I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, January 9, 2017


Have you ever noticed how quickly our language changes?  Words are important because words mean things but when a language is so fluid that the meaning of a word today is not what it was yesterday and can be something totally different tomorrow, communication is confused and difficult.

Awesome” is a word that has been abused in our culture.   The Urban Dictionary defines it as an overused adjective that Americans use to describe just about everything.  Anything vaguely exciting is awesome.  We use it as a synonym for “cool” or “impressive.”

But the biblical definition of the word means worthy of awe or fear.  It’s related to the
word, “awful,” which is a contraction of the phrase, “full of awe.”  It implies an element of such great fear that it causes someone to experience the emotion of terror, to contemplate evil, or to be in awe of something or someone.  It is the kind of fearful awe that would cause a person to fall flat on his face and worship.  And regardless what the Urban Dictionary says, even our modern dictionaries still define the word in similar terms. If you were to search the word in a thesaurus, you would find synonyms like alarming, awful, dread, fearsome, formidable, frightening, horrible, horrifying, imposing, intimidating, shocking, and terrifying.

In The Old King James Version, the translators were a little more accurate; they understood the word to mean terrible, as in Psalm 66 which says, “Say unto God, How terrible art Thou in Thy works!... Come and see the works of God: He is terrible in His doing toward the children of men.”

OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD.  He is terrible, He is to be feared, and He is to be reverenced.  And one of His most awesome deeds was in His judgment of sin at Calvary.  His terrible, fearful, dreadful, wrath was poured out when He crucified His Son in an act of His awesome mercy and love for His people.  Because of that, throughout Scripture, we find many incidents where God reassures His people with these words of hope and comfort; “Fear not!”   So now we can respond to our AWESOME GOD, not just with fearful reverence, but also, with joy and praise.

OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD, was one of several praise songs written by Rich Mullins who died in 1997 at the age of 41.  About this song, he once said, it is the most popular and, technically, the worst song he ever wrote.

And frankly, I agree with him; It is a poorly written song.  Many of the lyrics are juvenile and vulgar (in the classic sense of the word) and they lack a sense of reverence.  I was reluctant to even use this in our service; It should be used carefully. 

It is popular mainly because most people don’t know all the lyrics and only use the chorus.  Nevertheless, in the right context, the chorus can be a very worshipful song of praise by itself.

Because the chorus is short, it is often repeated too much.  One recording, I listened to, was over 5 1/2 minutes in duration.  When I mentioned to a friend that I found the repetition to be mindless, boring, and annoying, he told me that I should just get in the spirit and use it to create a worship experience. 

And therein is the danger.  I think that has become a problem in too many churches today.  John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit AND in Truth.”

Historically, one of the primary purposes of congregational singing was to teach the Word of God.  In Col. 3:16, the Apostle instructs the church to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Too much of contemporary church music is not used to teach Truth; it is used to create a mood or an experience.  Although this chorus is often abused by people who worship a “cool” god, when we understand the biblical meaning of awesome, it can be both instructive and worshipful.  It appropriately focuses on the Truth of God’s wisdom, power, and love.

In just 22 words it mentions at least five of His attributes.  He is Sovereign and He is Omnipresent.  He reigns!  And His reign presumes His active, controlling presence in and over all His creation. He is Omniscient; He rules with all wisdom.  He is Omnipotent; He reigns with all power.   And He rules with Love; He does what is best for His children.

Our God is an Awesome God. 
He reigns from Heaven above,
With Wisdom, Power, and Love.
Our God is an Awesome God.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it is insipid and horribly repetitious when sung, and I have never, ever liked it. Juvenile is the best way to describe it.