An African hymn...

(w/thanks to Eric) As postmodern man becomes more alienated from nature's God and nature, it's inevitable that our poetry suffers. Thus modern hymns and spiritual songs are devoid of the hard facts of life. Who today is writing hymns about sheep? About green pastures, still waters, and the comfort of our shepherd's rod and staff?

Instead, contemporary worship music is...

Aimee Semple McPherson: conflicted celebrity evangelist...

Itinerant evangelists have proclaimed the good news in crusades and tent revivals, in fields and stadiums, in tabernacles and classrooms. Over the last 150 years, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), Billy Sunday (1862-1935), Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) and Billy Graham (1918-present) have been household names in their eras. Each used different methods and had vastly different personalities, and was able to tap into deep undercurrents of American piety. My intent in this post is not to compare these four, but to consider a recent (1993) and major biography (400+ pages), Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody's Sister by Edith Blumhofer .

For much of the 1920s and 1930s, Aimee was front-page news. She was a relentless evangelist, a missionary to China, a megachurch pastor, the founder of a denomination, and a leader in helping to provide for the physical needs of those who fell on hard times during the Great Depression.

Yet her life was full of contradictions. Adored by thousands … 

Psalm 1...

Cheat sheets and powerpoint to use this version of Psalm 1 in your worship are here at Clearnote Songbook. Please click the "Downloads" link.

Come one! Come all!


Every December Clearnote Church sets aside a special evening of worship and fellowship called the Clearnote Christmas Spectacular. It's a night for pulling out all the stops in celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord, where centuries old traditions intersect with contemporary style. This year we've come up with a few surprises that will make the night truly spectacular!

Here's a little taste...

C'mon ring those bells--better yet, join us...

Christmas is coming quickly, and we've been preparing... 

Four weeks from tonight, on December 11, 2013, Christ the Word will host its 2013 Christmas Concert. This year we're taking our celebration up a notch and we invite you to be part of it! It will be an evening of all-out rejoicing as we sing of  and celebrate the birth of Jesus!  Plan to join us. Invite your friends. It's going to be a great evening. December 11th | 7:00PM | Christ the Word | 3100 Murd Rd. Sylvania, OHFREE

"Sound well all your pipes..."

Philip Moyer, the choral director at Clearnote Church, Bloomington, found the following in Robin Leaver's The Theological Character of Music in Worship. The poem was inscribed on an organ at the Frauenbergerkirche in Nordhausen around 1658.

Sound well all your pipes
To glorify God alone,
Fill, with your sounds,
The Church, the house of the Lord,
And also diligently rouse
The mouths and tongues of the people,
That they with understanding,
And from the bottom of their hearts,
Sing the Psalms of David
And the spiritual songs
Of Dr Luther's composition,
Simply and without ostentation.

From strange melody,
From all false doctrine,
From Calvinistic screaming,
Lord, preserve us evermore.

Life in Kinshasa...

Our son-in-law, Pastor Lucas Weeks, is the descendant of two generations of missionaries to the nation formerly known as the Congo or Zaire, but now variously referred to as the Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Congo-Kinshasa, or the DRC. His parents, Ron and Doris Weeks, live in Kinshasa and Lucas just forwarded this piece from the National Geographic that does a good job describing life in Kinshasa.

A couple excerpts:

“I met an eastern Congo woman here in 1998, a pregnant rape victim,” Tsimba tells me. “I asked her if she would keep the kid.

She said, ‘Yes, he’s innocent.’ This became my inspiration. I showed her the sculpture when I was done. She was excited, even delighted, that someone was telling this to the world. She said, ‘Yes, this is how I suffered.’ I sold the sculpture and used the money to... pay for the hospital and for clothes, so that she and her baby could go back to Goma.”


New music, (just) in time for Easter...

This latest batch of psalm and hymn arrangements added to Clearnote Songbook includes a number you can use for Holy Week worship: "O Sacred Head," "Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted," and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," for instance. We had hoped to get these published online in time for you to use this Easter, but something called reality kept getting in our way. On the other hand, it's Monday so perhaps we're not too late?

Look for the sheet music to start uploading tomorrow, but we wanted to go ahead and announce the release of our third, self-recorded demo bundle. It's available for free streaming below, and for inexpensive download here.

Enjoy! And may you have a blessed celebration of our Lord's Resurrection!


The God of Abraham praise...

For years I've listened to this messy recording of a bunch of men singing during Clearnote Church, Bloomington's evening worship sometime back around 2002 or so (when the church was still called "Church of the Good Shepherd"). At the time we had a weekly men's Bible study that met at the Goat Farm in the room above the stalls in the barn. We prayed, studied the Bible, and sang, and our (maybe only my) favorite hymn was "The God of Abraham Praise."

One night on the spur of the moment we sang it together at Sunday evening worship. As I recall, there was a mic hanging from the ceiling in our sanctuary at the time. With no prep our sound men recorded it and listening to that recording has been an inspiration to me countless times, since. One brother whose voice carries the group has since made shipwreck of his faith. As you listen to his manly tenor, would you please pray for his return?

Every young man needs to be taught this hymn so he can sing it from memory. It's a perfect antidote to everything evil in our day leading young men to forsake the Church's patrimony and God's patriarchs and patriarchy.

Famous Presbyterian Church and Twenty-seventh Presbyterian Church...

This e-mail from a certain academic who just spent a weekend away from home was sent to me a couple days ago. It could be any tall-steeple Presbyterian church. I've hidden its identity. It could be any successful academic. I've made an effort to hide his identity. It could be any Reformed church that practices pastoral preaching and living fellowship and simplicity of sanctuary and the propagation of a godly seed. I've tried my best to hide its identity.

It was a cold and crisp morning. After meeting with my past graduate advisor to discuss grants and research in my lab, I embarked on an adventure to (Famous) Presbyterian Church (FPC) which was about a mile away. While I was a postdoc at (Famous Ivy League school), I dreamed that one day I would get a job at one of the big pharmaceutical companies in (FPC's city) so that my family and I could worship at FPC. FPC's former pastor had written (books which) were the main fuel for this dream. So I was eager to get to church and worship. I arrived at the front door to be kindly greeted by a young black woman (who actually shook my hand like a lady...not the manly hand shake that women give today). I got a bulletin (so that I would have something to look at in the 10 minutes before the service began) and proceeded toward the front of the church where I could find a seat. After sitting down in the fifth row back from the front—dead center on the aisle—I noticed the strong incense of women's perfume...almost to the point where it made my eyes water.

During the prelude as the huge pipe organ at the back of the church boomed, I looked around at the sanctuary...beautiful metropolitan tabernacle...I felt like I was at C.H. Spurgeon's church, just not quite as big...elegant carpentry...spotless decor...sanitary...perfect. As the service began...

I tune the instrument here at the door...

Since I am coming to that holy room,
    Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
    I tune the instrument here at the door,
    And what I must do then, think here before.

          - J. Donne, "Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness"

In 2011, George Beverly Shea was 103 and still singing. Randy Alcorn was speaking about Heaven at the Cove and posted several videos on FB. (Thanks, Kamilla.)

Men shout joyfully...

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. - Psalms 95:2

It's hard for me to explain to those not present among us the Scriptural zeal and spiritual power God has granted our male musicians as they lead our worship each week here at Clearnote Church. And no, our musical leadership is not exclusively male. Just overwhelmingly male. Which is as it ought to be.

Those who give over the leadership of the congregation's songs of Zion to women must be suffering a terrible poverty of men; or they're lacking the most basic understanding of the nature and meaning of godly leadership and their musical worship suffers for it. Don't ask them how, though: they've been acclimated and now consider it an asset.

But back to our Sons of Asaph: the fruit of their leadership among us is overwhelming and, today, it is one of the principal joys of my life as I serve in this wonderful calling of the pastorate.

Each week as I enter the pulpit to preach the Word of God...


Watching the Rolling Stones right after Clapton is so very, very bad. Clapton is old and dignified and reminds you of Cream's glory days. Mick is old and... Shall we just say undignified.



Clearnote SongbookTo reform the Church is to reform her worship.

Everything about our worship indicates our reverence, zeal, and love toward the Triune God; or alternately, our flippancy and indifference. Hearts aflame for God cry out for men to preach the Word, read Scripture, pray, and sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with zeal. Sadly, though, worship today is aimed at the mind or the heart. It's intellect or passion--never both. When there is zeal, it's rarely "in accordance with knowledge." And those claiming knowledge make a principle out of their absence of zeal.

Five hundred years ago, John Calvin worked to reform every part of the Church's worship. We must give ourselves to this same work today.

That's why I'm very thankful to announce The men behind the Songbook--Jody Killingsworth, Philip Moyer, and the Good Shepherd Band, along with Ben Crum, Joseph Bayly, and Lucas Weeks--have put together a site that is a call to reform our worship. The Clearnote Songbook is jam-packed with goodies to help in that work...

Wreaths on our heads...

Ph.D.s live such a joyless existence--stuffed shirts strictly maintaining that He has not made us, but we have made ourselves. What crushing liberty of thought, to deny God formed that one man Adam from the ground and Eve from Adam's body. What impoverished visions, young men finding old drones serving as Charles Darwin's amanuenses, Jack Collins, Tim Keller, and Peter Enns hectoring seminary students on myths' historical superiority. Poor Manhattan. Poor seminaries. Poor Wheaton.

Where is Father Christmas?

God gives joy--it is strictly His turf and His prerogative to share it. Never has He granted that splendid garden of delights to rationalists out to improve the sophistication of the human race.

So away with men who talk loudly in restaurants and use big words! It's the Holyday season and we will celebrate every last truth those impecunious drab rationalists have set out to kill. We will party around a bonfire lit in joy over...

Behold I Fall Before Thy Face...

One more gift to readers from the choir of Clearnote Church, Bloomington, and Phillip Moyer, one of our Sons of Asaph. This is Isaac Watts's "Behold I Fall Before Thy Face," set to Balloon.

Here are the words of Watts's hymn. (The choir sings only stanzas 4 and 5.)

Down in her heart...

How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance. - Psalm 89:15

Men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, "I am doing God's will on earth." All the righteous, all the saints, all the holy martyrs were happy. - The Brothers Karamazov, Book II, Ch. 4

A friend sent me this music video from the band Page CXVI today, commenting "postmodern, hipster, tortured irony at its most ridiculous." Describing it this way showed great restraint. I showed it to my wife and another friend who both were convinced the video is a parody of Red Mountain Music or Bifrost Arts, but so far as I can tell, Ms. Al-Attas is offering her "Joy" in earnest. 

It shames me to admit it, but this stuff reminds me of my own dismal outlook when, ministered to by a reformed church, I was first coming back to the Lord...

Good Shepherd Band...

They're at work. Again...

Now, listen to the Doxology at the end of this clip...

This week another musical fundamentalist warned his readers against the things written on Baylyblog concerning the music of worship (not to be confused with the worship of music). I'm guessing he's talking about our conviction it's good and right for a string ensemble and solo voice to sing part of Handel's Messiah in the same service electric guitars, bass, piano, drums, and the voices of the entire congregation sing "For All the Saints."

With zeal. Loudly and with hands raised.

This gives some of our readers facial tics, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why? Is it wrong to use Handel's Messiah for corporate worship? Is it sin?

But of course, I jest. No one says it's "sin" to use highbrow music in worship. Only lowbrow. Contemporary instrumentation and music are manipulation of the emotions, you know. And Handel isn't? Drums are vulgar. Electric guitars suppress the voices of the congregation.

Well, please note the fruit of the habitual suppression of our congregation's voices demonstrated here during the singing of the Doxology.

Likely the most important thing to keep in mind during all debates of worship liturgy and music among the Reformed today is...