February 29, 2012

Reason #4 - To Express Praise and Gratitude

So far we’ve focused on how singing strengthens us by remembering and meditating on God’s Word.  For the next couple weeks, we’re going to turn to how we use singing as a response to God.  We can’t just learn about God and His Word and stop there.  He desires a response.

Our first response to God is that our singing should be used to express our praise and gratitude.

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

We want to use singing to express our praise and our thankfulness for what God has done for us.  He sent His Son to die on a cross so that you and I could have eternal life with Him.  We must not grow numb to that AMAZING reality.  We must continue every day singing with thankfulness in our hearts for our underserved salvation.

There are great examples of this all throughout the Bible.  I’ve picked two to share with you.

The first praise and worship song mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus.  After Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, the waters closed behind them defeating the Egyptian army.  God had saved them from their slavery and had safely led them out of Egypt.  Listen to their response….

Exodus 14:31 “When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.  Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord.”

The next 18 verses explain the message of this song…here are a few of the lines…
            “I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted”
            “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation”
            “Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power”
            “Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy”
            “The Lord shall reign forever and ever”

They were pumped up about God’s victory and they praised Him through singing!  When we experience victories in our lives, we need to praise Him as well.

But, what about during the hard times of life?  When we go through a serious health issue or lose our job or whatever it may be, it is difficult to want to sing to praise God.

Paul and Silas give us an amazing example of praising Him even during the hard times.

In Acts 16 Paul and Silas were serving the Lord together.  They were going from town to town sharing about God and strengthening the churches.  They had an amazing ministry, but they also faced great persecution.  Listen to what happened in Acts 16:22…

“The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

They were stripped, beaten and thrown into jail in chains.  They had every earthly reason to give up and quit.  If any of us went through even part of that persecution, we would be devastated.

BUT…listen to how they responded…

(v. 25) “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God.”

It didn’t matter how difficult things got for them.  Because of their salvation, they had a reason to praise God and nothing was going to stop that.

There are many other great examples in the Bible as well, but I think these are two great ones of praising Him in times of celebration and praising Him in times of struggle.  The Israelites and Paul and Silas all remembered the amazing work God had done in their lives.  When they realized how blessed they were, they had no better response, then to sing their praises to God.

Just in the same way, we must sing with thankfulness in our hearts and lift our praises to Him!

February 23, 2012

Reason #3 - To Help Meditate and Focus on God's Word

Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” 

Along with helping us remember truths about God, singing also helps us meditate on them.

Life is crazy.  As long as there is sin in the world, life is going to be crazy.  Singing has a way of calming us down and helping us focus on what’s important.  “I love you Lord” is a great example of that.  There is something about singing that song that just helps us tune everything else out and focus on that vertical relationship between us and our Lord.

Unlike normal speech, singing allows us to draw out words or phrases, repeat them, or pause in between them. All these techniques help us think more deeply about what we’re singing. 

Say the words of Amazing Grace: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Now, try singing it.

Notice how you’re able to think more about the words when you sing them?  That’s because music provides time to think about what we’re saying.

People typically nag on repetition in music.  People say they “tune out” after awhile if a song or section is repeated too much.  I understand it can be overdone, sure.  But, when the repetition of words is combined with music it allows that message to set deeper in our minds.  Honestly, in most aspects, I don’t think we at Edgewood repeat songs enough.  I typically plow through them and get onto the next.  It’s a balance, obviously, but there are some strong benefits to repetition. 

As we sing with faith and understanding, the words we sing are worked deep into our hearts where we can draw from them weeks, months, even years later. Think about these two songs:

It Is Well
It is well, It is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well,
It is well with my soul


I Could Sing of Your Love Forever 
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Simply reading the words to either one of those songs almost seems silly.  It doesn’t have nearly the same effect as singing it.

Singing “it is well” enables us to grasp that, regardless of storms and trials, it truly is well with my soul. And if we could ever really understand the immense love that God has for us, we truly would sing of His love forever.  

We talked last week about the value of memorizing songs.  Those lyrics will stay with us longer if they’re memorized and we’ll be able to get our eyes off the screens and fully focus on God.  These repetitive songs make that even easier.  This provides an opportunity for us to close our eyes, shut out everything and everyone around us and focus on the only One worthy of our praise. 

So before you criticize repetition in a song, remember why it’s there, and use that opportunity to meditate on those words and focus on your God.

Knowing that singing has been given to us for the purpose of remembering and meditating on God’s Word should greatly influence the songs we choose to sing at church and in our personal lives.  We want to use our singing to deepen and develop our relationship with Him.

February 16, 2012

Reason #2 - To Help Remember God's Word and Promises

One big reason God has given us singing is to help deepen and develop our relationship with Him.  One specific way that singing allows that to happen is by helping us remember God’s Word and God’s promises.

Words that are sung have a way of sticking in our memories better than just the words by themselves.  Why do you think so many commercials SING their phone numbers?  It is way easier to remember a song, than to remember a bunch of random numbers.

Or what about that board game, Encore?  You split up into teams and then the game gives you a word.  The teams then trade off singing a song that has that word it in.  My family would play this a lot when we were growing up.  Sometimes a word that at first glance seemed like there was no way we could think of 1 song would actually result in 9 or 10 songs.  It was crazy to see how many weird and random songs were stuck in our minds that came out when we were trying to remember certain words.

And much more important than the words from Encore or telephone numbers from commercials are the songs that help us remember God’s Word.

We read Colossians 3:16 last week as one of God’s commands for us to sing.  But, let’s look at that closer….it doesn’t just say to sing whatever you want.  It says to…

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” as you sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

It seems God has purposely placed a connection between His Word and our songs.   He wants us to use our singing to remember His Word.

In Deuteronomy 31, God Himself used this principle.  God tells Moses to write down a song and to teach it to the Israelites.  God said that the song would be remembered for generations to come.

Through song, they were able to remember God’s message.

John Wesley was a very popular and effective preacher in the 1700’s.  And since his sermons were so strong, we should still know them today.  So, can anyone quote some of his sermons for me?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

However, John Wesley’s brother, Charles Wesley decided to put some of the messages of John’s sermons into song.  He published words to over 6,000 songs including:  Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Jesus Lover of My Soul, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing and many, many more.

Through those songs, we are able to remember God’s Word.

In our personal lives and in our church services, we must be singing songs that are based on God’s Word.  Are we filling our minds with songs of the world...and the messages of the world?  Or are we filling our minds with songs that will deepen our relationship with the Lord?  

It’s great if a song is word for word from the Bible, but those are very difficult to find.  Many times we see songs share a summary of stories or a combination of Scriptures.  This is a great way to sing the messages of God.  Let me share some examples… 

            Jesus Messiah is a combination of stories from the gospels teaching us about Jesus’ sacrifice and amazing love. “He became sin, who knew no sin.  That we might become His righteousness.  He humbled Himself and carried the cross.  Love so amazing.  His body the bread, His blood the wine, broken and poured out, all for love.  The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn.  Love so amazing.  Jesus Messiah, Name about all Names.  All our hope is in You.”  

            Because He Lives is probably my favorite hymn.  I love how it tells God’s story in a powerful and personal way.  “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus, He came to love, heal, and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.  How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride, and joy he gives; But greater still the calm assurance, This child can face uncertain days because He lives.  And then one day I’ll cross the river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.  Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future And life is worth the living just because He lives.”

You Never Let Go is a powerful combination of Psalm 23 and John 10:28 saying “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your perfect love is casting out fear.  Even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life, I won’t turn back I know you are near.  I will fear no evil, for my God is with me.  Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm, oh no, you never let go of me.”

These three songs alone are ways to remember God’s Word, His love for us, and how He is always with us.  We want to store these promises in our minds and singing helps us to do just that.

To push this one more step…and this is a hard step for me personally…. 

If we really believe that our singing helps us remember God’s Word and God’s promises…then we should strive to memorize more.  How much MORE valuable would these songs be if they were on the tips of our tongues all day long?

It’s great that I can sing “Oh no, You never let go” when we’re at church on Sunday morning and enjoying our time together.  But, how much more powerful would that song be to me during the week when I’m right in the middle of some huge struggle?  That’s where memorizing these songs makes them even MORE powerful and makes God’s Word even more prominent in our lives.

The more words about God we can store in up in our hearts, the more we can be helped by them throughout the day.  So, I challenge you, if a song really speaks to you and it is full of promises from God’s Word…memorize it.  And let it speak to you over and over again.

Singing helps the Word of Christ dwell in us richly by helping us remember it.

February 9, 2012

Why Do We Sing - Reason #1

Last night in choir, we started a new devotional series.  We are studying God's reasons for singing.  It's easy just to do what you do because you that's what you do.  But, we want to step back and more fully understand why God has called us to sing.

We brainstormed on several ideas that came to our minds to get us started.  I have also been searching God's Word for His direct guidance on singing.  Another resource in this study has been some great discussions from a highly respected worship leader, Bob Kauflin.  I have heard him speak several times and am greatly encouraged by what he has to say.  His blog is at www.worshipmatters.com and he's got a lot better stuff to say than I do!

But in compiling notes and thoughts from the Bible, Bob's studies, and our choir-brainstorming session, we have found MANY reasons to sing.  We're going to be looking at these reasons one at a time over the next two months of choir rehearsals.  Here is the one we started with last night.

We should sing because...God commands us to sing!

The longest book of the Bible is not primarily a book of history, teaching, or prophecy, but a book of poems set to music.

If you study the word “sing” and all its variations, you would find over 500 references in the Bible.  And around 50 of them are direct commands to sing to God.

Here are ten of those commands…

Psalm 30:4 – Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.

Psalm 33:3 – Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.

Psalm 47:6-7 – Sing praise to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.  For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm.

Psalm 67:4 – Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.

Psalm 81:1 – Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.

Psalm 149:1 – Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.

Isaiah 12:5 – Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things.

Jeremiah 20:13 – Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers.

Zechariah 2:10 – Sing for joy and be glad, for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst.

James 5:13 – Is anyone among you suffering?  Then he must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises.

Obviously, God not only wants us to praise Him.  He wants us to SING our praises to Him.

Another great passage that challenges us regarding singing is Colossians 3:12–17.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

As God’s followers, we are commanded to put on a heart of love and compassion toward one another.  We are also commanded to teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  If we are going to be obedient to God’s commands, we must sing!

This is easy for choir members who enjoy singing, but what about people who just don’t like to sing?

A person who doesn’t know the Lord quite frankly doesn’t have a reason to sing.  BUT, as soon as that person receives Jesus Christ and is saved from their sins, they now have the greatest reason ever to sing!  God has given us a song and He wants us to share it.  It's not about whether or not you can sing, it's about whether or not you have a song.

Even if we already liked singing, now that we’re Christians, we have a better reason to keep singing.  And we should have a desire to fully understand God’s purpose for singing.

Just that fact that God has commanded us to sing is enough of a reason right there.  We want to be obedient.  But over the next several weeks we’re going to be looking at some of the reasons why we believe He wants us to sing.

Check back in next week as the discussion continues.