April 18, 2012

Reason #9 - To Join in the Everlasting Symphony of Praise

Tonight we wrap up our study answering the question, "Why Do We Sing?"  This last reason quickly became one of my favorites.  It's such a great picture of the amazing opportunity we have when we sing.  It's about so much more than just ourselves.  We are able to join with the Everlasting Symphony of Praise!

Psalm 148 explains what God expects from His symphony of praise.  It says,
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created.
He has also established them forever and ever;
He has made a decree which will not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl. 
Since the beginning of time, God’s creation has been praising Him.  This passage declares that God should regularly hear His praises from the heavens, the angels, the sun, the moon, the stars, the water, the sea monsters, fire, hail, snow, clouds, wind, mountains, trees, animals, birds, and even the bugs!  But, listen to the next part of this chapter… 
Praise the Lord!
Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and young women; Old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.
Praise the Lord!
We have an opportunity to join with all creation and sing His praise.  The worship service doesn’t start when I say, “Good morning, let’s stand and sing together.”  The worship service started with the beginning of time.  He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end and He demands and deserves praise.

Louie Giglio just released a new DVD called Symphony.  His message is based off of Psalm 148 and shares what an amazing opportunity we have to join with all creation to sing His praises.  During part of his message, Louie Giglio plays sounds to give us a little glimpse of what God hears.  He starts with sounds from space that are emitted by the stars.  Then, he mixes in sounds of whales and other animals.  Lastly, he mixes in the voices of God’s people singing “How Great is Our God!”  That symphony of praise is music to God’s ears and Psalm 148 commands us to use our voices to join that symphony.

Another amazing thing about this symphony of praise is that it’s everlasting.  Just as this symphony has been praising God since the beginning of time, it will also continue for all of eternity.  When our time of singing in the earthly symphony is complete, we will get promoted to join with the angels in the heavenly choir.

Revelation gives us a breathtaking picture of all the heavenly beings singing around God’s throne.  We should sing today with this picture in mind so we can look forward to the glory yet to come!  To help give us a better feel for what the singing in heaven might be like, I want to share a passage from a book called Edge of Eternity.  In this book, Randy Alcorn gives some very appropriate thoughts to what we might expect….

We rejoined our comrades in the great camp of [heaven], embracing and shedding tears and slapping each other on the back. Then warriors around me turned toward the masses of untold millions gathered in [heaven]. The army began to sing, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million. I added my voice to theirs and sang the unchained praises of the King. As we sang to the gathered throngs of [heaven], the sheer power of our voices, nearly bowled me over.

Then suddenly the multitudes before us sang back to us, and our voices were drowned by theirs. We who a moment earlier seemed the largest choir ever assembled now proved to be only the small worship ensemble that led the full choir of untold millions, now lost to themselves. We sang together in full voice. The galaxies and nebulae sang with us the royal song. It echoed off a trillion planets and reverberated in a quadrillion places in every nook and cranny of the universe. Our voices broke into thirty-two distinct parts, and instinctively I knew which of them I was made to sing. “We sing for joy at the work of your hands…we stand in awe of you.” It felt indescribably wonderful to be lost in something so much greater than myself.

[Then I looked at] the audience.  I looked at the great throne, and upon it sat the King…the Audience of One.  When we completed our song, the One on the throne stood and raised his great arms and clapped his hands together in thunderous applause, shaking ground and sky, jarring every corner of the cosmos. His applause went on and on, unstopping and unstoppable.

 And in that moment I knew, with unwavering clarity, that the King’s approval was all that mattered—and ever would.

 We sing, not for our own glory, preferences, or pleasure, but for the pleasure of the One who gave us a song in the first place. The great Redeemer has given us the song of the redeemed, so that we might remember His words and respond fully to Him.

God gave us singing to develop and deepen our relationship with Him until that day when we will wake to find ourselves singing directly to Him.  God wants us to join His everlasting symphony.  We must continue to sing!

April 12, 2012

Reason #8 - To Express our Unity in Christ

Romans 12:4-6 says,

         For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.

 After Paul wrote that passage about how we all have different giftings, he quickly followed it with verse 10 that says,

         Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.

We are supposed to have different roles and different gifts, BUT we are also supposed to work together and be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  We need each other.  None of us are too young or too old to make a difference.  None of us have more important gifts or less important gifts.  And none of us can do alone what all of us can all do together.

When we think about being unified as a Body of believers, singing is a powerful way to express that unity.

As a choir, we strive be unified in as many areas as possible.  We want to be together in pitch, tempo, groove, blend, tone quality, vowel sounds, cutoffs, where we’re looking when we sing and several other areas.   We push to be together in all those areas because the more unified we are in our singing, the more unified we will be in declaring our message.   I also believe that the unity of our choir, with our variety of ages and variety of backgrounds, is a great example to our congregation.  We are using the gifts God has given us and joining together as one to bring glory to Him.  As we sing together as a choir, I believe we are a great picture of unity in Christ.

As a church, our time of congregational singing is the only opportunity we have all week long to unite as one body to declare the same words, in the same place, at the same time.  I love to think about how powerful that is!  You’ve heard me say this before, but I really don’t think offering multiple styles of worship services is a wise idea.  I think a much better approach is to have a united congregation singing the same songs together.  Just as the unity of the choir is an example to the church, the unity of our congregation is an example to our community.  Our God and our church have to be a priority over our personal preferences.  When we sing together, it gives us an opportunity to express that unity.

We have referenced Colossians 3:16 several times throughout this study and we look back at it again this week.  It tells us to, 
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
We don’t know specifically what Paul meant by each of those three different sets of music (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs).  However, this passage is clearly teaching us to use a variety of musical expressions in our worship. But listen to what the four verses talk about before the he even gets to the part about singing.  Back up to verse 12 and it says,

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.

THEN he says to teach one another as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Our unity doesn’t come through our music.  We are unified by Christ, our love for Him, and our love for each other.  Then, we can express that unity through our singing.

Our unity through singing helps put the focus on God instead of ourselves.  Our unity through singing helps us remember we’re part of a family.  And our unity through singing is a powerful example to those who visit with us.

God has given us unique giftings, talents, and skills.  But, they were given to us for His glory.  He wants us to use them to bring glory to Him and to benefit the Body of believers.  Singing allows us to join together with the same words, in the same place, at the same time, to powerfully express our unity in Christ.

April 5, 2012

Reason #7 - To Help Share and Teach God’s Word to Others

We’ve talked about how our singing helps us remember and meditate on God’s Word.  Singing is good for our benefit by helping us better internalize God’s Word.  But it’s also a great tool for teaching and sharing God’s Word to those around us.

That is exactly what we’re doing through the Easter program this weekend.  It is a way for us to remember the cross and praise Him for His amazing love for us.  AND, it’s a way for us to share that story with our church and our community.

I love what Psalm 78:3-4 says about continuing to share God’s Word.
Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
And music is a powerful way to continue to tell God’s story.  People might be attracted to go see a concert more than a church service.  It’s a great tool for outreach.  But, when God’s word is proclaimed through the music, they are receiving a LOT more than just a concert.

While in college, I went on a music mission trip to Japan.  I sang with a choir who traveled around Japan and did about 10 concerts.  We setup a projector to display every word of our songs in English and in Japanese.  The music drew them in, but the message is what we wanted them to hear.  We were even able to share the entire program at a Buddhist High School.  They allowed us to do this because it was a “cultural experience” for their students. Amazing seeds were planted that day because we were able to use singing to share and teach God’s Word.

I have a strong heart for combining music and missions and would love to find ways to do even more of that.  But besides outreach-minded settings, what about the songs we sing during our regular Sunday morning services?

For people who visit with us, we want them to hear music and preaching that leads them to the one true God.

For our regular attenders, we want them to hear music and preaching that leads them into a closer relationship with the one true God.

In order to do that, we must be singing Scripturally accurate songs.  We need songs that are sung to God, there is nothing wrong with that.  But, in addition to singing songs to God, we need to be singing songs with objective truths about God.

If we don’t sing objective truths about the one true God, then many of our songs could also be sung by Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus.  This doesn’t mean that every song has to have a full theological exposition of Scripture.  But, it does mean the collection of songs we sing should be Scripturally accurate and teach our congregation more about the one true God. 

One great example of this is the combination we just used on Sunday of Mighty to Save with I Will Rise.  Listen to this message:

            Everyone needs compassion, love that’s never failing
            Everyone needs forgiveness, the kindness of a Savior
            There’s a peace I’ve come to know
            There’s an anchor for my soul
            Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed
            The victory is won, He is risen from the dead
            And because of that, My God is mighty to save
            So, I’ll hear the voice of many angels sing “Worthy is the Lamb.”
No one can offer a love that’s never failing except the one true God.
There is no anchor for my soul outside of the one true God.
No other god can say they have overcome the grave and risen from the dead except the one true God.
No one is mighty to save except the one true God.
No one can promise that one day we will stand with the angels singing “Worthy is the Lamb.”  No one offers that promise of eternal life except the one true God.

Our songs must be filled with Scripturally accurate messages that give people a better understanding of who God is.  And we must keep singing to help share and teach God’s Word to others.