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”

Speaking to one another

I think all of us have found ourselves “going through the motions” when we sing hymns in worship. Perhaps we are distracted by something in the auditorium – a restless child, or perhaps it is a song that we have sung so often that it is possible to allow our minds to go into “neutral” as we sing the familiar words.

Of course we know this is wrong, and we try to wrest our attention back to the matter at hand – worshiping God. It is worth asking how we might make our worship in song more meaningful. Continue reading “Speaking to one another”


Rather than going to worship, young people often use the term “devotional.” I actually like what that term implies. It comes from the word “devoted,” and refers to an act that is completely committed to some cause or person. In these sessions, our young people devote themselves thoroughly to the Lord.

The reason I mention this is because so many, so often, enter into times of worship with apparently little intention of devoting themselves to anything that is said and done. Rather than devoted, they are disinterested. Continue reading “Devoted”

His lovingkindness is everlasting

After Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover, they sang a hymn and went out toward the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane.

One commentator said the hymn Jesus and his disciples sung was probably “The Hillel” or Psalm 136. Though it has 26 verses, it is a fairly easily memorized Psalm because each verse ends with the same last words: “For his lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Do you think the disciples understood what they were singing with Jesus? Continue reading “His lovingkindness is everlasting”

Reading in prayer

Some time ago I was speaking to a young Christian who admitted he was afraid to lead in worship. “Everybody is looking at me and I forget what I was going to say.”

“You can lead in prayer then,” I joked. “Everyone’s eyes will be closed.”

More seriously I added. “Why don’t you write your prayer out on Saturday night, and you can simply read it Sunday morning.”

He agreed to try that. Continue reading “Reading in prayer”

Remembering God’s salvation

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshipers” (John 4:23 NASB).

But, do we understand what that worship involves?

Many people approach worship with the same rote behavior as a person might use to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance.” What I mean is, they say the words, but there is no meaning from the heart. Continue reading “Remembering God’s salvation”

For what it’s worth

“And they sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb” (Revelation 15:3, ESV).

Jerry McDade and his wife were out walking one Sunday morning when they heard singing so beautiful that they just had to stop and listen. Both were from the Church of England, and had heard beautiful choirs sing. What made this so startling was that it was congregational singing. Ordinary Christians raised their voices in adoration with such feeling that it compelled visitors to come in. It wasn’t long before they were baptized into Christ. Continue reading “For what it’s worth”

As a man worships, so is he

In his book More Than a Feeling: Worship That Pleases God, Jimmy Jividen makes an impressive statement: “As a man worships,” he declares, “so is he,” (page 21). Of course his declaration is drawn from Proverbs 23:7, “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). Both Jividen and Solomon draw from the biblical understanding that human actions are drawn deeply from the well of human thinking, human motivations.

“Set your mind on things that are above,” Paul urges us, “not on things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2, ESV). “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander,” Jesus declares, “These are what defile a person …” (Matthew 15:19,20). Continue reading “As a man worships, so is he”