Do Our Songs Matter? (Songs for Teaching, Fellowship, Suffering)

Worship Music

Up to this point we have talked about music in general, but now I kind of want to zero in on certain benefits of worshiping God together in song. Why sing together?

TEACHING

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. – Collossians 3:16 ESV

Here the apostle calls for believers to let the word of God dwell in them richly and part of the way to do that is through spiritual songs. Hymns, choruses and special music that are written in response to Gods’ character or actions all teach us something about God or how we should respond to God. They remind us of his characteristics like faithfulness. They remind us that God desires that we would trust him. They remind us that we come to him just as we are. They remind us that God is interested in our hearts, not just our words. They remind us that God is a refuge and a fortress in a time of trouble. They remind us that though we may face financial trouble, marital discord, a prodigal child, depression, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, disease, or even the consequences of our own sin, that God transcends all of that. We can come to him in worship while living in a world that is being destroyed by sin and he gives us a taste of heaven. He shows us just a glimpse of what is to come. Songs give rise to what words alone can not express and in doing so we learn our God and know our God deeper.

We use songs to teach our children. We teach them “Jesus Loves Me,” and in doing so we teach them:

  • God’s heart for children
  • the Bible is our standard for knowing God
  • God is a strong God able to take care of the weak and needy.

Some of my favorite songs are children’s songs.

FELLOWSHIP

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives 

– Matthew 26:30, ESV

Part of singing together is to remind ourselves that we are not the only ones following hard after God. The disciples had just celebrated the Passover Meal and Lord’s Supper with Jesus and note that before they left,  they sang a hymn. The hymn that they probably sung was one that was made up of six Psalms that when put together were called the Hillel. This hymn was chosen for the occasion because the selected Psalms all represented the salvation of Israel. Think of the disciples gathered around Christ. They were worshiping together, because he called them together. They had fellowship with one another, because Christ was their Lord.  Gathered around him singing praise to God was a former tax collector, a zealot, a few fisherman, and others all gathered in fellowship.

There is something about singing with other believers that elevates into not just fellowship but worship.  I love going to student camp where I am surrounded by our students and we all sing songs of praise to God. I can not help but smile and think how wonderful it will be, to be in the presence of God in heaven with these precious ones singing praise.

SUFFERING

About Midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God , and the prisoners were listening to them – Acts 16:25, ESV

Do not be confused about this verse. Paul and Silas did not have a prison ministry where they simply came and sang a good gospel song to the inmates. They were in prison themselves for preaching the gospel. They were in chains  and still they found the strength to praise their God! The height of music in worship is music born out of suffering. It is the music that is born out of a heart that has suffered yet still finds strength to praise the Lord.

In North Korea during the 1950’s there was a group of Christians who were meeting in tunnels dug underground. As the Communist were building a road through the area they discovered the tunnels and the Christians.  They were brought to be tried and executed in the middle of the town with  30,000 people gathered around to watch.  First the communist officer ordered four of the children to be hanged, if they would not recant their faith. The parents looked at their children and encouraged them, “be strong, we will see you in Heaven!” The children died quietly. Then the officer had a steamroller brought in and lined the congregation up on the ground. As the steam roller crushed the believers they were singing in unison:

More Love to the, O Christ, More love to Thee
Thee Alone I Seek, More Love to Thee
Let sorrow do its work, more love to Thee
Then shall my latest breath whisper thy praise
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
More love, O Christ, to Thee.

(I found this story in D.C. Talk’s first Volume of “Jesus Freaks” page 124-125.)

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If God is Good By Randy Alcorn (a Review)

If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil is by far one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of evil and suffering.  Randy Alcorn is a very skilled writer and takes on this difficult subject in a way that answers questions, provides hope, and points the way forward for those who find themselves in the midst of suffering.  Randy writes to a broad audience balancing the full counsel of scripture with scholarly philosophical arguments, while noting the suffering of individuals and sharing their stories of faith (or lack their of) in the midst of suffering.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  For those who are suffering, you will find a challenge to think through the pain, see past the false accusations and gain insight on how to grasp hold of God in the midst of your darkest hour.  For those who are not currently suffering, you will encounter suffering in your life. Why not have a good resource already on the shelf and walk through the issues before you get there?

This book has already been a great use to me in gaining perspective on suffering.  I give it my highest recommendation.  To my knowledge it is the best written, easy to reference, and most concise book on the subject of suffering.  The retail price of If God is Good is $24.99 (Paperback), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $16.49. I gave it five stars.

If you pick up a copy somewhere or know of a similar book on the subject, let me know.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy ofthis book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Philippians 1: Living Worthily of The Gospel

There is plenty to consider in Philippians chapter 1.  The apostle Paul is penning a letter from prison.  He has every reason and opportunity to be discouraged by present circumstances.  Yet this first chapter reads as a proclamation of the advance of the gospel despite Paul’s personal circumstances.  He rejoices not in his present situation, but in the fact that the Kingdom is advancing.  People are hearing the gospel!  Even while reflecting on his own potential death He muses that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Then he charges the readers with these word…  “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27 a).  Some versions may say, “conversation” instead of, “manner of life.”  The idea is that of being a “citizen” worthily of the gospel.

In other words Paul is calling on believers to live up to their present reality and not just to their visibility.  If we profess that we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light… we should live like those who are citizens of the kingdom of light.  A transition has taken place.  We were once enemies of God and lived for ourselves, but then the gospel changed everything.  We are not ambassadors of the gospel to those who live as we once lived.

The temptation is to tuck tail and run at the first sign of difficulty or persecution, but running from persecution isn’t a right representation of the Love of God for sinners.  Jesus suffered on the cross and even gave His life to bring us to God.  Being a citizen of the gospel or having conversation worthy or living in a manner worthy of the gospel is to represent the good news even through present sufferings.  The power to live through voluntary suffering comes not from within our own heart, but on the author and perfecter of our faith… Jesus.  That is why Paul could say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Mark 15: When God is far away, yet so near

There is so much in Mark 15 to get into, what jumped out at me was when Jesus called out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (mark 15:34)? It appears like God (the father) is forsaking or abandoning God (the son). My question was… Is that possible? Can God forsake God?

To get the answer I did a little searching. I always like to begin with the context. Remember Jesus is being crucified.

Sometime between 9am and noon some of the religious leaders come through and are mocking Jesus. They say that if he comes down (supernaturally removes Himself from the cross) they will believe Him… This taunt is familiar. Satan tempted Jesus to fling Himself from the temple and angels would hold him up. The problem is that if Jesus comes off the cross He is no longer in perfect obedience to God and He is no longer making a perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Plus he will give them a greater sign by rising 3 days later. It is in this context that Jesus utters, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

My next step is to see if these words have been uttered before in scripture. A quick phrase search now available via modern technology reveals Psalm 22. I dare you to read Mark 15 and then Psalm 22. Psalm 22 was written well before the events of Mark 15, before Rome occupied Israel, before crucifixion was the accepted means of execution, yet it describes Mark 15 perfectly… Including the taunting. It also reveals that the end result of bringing people to worship God.

It appears that Jesus is quoting the scripture in this moment of extreme anguish to point those who are there to the real reason He is on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that God made him who knew no sin, to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. There is no doubt that Jesus pleased the Father. He was walking perfectly in God’s will, yet God’s will required Him to bear the sins of the world and for a time to experience the weight of sin and satisfy the wrath of God on our behalf.

So did God abandon God? Not ultimately. Jesus was fulfilling the plan of God, bringing Glory to God, and would be raised from the dead to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.

Did God abandon God briefly then? Possibly, though it was the plan from before the foundation if the world. Jesus bore our sin debt alone and in this (in my mind) there was a sense of abandonment.

The application for us: Don’t miss the big picture behind the question. God went to great lengths to insure that sinners could be made right and enjoy Him forever. Salvation is free, not because it is cheap, but because it is costly and we could never afford it.