“When I first began leading worship, I served at a tiny suburban church plant in West Fort Worth. The pastor of that church constantly reminded me that folks would never leave our Sunday gathering humming the sermon he preached. They’d leave humming the songs we had sung together. In fact, they were far more likely to have the words we sang rattling around in their minds all week than any words they heard from the pulpit. For whom do we sing? I believe we sing for ourselves and for one another, that we might come to believe more fully the truth of the words we sing and to love more deeply the God to and about Whom they were written.
That belief has transformed the way I personally worship God in song, the way I plan the musical portion of any worship gathering I’m involved with and the way I discern which songs should or shouldn’t be a part of our corporate worship life. If music is, in essence, sung theology, then things like lyrical content and melodic hook become significantly more important to consider.
However, that doesn’t completely quench my desire to know “why we sing.”
If that was all there was to it, then why not just leave the singing to the pros, and attend a musically excellent, theologically rich concert every weekend? Or, for that matter, why not just buy musically excellent, theologically rich music on iTunes and listen to it day in and day out? Why must we gather and actually sing together?
I’ve long been fascinated by the prayer Jesus prays in John chapter 17. He prays specifically for the oneness of those who will come to believe in Him. He prays that we, His people, may be united together; that we might be one just as He and the Father are one.
In the book of Acts, we find the early church living and worshipping together day in and day out. They share what they have. They break bread together. They seek God together.”
…”How many acts of worship are communal in nature? Congregational singing lends itself perfectly to the togetherness & vulnerability that the Gospel demands, deserves and seeks of those living in community. We, together, are the people of God. We, together, are the bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s right and good that we, together, with one voice, should express our affections for our great bridegroom, Jesus.
When we step outside the familiar walls of liturgical tradition and peek back in through the window at all the people standing and singing and raising their hands together, it may look a bit foreign or silly. But, brothers & sisters, as I said, it is absolutely vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the individual believers therein.
When we gather together, let us lay aside any concern about the quality of our singing voices. Let us lay aside any reservations about whether or not we “feel worshipful” in a given moment. Let us sing. Let us sing as an act of discipline, training our hearts to believe more completely the Gospel of our salvation. Let us sing as an act of community, knowing that the people around us are our brothers and sisters and that they need the truth of the Gospel on our lips to ring in their ears.”
From “What’s the Point of Singing,” by Luke Brawner
I’m reminded of something Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians:
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
and making music to the Lord in your hearts. …
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
I have had more than one person tell me that they don’t care about the quality of music or musicianship; they just want to feel God’s presence.
That sounds good, but it’s not biblical.
God designed us to worship, individually and together. He calls us to join in unity (Psalm 133) He tells us to sing to each other…
I think this is especially important in a day when people are so isolated. The last thing we need is to go to Sunday Morning Gathering for more of the same.
There is also a synergy that happens when the worship is made up of live voices. It has a vibrance to it that simply cannot be communicated in recorded or streamed music. Joining our voices says, “I’m with you. I know and love you, here and now.” We desperately need that.
By the way, Scripture also admonishes us to dance, raise our hands, shout and declare.
Here is a short list; a sampler, if you will, of who we are:
Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Reflections of God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)
God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
dearly loved children (Ephesians 5:1; 1 John 3:1)
Light (Ephesians 5:8)
Dead and raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1-3)
God’s chosen people (Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 2:9)
A royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)
A holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)
Saints (Colossians 1:12)
Heirs (Romans 8:17)
Joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)
Apart from God, this is nothing more than grandiosity.
Because of Jesus and in Him, however, this is reality!
This quote is creditted to a man by the name ofJohn Bradford , a Protestant who was martyred in England in the 16th century.
On seeingseveral criminals being led into the scaffold he remarked, ‘there but for the grace of God’ goes John Bradford. His words without his name are still very common today.
I originally heard this phrase as a response to learning of someone else’s mistake or sin. It carried the message, “Take care not to point fingers or judge; you have your own struggles with imperfection and sin.”
John Bradford, however, was expressing gratitude for another day alive and the understanding that God was having mercy on him.
It seems that we could apply this both ways in our modern world:
It is true that we need God’s grace to live holy lives.
It is also true that we do well not to judge others or look on their circumstances without compassion and mercy.
What happens to one group of people can happen to another.
I am thinking of the ban on people from countries that are largely Muslim who want to travel to the United States. Brothers and sisters, the Bible says that we will face persecution. We are as vulnerable as Muslims, Iraqis, Sudanese, Syrians and all of the other people who are being denied entry, or even detained. That is why we must stand with them in resisting this injustice.
“There but for the grace of God go I.” Next time, it could be Christians.
This is a prophetic word by Doug Addison. I am extremely particular about the people to whom I will listen. Doug is one I trust.
Does this witness to you?
Luke 1:5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
I learned recently that the phrase , “your prayer has been heard” (v 13) carries the sense of a prayer that has been let go for a very long time. This could probably read, That prayer you used to pray before you gave up on it…
I relate to that: There are things I have sought the Lord for; then given up on because they haven’t happened. I’m betting you have some of those as well.
In the light of this understanding, Zechariah’s reaction makes perfect sense. It is far too easy to allow doubt, discouragement and unbelief to move in.
The question is, what shall we do with prayers that don’t seem to get answered?
I only have a whisper of insight: Keep on keeping on. One thing Elizabeth and Zechariah did right was to continue in their lives and work. They “were righteous in the sight of God.” (v6) When the Lord’s timing came, he gave them their desire.
I understand with all heartache, quandary and “hope against hope” about fighting that sense that “It’s too late.” Zechariah and Elizabeth certainly struggled with that one. God’s answer: He gave them what they had asked for.
Is it ever too late for God?
(Based on Matthew 5:16)
In the darkness of night
And the tumolt of storm;
When violence threatens
To bring in harm,
Let your light shine;
Let it be bright
the most troubling darkness
Can’t stand in the light.
In deepest of sorrow
And perplexity strong;
When heaviness tries
To steal your song,
Let your light shine
Lift your lamp high;
Deliverance is coming;
Salvation is nigh.
Oh, God’s precious people,
Who are called in His Name,
You are made holy;
You’re not the same;
Let your light shine
So others see
The Lord’s wonderful goodness;
To Him be glory!
This is what Psalm 91 guarantees us. Each declaration is written in the first person; feel free to read it aloud to yourself and your household:
God is my refuge. I trust in Him and am safe.
God’s faithful promises are my armor and protection.
God’s huge, outstretched arms protect me; under them, I am perfectly safe.
He fends off all harm.
Even though others succumb all around me, I will be safe.
Evil can’t get close to me; harm can’t get through the door.
God commands His angels to protect me wherever I go.
His angels catch me and keep me from falling.
God gives me the best of care.
God is at my side in the hardest of times.
My God rescues and honors me.
God gives me a long life.
He gives me a long drink of salvation.
And one from Psalm 112:
My heart is secure.
(Developed from the Message Bible’s translation of Psalms 91 and 112)
This beautiful piece was written by Felix Mendelssohn. It’s part of his oratorio, “Elijah”
It comes from Psalm 121
I’m learning it for Sacred Music, a recital in May. Mine is the second soprano part.
What are the good works that God created for you to walk in?
How do you know what they are?
I certainly have wrestled with these questions plenty and may have a glimpse or two at the answer to help you find your way.
What are your spiritual gifts?
Helps (also called service)
Words of knowledge
Interpretation of tongues
Working of miracles
What do you seem to be attracted to? One of the most important lessons I ever learned is that God’s assignments will feed and bless me as much as they do others. He built me with certain likes, desires and interests that can only be fulfilled as I “will and do his good pleasure.” Vocational choice, volunteer activities and hobbies will point to these things.
What are your natural gifts and talents?
Taking care of people
Working with children
And on the list goes.
One thing I have come to understand that really encourages me and helps me to rest: God does have good works for me to do; I don’t have to wonder about that.
One day, many years ago, I died.
Jesus came into my heart and I was born again. My life is now hidden in Him.
My old self was removed; I was given new clothes: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love; a garment of praise, beauty for ashes, a crown of joy.
Now, as a daughter of the Most High, a member of Christ’s Body, I live a life that is different from the world. Instead of holding grudges or getting revenge, I forgive. Peace rules my heart; anger, worry, bitterness and malice have no place there. Society’s values no longer govern my thinking and choices; God’s commandments are my foundation.
I, along with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, am different; set apart to be and live like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is the way of Your people, oh God, by Your grace. Amen.
Based on verses in Colossians 3:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.