feel and watch as he answers.
This comes with a warning though, because often the answer is not quite what we would expect. Consider Jonah, in the gut of a great fish he thanked God for deliverance! Nonetheless, it was an answer to prayer.
By Pierce Taylor Hibbs — 7 months ago
Feeling anxious is part of living in a broken world, and God weaves those feelings into his providential plan for our spiritual growth. As we mature, our feelings of anxiety may abate, or they may swell. What runs constant is God’s call to trust him and act in the context of our feelings. Simply listening to our kids express their feelings is a great way to ease their burden by assuring them of our non-judgmental presence.
It takes time for us to realize we aren’t made of glass, that shattering isn’t imminent, that God can always bring us through to the other side—no matter what hellish things we experience. Time teaches us. In fact, for any person of faith, time is the only tutor.
But kids don’t have time yet—at least, they have more ahead than behind. Each day holds out threats without the assurance of safety, let alone the promise of strength for having weathered hard things. And so, for kids, fragility comes naturally. They see their smallness in a wild world. A tiny scratch demands a Band Aid. The sidewalk cracks threaten their bicycle tires. Honey bees have daggers attached to their abdomens. The world is big. Children are small. Dangers abound.
As parents, with more time behind than ahead, we go through seasons when we feel confident in God’s sovereign care, maybe even impervious to harm (or at least ignorant of it). But the longer we live, the more quickly we spot this feeling as a momentary illusion. We lose a parent. Our highschool friend dies of spinal cancer at thirty-one. A Yellowstone mudslide wipes out a bridge as if it were built of toothpicks and glue. Health issues crop up like weeds in everyday conversations. The world is uncontrollable. And though we’re more confident in God’s control than we used to be, we’re still small. And dangers abound.
Maybe that’s why nearly 20% of the American population battles an anxiety disorder, including yours truly for the last 16 years.1 I’ve written about my own anxiety war in Struck Down but Not Destroyed. But I’ve also had the joy of being a parent for nearly 9 years, which means I’ve had to take what God has shown me about anxiety and use it to help my own children. I approach them with deep empathy, as one whom the Lord has shattered and put back together many times. Let me offer what I’ve learned so far and then point you to some resources I’ve found helpful along the way.
What I’ve Learned
1. Kids are very perceptive.
While children deal with their own fears and worries, they’re also watching you, taking cues on how they should respond. As parents, we tend to think it’s best to shield our children from our anxiety, and there are times when that’s appropriate. But shielding them and denying the presence of anxiety teaches them to do the same. That’s unhealthy, and it’s unbiblical. The psalmists didn’t bottle things up; they poured everything out. That doesn’t mean you should pour out your soul before your kids each day. But it does mean they should see it’s okay that you deal with fear and anxiety, too, and you do something about it: you turn to your heavenly Father in prayer. You read his word. You walk by faith. You believe. Showing them what to do with anxiety is much healthier than modeling denial.