Worship Prep Using a Spreadsheet of Trinity Hymnal Hymns PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 14:26

For my own quick reference while planning worship services, I combined the table of hymn numbers, titles, authors, composers, tunes, meters, and scripture references publicly available on the OPC website with this page's list of which hymns have guitar chords in the Trinity Hymnal into a Google spreadsheet and thought I'd share it with you in case you would find it useful.  So here it is:  Trinity Hymnal Hymn Data Spreadsheet.

I use that spreadsheet to track whether a hymn is familiar to my congregation, and when we last sang it, and expect other pastors could benefit from using the spreadsheet that way too.  I also think the spreadsheet could help people in the future to find guitar chords for the Psalms in the Trinity Psalter, if I could find an appropriate way to add the Psalm numbers into the spreadsheet.

I should point out that my spreadsheet's list of which hymns have guitar chords is LONGER than the list compiled at http://www.pontificationadnauseam.com/?p=65, because I have written guitar chords into my hymnal for some hymns which were not originally printed in the Trinity Hymnal with guitar chords, and have updated my spreadsheet to match my hymnal.  So if you or someone else wants to use this spreadsheet, I recommend you copy-and-paste it into a new Google spreadsheet of your own, then (sort by the guitar chords column and) delete the marks indicating chords are printed for those hymns which are not listed on http://www.pontificationadnauseam.com/?p=65.

You might want to know several other ways I use this spreadsheet.  Basically, I use the spreadsheet's ability to sort all the data by a particular column to serve the same purpose as the multiple indexes in the back of the Trinity Hymnal.

1.  We are using our choir to teach our congregation new songs from the hymnal.  So to find musically beautiful hymns for our choir to sing, I sorted by composer, looked for classical composers since their harmonies are (arguably) likely to be more beautiful, then picked out several that are unfamiliar to our congregation.

2.  For the same purpose with the choir, to find songs with unfamiliar words but familiar tunes, I sorted by tune name and then looked at the "Familiar" column.

3.  When I'm in a hurry to find hymns I can play on the guitar and whose words are appropriate for a particular worship service, I sort by the "Guitar" column to get a short list of hymns with chords.

4.  Though I normally use the printed hymnal for this purpose (and though I think maybe this spreadsheet's list of scripture references contains some errors), you could sort by scripture reference and see immediately what the titles of the corresponding hymns are--the printed hymnal lists only the hymns' numbers, not their titles, so using the spreadsheet could save time.

5.  If you find that a hymn's words would be appropriate for a particular worship service, but the tune is unfamiliar or otherwise undesirable, you can sort by the "Meter" column, find the hymn whose words you like, and find the music for a different tune which might work with those words.

6.  If you want to teach about a particular author's life as a background behind a particular hymn, it can be useful to sort by "Author" to easily find which hymns he wrote.

7.  As I mentioned, I keep a running record of which hymns are familiar to my congregation, and when we last sang each hymn.  This helps me avoid having us sing too many unfamiliar hymns in one service, which can be discouraging to members, and it helps me avoid having us sing the same hymn too frequently.  To use the spreadsheet this way, typically I find a hymn in the hymnal which I think would be appropriate for a service, then hit CTRL-F to bring up a search dialog, then I search for the hymn number in question to see how recently we sang it and whether it is familiar.

8.  Though normally I have no need to do so, if I want to find a hymn by its title, I can sort or search by title.

9.  Of course, after sorting the hymns into a strange order, you can sort by hymn number to put them back in their original order as found in the Trinity Hymnal.

The only way to gain ALL of this functionality is for a person to copy the data into their own spreadsheet file, so they can have their own personal records of whether a hymn is familiar and when it was last sung.  If you don't need that record, the other sorting functionality is already provided here http://opc.org/books/THrev/ (that page is linked to by the Wikipedia page on the Trinity Hymnal).

One last note:  My reason for playing the guitar is not primarily to add another instrument, variety, or a popular style to the service, though I'm not necessarily opposed to those things, and am in favor of members using their musical gifts to help accompany congregational singing.  Rather, I play the guitar in our service to help fill in for when our (two) pianists are unavailable; because one of them is in her 80's I feel obligated to be able to help with the accompaniment.  This means sometimes I provide ALL the accompaniment, or we may sing a capella (which isn't necessarily bad.)  But in the process I've discovered the Trinity Hymnal has no chords for several songs which are commonly used in every service--the doxology, Gloria Patri, etc.  So I've found and made up chords for those songs.  If there is ever a new edition to the Trinity Hymnal, I recommend including guitar chords for songs which are commonly used in our churches' services, not to lower the quality of our services' accompaniment, but to enable some of our services--and perhaps even churches--to have accompaniment. To ameliorate this problem for myself and guitarists who cannot read music, I've begun posting the chords that are missing from the Trinity Hymnal, and video demos of how to play each hymn on the guitar, for others to use at Trinity Hymnal - Guitar chords & demo videos.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 August 2017 09:06
Why did Jesus say "tell no one" the gospel? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 15 April 2010 08:39

On the OPC email discussion list, Dean asked,

In Mark 5:19 Jesus says, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." The man returns to Decapolis, but toward the end of Mark 7 when Jesus visits Decapolis and performs a miracle "He commanded them that they should tell no one."

Why the two different instructions from Jesus for the same geographic region?

Many Reformed commentaries (see John Calvin, Matthew Henry) give the following good explanation of the several places where Jesus told people not to tell anyone about Him and His works, which is also known as the "Messianic secret":  it was not yet the time for Christ to be delivered over to the hands of sinful men to be crucified, and then to be raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God the Father.  But there was a turning point when Christ said "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23), when Christ no longer hid His purpose to reign as king from full view in the eyes of the public and of the government:  the Triumphal Entry, John 12:12-19.

Before the Triumphal Entry, Jesus did tell some to proclaim the gospel of faith in Christ to which His miracles bore witness, but He limited that proclamation's content, frequency, and extent, until the proper time when He commanded us to go into all the world, preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything He commanded.  That proper time was after His resurrection, and particularly, after the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus trained His disciples to proclaim the gospel, but He did so in stages, in a limited manner, during the time of His humiliation, and we must learn our gospel proclamation today from that training.  But now, during the time of His exaltation, He commands us to go forth and proclaim the gospel as He has trained us to do.  This is how these two stages of Christ's ministry--humiliation and exaltation--and these two sets of instructions--"tell them" and "tell no one"--are connected in regard to their impact on our gospel proclamation today.

Did Jesus call Obama the Antichrist? Um...no. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 03 September 2009 16:45

Since two of my friends have asked separately whether this video is correct, I decided to post a response. The video asks,

Did Jesus reveal the name of the Antichrist?

This guy doesn't know Hebrew like he should, and he even misspelled the English word "heights." Here are his errors in Hebrew and Greek:

1. Aramaic isn't the most ancient form of Hebrew.

2. He mispronounced the name of the letter "waw," which is normally pronounced the way Germans would pronounce it ("vov"), since the Germans were the best Hebrew scholars for a time and English-speakers still study and depend greatly upon their grammar textbooks, now translated into English.

3. He translates the waw ("O") in "Baraq O Bama" as potentially meaning "from," which is not at all a common use of the letter waw, which is normally a conjunction, not a preposition. The common way to say "from" in Hebrew is with the preposition "min." In addition, Jesus' words include a verb--"falling"--which is not really implied grammatically in "Baraq O Bama," which would most naturally mean "lightning and height." This makes me think the fellow looked up Barack Obama's name in Strong's and then found a verse where he could try to make the Bible say what he wants it to say.

4. He references Strong's numbers instead of the best Hebrew lexicons, and refers to Hebrew scholars as if he himself is not one--I agree with him on that. Did this fellow really study Hebrew? He doesn't seem to be able to read it. Very likely if he didn't study Hebrew, he didn't study Aramaic either. Few theological seminaries require their graduates to have a reading knowledge of Hebrew today, and even the ones that do (Westminster included) do not require the students to study Aramaic. We got only the shortest introduction to Aramaic--one hour of class time at most, a couple sentences to see the similarity to Hebrew, and the reference guide to the Aramaic abbreviations written in the margins of the Hebrew Old Testament.

5. Though Jesus spoke Aramaic, it's generally a bad idea to speculate about what Aramaic words Jesus spoke behind the Greek of the text of the New Testament--first, it's speculation; second, God gave us Jesus' words in Greek, not Aramaic; third, on average one Hebrew/Aramaic word has more possible senses than one Greek word, so while you CAN sometimes make a good guess as to what Hebrew word underlies its Greek translation, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the words of the two languages, and you run a big risk relying on reverse-engineering the translation process for any solid conclusions. Specifically, in this case, there are at least 4 Hebrew words for lightning--"baraq," which means "lightning," "or," which means "light," "bazaq," which means "lightning flash," "laphid," which means "flame." Which one did Jesus use? The video is speculating too much. Similarly, "bama" IS a common Hebrew word for "above," but it is not the most common word for "heaven" ("shamayim" is), and the Greek of Jesus' word "heaven" is the most common Greek word for "heaven," "ouranos." The mismatch between the Greek and its proposed Aramaic original is too much to be convincing.

6. The Greek isn't saying that Satan IS "lightning from above," and so it's not treating "lightning from above" as a proper name, so why would the Hebrew have that meaning? Rather, the Greek says Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning. Even if Jesus used the word "baraq," meaning He saw Satan fall like Barack, to say this means Barack is the Antichrist is to say something the text doesn't mean.

He also didn't trace the etymology of Barack Obama's name through whatever language it comes from (Arabic? which admittedly is very similar to Hebrew & Aramaic) to see if it means "lightning from above" there.

Hope you found this helpful!

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 September 2009 19:29
Why Sing Skillfully? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 13 August 2009 15:00

Brian L. Penney, pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Copiague, NY (CREC), recently announced his congregation's ministry called "Heart & Voice" which aims to help your congregation learn to sing 4-part harmony.  While we don't agree with the CREC's commitment to the theology of the Federal Vision, the work of "Heart & Voice" is a great idea--your part is not only written down, but also sung well on an MP3 you can listen to on the way to work.  Brian writes,

Our church has a ministry called Heart & Voice to help congregations learn to sing 4-part harmony...to improve our praise of Almighty God.  Toward that end, we are producing learning tracks for psalms and hymns in SATB format with full-mix so all the parts can be heard as you would sing them. If any of you have a list of psalms or hymns you would like to teach your congregations, we will consider producing the 5 tracks for each song. H&V has a learning track specialist helping us produce the audio files. He has given us a steep discount: $50 per song. His usual price is $100. If you send us a donation to cover the learning track production, that would be great! The songs will go on our website for all to share. You can hear a sample here:  www.heartandvoice.weebly.com.

On the URC discussion list, Dave asked,

But does it matter that one can sing "skilfully?" I think not.

This is a good question, and one which sometimes divides people--the humble say God accepts His people's singing even if its musical quality is as poor as the "widow's mite," the "truly musical" can imply poor singing is sinful worship, and some of the "truly Reformed" claim choirs are not an element of New Testament worship.  Dave's question deserves a good answer.

Here is mine.  Because the Lord commands us to sing, and singing requires skill, I think to sing with less skill is to sing less; to sing hardly well is to hardly sing. This is no reason to think the Lord is not merciful to those of His creatures who can merely lisp--some of whom sing in our congregation--but it is to affirm that He made us to really sing, and that He will enable us to do so once again in glory (Rev. 5; 14:3; 15:3). Our congregation has revived its choir for this reason--to teach and encourage the whole congregation to sing.  Calvin called the congregation the "first choir," implying that the choir is the "second choir" in the church.  I think his view is a good example to follow--the purpose of a choir is to teach and encourage the whole congregation to sing.

That it is the Lord's good command to sing is beyond dispute:

Psalm 30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints

Psalm 92:1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

Is not artistic skill God's gift, and does God not call us to use those skills when they are required in the elements of worship which He commands?

Exodus 36:2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.

1 Chronicles 28:21 And behold the divisions of the priests and the Levites for all the service of the house of God; and with you in all the work will be every willing man who has skill for any kind of service; also the officers and all the people will be wholly at your command.

That singing requires skill is self-evident, but is also manifest in scripture:

2 Chronicles 30:21-22
21 And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. 22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD.

Psalm 137:2-6
2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

1 Samuel 16:17-18
17 So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me."
18 One of the young men answered, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him."

1 Chronicles 25:5-7
5 All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.
6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king.
7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288.

2 Chronicles 34:12 The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music,

Proverbs 22:29
29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

Our congregation may be obscure, but our King is not. So,

1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33:1-3

Last Updated on Friday, 14 August 2009 17:55
Why a public profession before taking communion? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 17 July 2009 15:00

Greg asked,

What is the history of the practice of Profession of Faith in the church, and how is it considered an element of worship?

Pete asked a related question,

Can you highlight for me where in Scripture [a public] profession [of faith] is tied to entry to Lord's Supper?

Our Directory for Public Worship IV.C.2 clearly states 1 Cor. 11:30 is the central passage:

It is my solemn duty to warn the uninstructed, the profane, the scandalous, and those who secretly and impenitently live in any sin, not to approach the holy table lest they partake unworthily, not discerning the Lord's body, and so eat and drink condemnation to themselves....Let us therefore, in accordance with the admonition of the apostle Paul, examine our minds and hearts to determine whether such discernment is ours, to the end that we may partake to the glory of God and to our growth in the grace of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:30 teaches that the one who eats and drinks is obligated to discern the body. If he discerns the body, he is a believer, and so should also make a public profession of faith inside our outside the worship service simply out of the sincerity of his belief. Every Sunday, every believer makes an informal public profession of faith by participating in the singing, prayers, unison scripture readings, and unison readings of the creeds and confessions (in our bulletin, we often title a reading from the Westminster Confession of Faith a "Confession of Faith.") Consider, for example, the Apostles' Creed begins, "I believe...." But at some point the believer's profession should also be formal--pointed, individual, and before the elders and members of the church, because Christ has charged elders with shepherding and keeping watch over the souls of the members of the church. How will the elders know someone's profession if they do not watch closely and pointedly by asking the (simple but) pointed questions asked during a profession of faith? How will they watch over the "souls" of individual members if they do not ask members such questions individually?

To answer Greg's original question "how is it considered an element of worship?" the many passages in the Psalms which indicate it is good and right to confess one's faith publicly in "the assembly" make it impossible to forbid informal professions of faith in worship services (Ps. 22:22, 25; 68:26; 107:32; 111:1; 149:1). But Greg's question is more specific--why should we require people to make a formal profession of faith in the formal worship service? One reason is that in the formal worship service the congregation is properly constituted as the "assembly" into which the new member is entering by his profession. It is right for adults to enter membership by their profession--in the OPC we confess "The visible church...consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion" (WCF 25.2), because "those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) Consider also in this connection why baptism should be an occasional element of worship. The other sacrament--the Lord's Supper--is to be celebrated "when you come together as a church" (1 Cor. 11:18, 19, 21, 35), not "at home" (1 Cor. 11:35), which is a different kind of meeting Paul considers not to constitute the gathering "as a church" (1 Cor. 11:19). If the sacrament which is a sign and seal of communion with Christ and His church should be celebrated in the worship service "when you come together as a church," why should not the sacrament which is a sign and seal of entrance into communion with Christ and His church? And if baptism should be in the worship service, why should not the profession of faith by which the entrance occurs which baptism signs and seals? Even more pointedly, in the case of a believer, baptism is a "promise" or "appeal" to God (1 Pet. 3:21). If public professions of faith may not be allowed in worship, neither may believers' baptisms be allowed in worship!

Hope that helps. Now I need to go read Peter Wallace's article and Harinck's Called to Confess, and see whether I generated more light than heat.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 July 2009 22:48
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