California concert

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).

The phrase “making melody” in this verse is rich with implications for our worship in song. It means to “pluck the strings of,” in the sense of a harp, perhaps, or a lyre. But this emphatically does not mean that we are to play a cold, mechanical instrument in worship. Note that the instrument whose strings we pluck is the human heart!

When I lived in the Tehachapi Mountains, I grew to anticipate their annual show of California poppies in the spring. Continue reading “California concert”

How to improve your congregation’s singing

We all respond to good singing in worship. We recall with delight a night when the singing was “really good,” or visiting a congregation where we enjoyed the singing. We’re human, after all. This raises a question, therefore: So how can we improve our singing?

1. Get right with each other (Matthew 5:23,24). Note that the Lord expresses this as a priority – “First, be reconciled with your brother, then come offer your gift.” It’s hard to sing with zeal when you’re singing with people you resent. Continue reading “How to improve your congregation’s singing”

The offering

So what did you get out of “church” today? Did you have a powerful experience of God? Were you inspired by what went on?

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (Genesis 4:3-5). Continue reading “The offering”

Meeting in a cabin by the creek

A brother in Christ said it during a church business meeting about the legal challenges facing the church. We were talking about whether the church could continue to preach on the subject of biblical marriage. For transparency’s sake, allow me to disclose that the topic was whether preachers could still declare that gay marriage was not biblical marriage, whether the church would come under legal pressure to not say so.

Christians are, as it turns out, already responding to this challenge. Continue reading “Meeting in a cabin by the creek”

The need for fellowship

“After we tore ourselves away from them, we put out to sea, and sailing a straight course, we came to Cos, on the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went aboard, and put out to sea. After we sighted Cyprus and left it behind on our port side, we sailed on to Syria and put in at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. After we located the disciples, we stayed there seven days” (Acts 21:1-4 NET).

One thing that becomes very apparent as we read about Paul’s travels is that he desired to be with Christians. It wasn’t that Paul wasn’t with Christians all the time – he was travelling with a group of at least seven other Christians (see Acts 20:4 and the “we” statements in Acts 21, indicating that Luke was also with him). Continue reading “The need for fellowship”

Songs in the night

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Did Paul sing lead and Silas bass? Or was one of them a monotone? I’m sure the listeners had never heard freshly beaten prisoners singing and praying to God! Perhaps curses to the gods but not praises to God!

Notice that the prisoners were listening to them sing and pray: Why were the prisoners listening, you ask? Well, they were … a captive audience! Continue reading “Songs in the night”

Richly dwelling

What if I was to say that the preacher and the song leader had similar responsibilities in worship? Would that assertion surprise you? Many song leaders would probably say, “No, I don’t want to speak in public. That’s one of the reasons I lead singing! All I have say is the numbers when I announce them!”

Still, the song leader bears much the same responsibility as the preacher for the congregation’s spiritual and nutritional health. Just as the preacher ought to preach “the whole council” of God, that is, a healthy and balanced spiritual diet (Acts 20:27), so must the song leader be conscious of feeding his congregation an edifying and biblical diet of songs. Continue reading “Richly dwelling”

Think about it

First, I need to be clear. When worship is done to be seen by men, it is not worship; when its purpose is to titillate, to entertain, then it has not reached deeply enough to be worship.

One does not evaluate worship the way a movie critic evaluates a Hollywood film. Worship is far more about self-evaluation than performance. Our worship would not be improved if the singing was done by Celine Dion, or if the sermon was delivered in the mellow tones of James Earl Jones. The purposes of worship, its benefits, are deeper, more abiding, more relevant than mere showbiz. Continue reading “Think about it”