Mining Grace

…the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified

Archive for January 2008

Singing Men 4 – The Fissure of Song

Part 1Part 2Part 3

This post on how I became a singing man will take me all the way through college, seminary, and into ministry. So far I’ve tried to show you–through my own experience–that a Christian man will praise Jesus in song to the degree that he understands what Jesus has done for him. My own growth in grace exemplifies this fact. When I saw song as a superfluous worship tack-on for the emotionally biased I was at the same time woefully deficient in my understanding of the gospel. I was truly converted but was ignorant about the glorious salvation I had in Christ.

I return to this fact over and over again. I can clearly remember sitting in worship services and saying to myself, “You should sing more. Everyone around you is singing. What is the matter with you?” I was putting guilt-fuel into the engine of my own self-righteousness. The answer is not to suck it up and belt Amazing Grace. The answer is to believe Amazing Grace. You will sing what you believe. A singing problem is a symptom of spiritual heart disease. And that brings me to the first of two vocal awakenings in my life.

The first four years after my conversion placed me in parachurch ministries with no firm connection to a local church. That changed my sophmore year of college as I began attending a presbyterian church in Charlottesville, VA. By my third year of college I was discerning a call to ministry. A godly pastor took me under his wing and shepherd me towards seminary. After my graduation from college, I attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. It was also at this time that I married my beautiful wife.

That is a brief summary of an intense time of growth in my life. That growth occurred in too many ways to chronicle here. However, one area of profound growth was in my theology. Through that church in Charlottesville and through my three years at seminary, I gained tremendous insight into the Bible. God’s attributes, the plan of redemption, the person and work of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the purpose of the local church were all subjects that became food and drink to me. I couldn’t get enough them. I had to have them to live. And they made me sing.

In worhip–at church and in seminary chapel–they made me sing. And it was real singing–hearty singing. It was no that my singing drew my heart out. It was that my heart was overflowing with praise. Jesus had made the stubborn rock in my chest to sing. I couldn’t help it. I was gripped with the majesty of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He became utterly beautiful to me. That subterranean joy-pressure had to find a way out to the surface. It finally burst out through the fissure of song into the joy of praise.

This is why I can’t be too upset as I look out on a Sunday morning at tight lipped men. I pity them. And I condemn myself. I am their pastor. It is my job to preach the glories of Christ to them. They desperately need to sing. More accurately though–they need something to sing about. It is my job to tell them.

A man will not sing unless he has something to sing about.

I can’t help but close by quoting the Medieval Latin carol that exhorts,

“Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice, now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”

Good Christian men rejoice!


Written by Joe Holland

January 30, 2008 at 9:35 am

Posted in haste

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That men may be brought to believe – Dort 1.3

“And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings to whom he will, and at what time he pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. ‘How then shall they call on him in who they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?’ (Rom 10:14-15)”

– The Canons of the Synod of Dort, 1.3

Why am I posting this?

Written by Joe Holland

January 27, 2008 at 6:21 am

Man Weekend and Beyond

There are a number of exciting things coming up for me in the near future.  Hear are just a few of them:

  1. We are 24 hours into our second “man” weekend.  Hallie–who never gets to travel–is in our home state of Virginia for her second family event in a month.  Our three oldest boys and I are having a great weekend.  We went to a Matthew Smith–Indellible Grace rocker–concert last night.  I love the extra time I get to spend with my boys.  It already feels like their childhood is passing me by.
  2. In a week I’ll be in Belize.  I have the privilege of teaching in the Presbyterian seminary there.  I’ll spend six hours on Saturday teaching on the first and second epistles of Peter.  Most of my lecture material comes from my sermon series on 1 Peter that I preached a year ago.  It has been a pleasure to work back through Peter’s letters in preparation for this class.  Peter is absolutely infatuated with the glory of Jesus, interpreted in the OT, displayed in the cross.
  3. Upon my return I’ll begin a Sunday evening preaching series working through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. It is an often neglected letter that brims with encouragement for the local church.  It has been a few months since I’ve lasted preached.  I didn’t realize that I would miss it this much.

That brings you up to speed on this weekend and beyond.  If you have any prayer time to spare I would appreciate you prayers for my sons, the seminary students in Belize, and my church.  Ask our God that he would give them all a deeper knowledge of his love for them shown in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Written by Joe Holland

January 26, 2008 at 11:05 am

The Sword of Justice

“The sword of justice was in a manner asleep before, in all the terrible judgments which had been executed on the world, but now it must be awakened and roused up to pierce the heart of the blessed Redeemer.”

-Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Thomas Boston (1853; repr., Tentmaker Publications: Stokes-on-Trent, 2002), 1:108.

Written by Joe Holland

January 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Posted in haste

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35 Years

Today the United States marks 35 years of tragedy.  On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court decided to overturn all state and federal laws that outlawed or restricted abotion in a way that was inconsistent with the finding of the court.  This decision is still producing untold devastation on our country through the sanctioned murder of our own children.

Make 2008 a year that you pray for the end of legalized abortion in the United States.

See the following links for more resources.

Written by Joe Holland

January 22, 2008 at 3:53 pm

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Singing Men 3 – Brown Eyed Girl

This is the third edition in this series on how I came to be a man who sings in church.  You can still catch up on part 1 and part 2.

Last post left me an unconverted Episcopalian high school student.  The most terrifying moment of the first day of school was always the first five minutes of the lunch hour.  It is at that moment a crucial, life altering decision must be made–which lunch table to sit at.  Only the social pariah changes to a different table after day one.

With this monumental choice before me I entered the lunch room on the first day of my sophmore year.  By the grace of God I sat down with a group that I knew from various classes.  Like me, most of my new lunch time friends were on the cooler end of the nerd scale.  Unlike me, they were Christians who were involved in a ministry to High School students called Young Life.  Not far into the new school year I had accepted an invitation to one of these Young Life meetings.

I became a regular attender to Young Life–meetings that bordered between Christian worship and silly-string wars.  It was over these first few months of my sophmore year that I became a true believer in Jesus Christ.  I cannot pinpoint a certain day or moment at which it happened.  Nevertheless I began to understand rightly the guilt of my sin, the offer of Jesus Christ to pay for that sin, and the faith to receive this salvation through the Holy Spirit.

I was now a Christian.  I had something to sing about.  How could I not sing?  Jesus rescued my soul out of the trash heap that had become my life.  He was altogether amazing to me.  Words spoken would not do.  I had to sing.  And sing I did.

In addition to other things, Young Life meetings were places for singing the praises of God.  Not only that, the guys there sang just as loudly as the girls.  There were even songs that had guy and girl parts–shocking to my Episcopalian upbringing but altogether exciting to my new life in Christ.

There was only one confusing part.  We also sang other songs–like Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl minus the troublesome third verse. You see, Young Life was an outreach.  The thought was that if you could get a kid to sing Van Morrison they might be more comfortable with singing about Jesus.  Without commenting on the validity of that method, I can say that my earliest memories of Christian worship were interwoven with Van and his mocha-eyed girlfriend.

The worship of Jesus Christ got implicitly connected to vapid fluff during those formative days of my Christian adolescence.  This was not all Young Life’s fault.  I knew enough about the gospel to know that I was saved but nowhere near enough to fuel my desire to worship Jesus.  I was converted, ignorant, and untrained in the Bible.  I knew that my sins were paid for at the cross but I had no idea how deeply profound that Roman cross had changed my life.

I now had salvation to sing about I just didn’t know all that much about what that salvation actually was.  This produced true but shallow singing in me as I ministry-hoped on into college.

I still remember when I used to sing, Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da…

Written by Joe Holland

January 21, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Posted in haste

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The Manifestation of God’s Love – Dort 1.2

But ‘in this the love of God was manifested, that he sent his only-begotten Son into the world,’ ‘that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (1 John 4:9; John 3:16)

– The Canons of the Synod of Dort, I.2

Why am I posting this?

Written by Joe Holland

January 20, 2008 at 9:34 am