GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 566 • September 25, 2020
SPIRITED SINGING MAY NOT ALWAYS BE SPIRITUAL
Apostle Paul said, “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:15). I’m sure I would have enjoyed singing with Paul – I would be happy to let him lead, and I would try to match him in the spirit and the understanding too. I’m sure Paul would know and appreciate the difference between spirited and spiritual singing. A catchy tune with a thumping, bumping, herky-jerky rhythm and a bouncy boogie beat may have you swinging and swaying and tapping your toes or snapping your fingers while you sing — it may be ‘spirited,’ it may give you a physical and emotional workout and may even qualify as ‘joyful noise,’ and yet not be acceptable to God as worship.
Have you given much thought to what it takes to make singing an activity of worship? The song itself must be appropriate for worship and it must be sung in a worshipful way. Take a few minutes with me here for a little lesson about worship in song. I’m going to mention a few things that are not important – may actually be irrelevant – to God (you may be surprised). I’m also going to explain the one thing required for worshipping God in singing, one thing without which singing cannot be acceptable worship, one thing which, if present, will compensate for many technical and mechanical deficiencies. Actually, in some ways it is a complex thing of two parts, two sides, or two aspects. But we can bring it all together in one comprehensive statement.
Please do not leave the discussion yet. We want to end up singing to please God (Hebrews 13:15, 21), not just to please ourselves. Continue reading
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” Matthew 13:44.
Singing to each other about heaven is certainly encouraging. Because this world has its share of troubles and so many of us are going through struggles, we need to be built up by the scriptural vision of where we will spent eternity with the One who saves us when we gather together as the church.
“Sing to Me of Heaven” is such a song. When we do that, we bring release from toils, lift burdens, and shower blessings. We bring happiness to one another and dispel loneliness that comes from walking this world and missing those who have already gone on. We also dispel the shadows and weariness that lay over hearts when we sing of heaven. The Refrain reminds us to help others to fondly dream of better things and keep their eyes fixed on the goal as the shadows of the evening fall.
Heaven is so valuable as a goal for our eternity and our spiritual well-being and perseverance here that we must be willing to sell all of this temporary world that we have to gain it.
Are you singing to others of heaven to encourage them?
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A young boy and his mother were on their way home after attending the opera when the boy said, “Mom, that man who did all the singing must think a lot of himself.” “Why would you say something like that?” the mother asked. “Because”, he replied, “Every time the man started to sing, he’d say ‘Me, Me, Me, Meee.'”
We don’t know exactly what songs the first century church had a habit of singing together. We have the book of Psalms, there are sections of scripture that are thought of as recognizable doxologies, and we even have a moment or two when the New Testament scriptures explicitly say certain individuals were singing. But for the most part we don’t have a numbered list of songs (i.e. a modern-day songbook) that identifies what the early church used in worship.
Although we may not be able to “confidently” identify any of the first century church’s songs, we can identify how they were meant to sing … and it wasn’t with the purpose of making it all about, “Me, Me, Me, Meee.”
“speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:19 NKJV)
Nothing about the singing of the early church was meant to be egocentric; it was quite the opposite! The early church’s purpose of singing in worship was to remind one another about the higher purpose of living in God’s calling (which is the context of Ephesians 5:19) and to bring, and give, glory to God within their heart. And if our modern-day purpose falls short of the same standard, then it doesn’t matter what song we’re singing, we’re making it about us and not about what God desires.
Here’s a link to the latest PDF issue of the Christian Worker.
Here are the topics you will find:
- In Spirit and Truth (Rick Brumback)
- Worship (Cody Westbrook)
- I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (Andy Baker)
- Approaching the Throne of Grace (Bruce Ligon)
- Preaching As Worship (Mike Vestal)
- New Testament Giving (Jon McCormack)
- Worship – The Lord’s Supper (Kerry Clark)
Christian Worker is an edification effort of the Southwest church of Christ in Austin, Texas.
You can subscribe to the email version of the Christian Worker paper by clicking on the publications link on their website and then following the given instructions.
Copyright © 2018 Southwest church of Christ, All rights reserved.
Yes, I like Christmas songs, but I don’t like all of them. And my dislike often has to do with one thing – what they teach.
The birth of Jesus doesn’t take up a whole lot of territory in the gospels. Not including the veiled references of unbelievers, John basically uses one verse (John 1:14), Luke uses less than three “chapters”, if you count the announcement to Mary and the genealogy tree, to go more in-depth including the angelic announcement to the shepherds in the field (Luke 1-3), and Matthew uses two “chapters” to cover more genealogy, the announcement to Joseph and the gift-giving wise-men account (Matthew 2:1-2).
The biblical account of Jesus’ birth, and its surrounding events, are fairly easy to understand … unless, for some reason, you’re a “Christmas” song.
Many Christmas songs help to promote biblical ignorance by combining Luke’s account of the shepherds, who actually visit Bethlehem the night Jesus is born, and Matthew’s account of the wise-men, who first visit Jerusalem (after the birth of Jesus takes place) and then later present their gifts after finding Jesus in a house, into one mismatched scene.
The simple fact is, whether one tries to sing it or not, the shepherds didn’t have to make room for the wise-men that exciting night in Bethlehem. To some people this may not seem like a big-deal, but truth be told – the truth of Jesus’ birth can’t be told with many “Christmas” songs, and that’s what I don’t like about them.
I don’t know about you, but I like “Christmas” songs.
I can’t say I like every song, or even most songs that fall into the “Christmas” category, but some of my favorite songs just happen to be songs that are labeled as “Christmas” songs.
I don’t like listening to all of the pop-stars singing to make a buck with their latest “Christmas” album. I may be wrong, but judging by the albums released before and after the nicey-nice holiday studio cut, I don’t think the vast majority of the famous singers really care about the message that surrounds the average “Christmas” album.
I like singing several songs while I’m alone and while I’m with others. Silent Night, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, and O Come All Ye Faithful are songs worth singing. They remind us of an important message (1 Timothy 3:16).
Whether the calendar says it’s December or July, I like singing these songs because they do my heart good, and I hope they do you good as well.
I’m not saying you have to like “Christmas” songs … I’m just saying that I do.
“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2 – NKJV)
By the way, if you want to watch one of my favorite video and song combos, you can click here.
I suppose every Christian has memorized Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, right? We all know we are to sing as a past of the worship service, and to do so without the use of mechanical music. That is a given … I hope.
But, have you also memorized James 4:10 and I Peter 5:6? What do these two verses have to do with the first paragraph? Well, think about it. I have heard many say, “I don’t sing because my voice is bad,” or “I don’t sing because I can’t carry a tune,” or maybe even, “I don’t want to torture those in front of me.” Yes, I have actually heard all of these … excuses. They are excuses, not reasons.
Now look at I John 2:16. (I am not quoting these five verses because I want you to be sure I am using them correctly.) Pride is a common sin, also maybe known as “the pride of life.” I don’t think I know anyone who has never had pride as a sin. So think about it. God said sing. He never said you had to have a beautiful voice. He never said the song service had to sound like a professional choir. No! God said sing. Of course, we want to offer God our very best. No question there. But if my very best voice is a rough croak, and I am singing from the heart because I want to please God—not myself nor my fellow Christians—then my voice is pleasing to God. Isn’t that what really matters?
What say ye?
Over on QBT, I wrote how a bad habit in nomenclature ignores the horizontal element in singing, toward one’s brethren, in order to focus solely on the vertical element, toward God. This manifestation reinforces the conclusion that popular religion feeds selfishness.
Most Brazilian religious songs, among evangelicals, anyway, speak of the individual, rather than the group. Perhaps, in part, it is a linguistic problem, since the former requires fewer syllables. But it adds evidence to the tendency of selfishness in popular Brazilian religion. Continue reading
Seems that hymnology has gotten complicated. Many songs are hard for new people to pick up on. Continue reading
Parents, what are you doing to help your children engage in singing when it comes to the worship services of the church? Here are a few tips to accomplish this goal:
- Sitting a young child in your lap and using your finger to show them the words that you are singing is a great way to teach your children word association (i.e. helping them learn to read) by engaging their eyes with the words and melody of the song.
- Explain to them the meaning of some of the more complex and deeper meaning words that may be used within a song. This will help to engage their thought process which helps to avoid the emptiness of repetition when it comes to a song that they are familiar with (think “Jesus Loves Me” for example).
- Help them to concentrate by limiting distractions. Many young children, like adults who need to work on their short attention spans, may not be able to understand the point of preaching yet, but singing is something that most children quickly take to when they understand or catch on to the melody.
At the end of the day, parents have a responsibility to teach their child how to worship by example and by instruction. And one area of emphasis, which can be done with the right amount of effort, should be the singing that we offer to God. Singing is something that is delightful to our Creator and it is something that his worshipers should find delight in doing (Hebrews 13:15).
So when we show our children how much singing in worship means to us, it will mean something to them, and then later they will understand what it means to God, but only if we strive to engage them in it.
Why do people listen to what God says at first, but not last? “Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2 NKJV). We may approach God through the voice music of “singing.” But David added to this: “Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets” (1 Chronicles 13:8 NKJV). God said “Woe” to those: “Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David” (Amos 6:5 NKJV). Today, Christians should be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19 NKJV). The churches of Christ don’t use David’s instruments, but our God-given hearts for singing.
This is Johnny Polk, with “Words of Wisdom” brought to you by the Oneida church of Christ.
It is common for churches to sing songs of praise to the Almighty, and we can see the wisdom of this. These songs of praise are to not only be accurate in the substance of the words sung, but they are to be sung with the singular design of pleasing the Lord, and not ourselves. That is not to say that we can’t be pleased in our singing, or even by the sound of it, but if that is our focus, then are we singing to ourselves? Moreover, when the Lord’s people meet to worship, the Lord’s people (or church) are to sing, not some specific, or exclusive, choir/chorus. It is of note that most churches of Christ do not use a mechanical instrument of music; this is on purpose. The Lord does not directly prohibit an instrument in the New Testament, but neither did He sanction one. Thus, to use one in the context of the church’s worship is to presume on the Lord’s prerogative. Let us not lose sight of what is important: our heart in direct connection to the Lord through the songs of praise we sing.
You’ve probably seen lists like this before, but here are few song titles that have been rearranged to reflect what some people mean to say while they sing during the worship services:
- Oh, How I Like Jesus
- It is Fairly Well with My Soul
- Just as I Pretend to Be
- Sit Down, Sit Down for Jesus
- I Need Thee Every Other Hour
Unbelief is alive and well, and even our singing can reveal it. High-mindedness is not the answer because the unbelief can get any of us (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). So honest examination is key; and drawing closer to God helps to get rid of the duplicitous and even hypocritical song notes that are echoed off the walls (James 4:8). If out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34) then how much more so does this truth apply to our singing?
Let us consider our desires, our life and the words of the songs that we sing lest we become the one who sings the stanzas on the page instead of the stanzas in our heart.
I had a good weekend, hope you did too.
On Friday night we went to a singing in a neighboring county at the Morrison congregation (Do you ever attend any local singings?). According to the count there were 340 people there to join in on the teaching and admonishment via the song route. It had been a few years since I had gone to a singing and I thoroughly enjoyed it; even the new songs that were a bit tricky for this lay note reader. There was one brother there who was physically blind – but that didn’t keep him from leading a song entitled “Be Still My Soul” from his braille song book…there’s a thought for you. I had sung that song once before. It has an interesting sound.
On Saturday we went up to the Short Mountain Bible Camp to clean up the cabin that we sponsor. You can find it up on the mountain that’s between Smithville and Woodbury (for those of you who may have even the slightest familiarity with the geography around here). It amazes me how many ladybugs can find their way into a building every year! Thankfully we had a shop-vac. This is the third year that the congregation has been the cabin’s sponsor. All that basically means is that we’re responsible for the up keep – which has included adding lights to the closets, hanging new blinds and ruffly curtains (it’s a girls cabin), building new bunk-beds, adding a built-in bench to the porch, painting the ceiling and closets and recycled furniture, staying after wood gnawing bumblebees, and little bit of roof work (plus a few other little odds and ins). We still have a few things that can be done but thanks to the hard work of several brothers and sisters our little cabin is still sitting pretty and ready to be used for another camping season.
Today I’m aiming to start the week the way I ended the last one. I’m going to be preaching from John 9:8-28 about skeptics, deniers and plain old unbelievers…they’re nothing new, so stand strong in the Light of the world that’s opened your eyes! After we get home and I finish our/my regular Sunday afternoon routine I’m going to try to write-up a concise little story about the Spanish congregation that’s been started here in DeKalb county for Brotherhood News. New work is work and working is what the church ought to be doing one way or the other, right?
Most of the time on 5th Sundays we have a Song and Scripture service in the evening. I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it here before. The gist is that there’s an overall theme that determines the direction and then from there we read some scripture that’s associated with the topic and then follow that with a song to match.
What I’m looking for is an idea for a theme. In no particular order, other than alphabetical, these are the themes that I have used in the past: