Thursday, August 28, 2014

Renew the Table: Goals and Disclaimers

I would like to discuss the Lord’s Supper. More heavily, the neglect of the Lord’s Supper. However, I am finding such a topic to be a Hydra. There are so many heads that I find it rather hard to figure out which one to focus on first. I feel as if there should be some logical order to the whole of my thoughts and opinions on this subject, but I’m finding them to be somewhat like facets on the face of a gem. Is there a logical order of facets that make the whole of the gem?

My goal is this: In regards to the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper, I see a deficiency and desire to rectify it. However I know that my self-published opinions will in no way rectify a situation that has, as one might argue, been argued since the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. So I’ll slim down my goal; my desire is to see the renewal of the Table in gathered worship and my hope is that these thoughts and opinions, these facets, will contribute in some way to cause believers to think deeper and truer about the Supper, with the further hope that such thinking leads to theologies and practices that will all the more edify the Church and glorify God.

Now that I've given myself a goal that is unachievable on my own, I’ll begin speaking into the air and let the wind carry it wherever it desires. This will at least release me from the burden of logical progression. And if nothing carries beyond itself, I can at least chalk this up to an exercise in thought and writing.

While many of my convictions, complaints, and opinions are rather strong, I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that I myself hold the key to knowledge. Sometimes opinions can be held as tight as a pit bull holds a bone in its jaws. When certain critics or opponents try to pry it loose they only cause us to hold tighter. However, sometimes there are those who come along with a gentle touch and a smell that we've not yet encountered, which lends a certain perspective we had not yet considered, and so we let go. Sometimes we let go of an opinion because it is no longer worthy to be held. Other times we let go of an opinion to let more truth and information enlighten it, making it that much sweeter when we pick it up again.

Finally, I should also note that I’m coming at this from the only experience I have, namely an evangelical background; specifically Baptist. Even more specifically, Southern Baptist. So any guns I’m firing are really aimed in that direction because that’s where I’m looking. That means there will be some major perspective bias and sometimes what I write will bump up against a non-baptistic theology or point of view.

Other than that, I only mean to offend those who need offending. Such offending may lead to collateral offence, of which I would ask for your forgiveness. Really though, if I say something that offends you or am unclear on something, maybe drop me a line in the comments section or even email me at  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Directions for Singing: Part 7 - Sing Spiritually

Wesley concludes his Directions for Singing with this crowning jewel:

7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your Heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

This last point rises above the rest. Not that it abolishes all the rest, but fulfills them. Without this point you can chalk the rest up to legalism. I’ll admit, I've had to dip into this point to expand on the others. Wesley’s pastoral insight in each of the previous points all lean upon this one.

His encouragement to sing spiritually reflects Christ’s teaching that those who wish to worship the Father must do so in spirit and truth. And in a few short sentences Wesley does a pretty good job getting the heart of what it means to sing spiritually; having an eye to God in every word you sing, seeking to please Him more than yourself, attending to the sense of what you sing (that is, truth). It is for this reason Wesley encourages his people not only to sing certain songs, but how to sing them, in order that they might worship God rightly while they sing together.

Wesley offers his people a further incentive; your spiritual singing is pleasing to God now and such faithfulness will be rewarded at Christ’s second coming. Add to that our understanding that we cannot do such things on our own, but that our worship is mediated through a perfect Intercessor, making our imperfect worship perfect and acceptable to our Holy God, then the implications are rather staggering. The Father is pleased with our singing now and will reward our song because of Christ! What a glorious motivation to gather and sing!

I hope that this series has been an encouragement to you, whether you sing in front or sing in the pew. My real hope is that these instructions will help us will come away with a fuller understanding of what it means to sing, what is happening when we sing, and how our singing together reflects the truth of the gospel.

Previous installments of the Direction's for Singing series

Monday, August 18, 2014

Directions for Singing: Part 6 - Sing in Time

6. Sing in Time: whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

This is perhaps the most practical of all of Wesley’s directions. The goal here is twofold. 1) Again we see, as in Direction #5, he’s teaching his people to strive for unity. It should be remembered that this is his overarching purpose, but since we covered that in Part 5, I’ll not touch upon it here. 2) Wesley is trying to correct something that has obviously become normalized to the point that it has become quite useless or intolerable to many.

His last sentence is awesome. “This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.You can hear it in his voice can’t you? His disdain for lazy singing. I imagine my experience as a youth in the First Baptist Church of Dreary Song was not unlike what was driving Wesley nuts here. I can see him squirm and fidget with deep breaths waiting for the agony of the eternal song to end. God love ‘em, but is there anything fast, quick, or snappy about an elderly lady playing piano in church? Minor annoyances aside, what I think Wesley is ultimately getting at here is that songs need to be sung appropriately. The clue here is when he says “just as quick as we did at first”. This indicates that they were initially sung in the appropriate manner. I think that is the crux. I don’t think Wesley wants to sing every single tune like an auctioneer; I think he wants to sing every single tune the way it is supposed to be sung. Tunes and texts which lend themselves to be sung at a quicker tempo should not be sung as a dirge. Solemn tunes should be solemn, not dead. These songs initially, were sung correctly, but they have since grown slow and dull. I want to use this as a springboard to think for a moment about how songs are supposed to be sung.

For the most part I would guess that generally the songs we sing on a weekly basis are neither boisterous nor somber. They are probably somewhere in between. There is nothing wrong with that unless they are always somewhere in between. There needs to be a healthy diet of Gladness and Gravity, of both deep sorrow and abundant rejoicing. I’m not speaking here of the healthy textual content needed within the songs (which is hugely important), but a healthy understanding of occasion and purpose; when and how songs need to be sung. To translate this to the dinner table, we need both party food and food to be served after a funeral, not to mention all the meals in between. The food meets the occasion. We eat turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, not on the Fourth of July. Beer and Hot Wings for the football game, not for Timmy’s first birthday party.

Let me get closer to (but not quite to) the point. I fear that we view our song intake much the same way the modern world views their food intake. They are always conscious of content to the exclusion and detriment of the context. In the modern mind you have Health Food or Junk Food. And often (and usually in the minds of the more health oriented) these become moral issues. Health food is good, Junk food is bad. And this leads some people to believe that because Junk Food is bad, there is now no good occasion for Junk Food. Health food all the time, for every occasion, or nothing at all. Content to the detriment of Context.

And because Health=Good and Junk=Bad, that means that we now have to have our Healthy Food look like Junk Food for the occasions that normally require Junk Food. Our football games still have chips and dips but they are now fatless and tasteless, or just plain gross. Or as St. Paul said, “Having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.” This sacrifice of taste is justified because it was deemed necessary for our health. Now I bring this up not to cause a food fight, but to point out the parallel I see in the songs we sing at church. We (like our health conscious friends) are looking for the healthy songs. The ones chock full of vitamins and nutrients. And this is great. There are a lot of songs that can rot the teeth out there. Some even cause cancer. But in our endeavor to feed congregations healthy songs, sometimes we force feed certain songs into occasions that don’t work.

The easiest example of this is always singing happy songs all the time. Here’s where our food analogy comes into play. The tendency is to think that Happy songs = Healthy songs so therefore they are Good songs; and Sad songs = Unhealthy songs so therefore they are Bad songs. I recall hearing a story about how Christian Radio stations were at a loss about what to play on 9/11. A huge tragedy had befallen the nation and when they reached into their archives to find appropriate songs they came up short. Tragedy upon tragedy! Because Christ is King over all things and Sovereign over all circumstances, we must have a song to sing for every situation. The great theologian Treebeard said, “Songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way” and I believe him. Songs must be sung according to their appropriate occasion and purpose, especially when we gather to sing to and about the Most High God and His glorious Son.

To be sure, the textual content of the song greatly aids in determining occasion and purpose, but not necessarily to the expense of the tune and tempo; the way in which we sing it. There is a reason we stretch and emphasize certain words of a song. Songs need an occasion and occasions need songs, and the wise will do right by figuring out the best way to join them when the church gathers each week.

That’s likely a little bit more than Wesley was aiming at, but I think it shoehorned in nicely enough.

Previous installments of the Direction's for Singing series

Friday, August 15, 2014

Directions in Singing: Part 5 - Sing Modestly

In the previous installment John Wesley encouraged us to do something that, for many, is awkward and uncommon; Sing lustily and with good courage. In that post I ran up and down the ranks barking orders hoping to instill boldness in those singers who have heretofore been somewhat soppy in their audible forays. The horseback speech was for the whole church but my hope was that the men on the front line felt the brunt of it. I believe singing lustily and with great courage is one of the gathered church’s greatest needs today, and because it is a great need it is therefore a great weapon. One we should use with wisdom. And so Wesley’s fifth point serves to balance his fourth.

5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

If you are handed a weapon to use in battle, you ought to know how to use it in whatever situation. Just as not every battle can be waged in stealth and silence, not every battle can be waged as a rage-drunken Viking Berserker. Singing lustily and with good courage doesn't mean you are to show-off. Show-offs think only of themselves. They only sing loud to hear how good they sound. What we want are good soldiers who will bolster those around them. They sing loudly so others hear and take heart and hopefully join in.

Show-offs do more harm than good. It would be better for that singer to keep silent and listen to the rest than to open their glory-hungry mouth. Their voice distinct from the rest, however beautiful to the ear, is ultimately offensive to the gospel. There is almost no better picture of a unified body than when the gathered church sings together. Many people called and saved by Christ, now speaking to Him and about Him with one voice. But when you have a show-off it disrupts the picture like a child drawing on the Mona Lisa with a pen. To destroy the harmony of the congregation, not musically, but the unity, is anti-gospel.

So when Wesley encourages us to strive to unite our voices together, he’s not just looking for a good sound, he’s looking for a single sound. One clear melodious sound. This sound is a picture of the united body of Christ. So in your singing, seek the good of the congregation. Sing in such a way as not to show off but to encourage and strengthen your fellow brothers and sisters. Strive for unity. If the song is somber, sing in a somber way. That means not happy and/or skippy-dippy. If the song is loud and boisterous, stop yawning and join in with vigor.

Often Modesty is a word tossed about only in reference to clothing. There are fifty-thousand articles and blogposts about what it means for Christians to dress modestly in worship and maybe zero (or one, now) about singing modestly in worship. The reason clothing takes center stage is because of the sex factor. But unfortunately the sex factor usually distracts us from the main point of dressing modestly. The reason we ought to dress modestly is for the same reason we ought to sing modestly, which is that we may not destroy the harmony, the unity of the congregation. It has less to do with cleavage than with communion. The real problem with the lady with the too-tight dress on a Sunday morning isn't that she’ll cause the menfolk to lust (though that’s an issue too), it’s that now the unity of the congregation is disrupted. Eyes are diverted from Jesus and onto her figure. Remove sex from the situation and everything remains the same. Imagine someone walks into service dressed as a clown. Eyes are diverted from Jesus and onto his big red nose and floppy shoes. And so it is with singing. Immodest singers divert attention from Jesus and onto themselves.

So strive for unity because the unity of the body glorifies Christ. We come modestly to worship, not because of cultural morals and expectations, but because of love for one another and our love for our Savior; understanding that our modesty contributes to our harmony and thus reflects the gospel.

Previous installments of the Direction's for Singing series

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shepherding Affections

I was digging around some old digital files earlier and I came across this email I had saved. At the time it was written I was still serving as Worship Pastor and was a part of an email conversation between the elders thinking about cultivating affections in worship.

It was written 7 weeks before I stepped down so unfortunately it was a conversation (for me) that stalled. But as I re-read it I found it surprisingly thought provoking and something I'd like to investigate further. I raised a few questions that I haven't been able to answer yet, (like, how do you teach someone to wonder?) but I think they are questions that can help lead to a good answer. Anyway, I offer it here in full (with brief insertions for clarity) in hopes that it might encourage you and assist folks in shepherding the affections of their flock.


hey gang.

I've been mulling this over in my mind for a while too. Here are simply just some thoughts that have occurred to me.

I think we know the what (cultivating the affections) but achieving it is another playing field. As leaders, I don't believe it is our duty or place to be the cause or manufacturers of emotions of our people. I think we all agree on this. But it is our place to point them to the cause and source which can give life to the affections (and not just simply point them, but to nurture them in the affections and aid in their development). So I don't think our 'success' or 'failure' rests in whether or not our people respond with the proper affections. That's a helpful indicator, but not the goal. Our 'goal' and the measure of our success and failure in the realm of affections, I believe, is how well we show, reveal, clarify, explain, display, Christ. Essentially, how well we point to Christ and how well we cultivate a lifestyle of proper affections. That is the real challenge.

I can't help but think of my children (especially in light of our efforts to benefit the spiritually young). I can show my kids something I think is amazing and be underwhelmed by their 'whoopdee doo' response. On some level, it's up to me to cultivate their understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view it with an appropriate level of awe. I showed Adison [my eldest daughter] a picture of a mountain in New Zealand yesterday. I was blown away by the beauty of the picture, the immensity of the mountain, the beauty of the snowy peak above and the lush green below. I said, 'look at this!' and she said, 'eh' and walked away. If I were really serious about getting her to see the same beauty I was seeing I would really have to sit down and think for a bit, especially on her level, to come up with a way to show her, "here's why it's amazing". This, actually, now that I think about it, might take two minutes or twelve years. And then I'd have to start again with Noah [my son] and the other kids (but perhaps by the time Willow [my fourth child] comes around to appreciating the beauty, she has grown up in an environment where the whole household provides the example and the painstaking explanations that initially started with kid #1 aren't as necessary with kid #4?). And of course there's always the possibility that one of my kids, no matter what I do, will never give a flip about a beautiful mountain. If that's the case, I think my job still remains, to try to cultivate an understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view beautiful things with an appropriate level of awe.

Ultimately it is about getting them to see the mountain and gasp without my explanations and reasonings and such, so that they will have a proper response throughout their lifetime without my aid. (it just occurred to me that perhaps the best way might not even be explanations--though that is often a necessary and worthy route--but rather to just take them to see the mountains in real life, up close and personal. That blows my explanations of why the picture is amazing right out of the water.) Hopefully cultivating affections and wonder at an early age will establish a lifetime of astonishment. It's the whole 'teach a man to fish' thing. Show a man a wonder and he'll praise God for a day. Teach a man to wonder and he'll praise God his whole life (because wonder, after all, is simply involuntary praise). Showing the wonder/beauty/amazing truth is necessary and needs to happen, but it is far greater to teach a man to wonder, to feel the stab of beauty, to cry or sing amazing truth on his own alongside you.

Translating this theme (cultivating affections for those unaware or indignant or immature or whathaveyou) to worship would seem easy enough (just show them Jesus!) but it's pretty difficult. It's the same as me showing the picture to Adison. It's amazing sure, and folks might be awed by it (since they are able to rightly be awed). And that's where we find ourselves now I'd reckon. I think we have done a noble job thus far simply showing and displaying Jesus as amazing and worthy of our affections in worship. And those of us who are able to be amazed, or whatever the appropriate emotion might be, may not have a hard time doing so. But I think the difficult part, the part that prompts us to pray and write emails about it and be concerned for the flock, I think is this idea of how do we cultivate an understanding in such a way that they then have the ability to view the beauty, truth, and goodness of Christ with the appropriate affections.

I am going to continue to think through this, but maybe one place where we can start (the obvious place) is ourselves. Think through what you find amazing about Christ. Specific stuff. What makes your heart leap when you ponder it. What catches your breath? It doesn't always have to be doctrine. It could be that mountain, right? Then (and here I'm not sure just yet) I think it might be helpful to our people if we begin to share with our people what amazes us, or shocks us, or grieves us, or causes joy, etc. Not necessarily what should cause joy or what should amaze us. And I'm not necessarily thinking it should be presented as in a personal testimony or anything, but that our speech, when we speak of our desire, would be full of flavor when we speak about it. It's like when you tell someone, "Try the steak". The way you say it reveals your love for it, your desire for them to participate in the same experience you've had, even though you never said you've tried the steak for yourself. It's just evident that you did.

My problem, I'll confess, is simply expressing that in a public way. Not that I fear it, but that I'm a tongue tied, rambling speaker. My points become less clear and more muddled. No doubt a bit more discipline on my part to prepare my thoughts beforehand would be a great benefit. Prayer would be appreciated here for me in that.

But to bring this behemoth full circle and maybe in sum:
1) we have a job to do regarding the affections (I was convinced for a long time we didn't): that job is to point clearly to the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ and aid in cultivating the affections of our people. 
2) the right affections of our people ought to be a helpful indicator but not be the measure of our 'success'. When it becomes the measure/the ultimate goal, we will always, always manipulate and try in our own strength to produce the effects (and usually with spectacular 'success' or 'failure'. but I digress...)
3) cultivating the affections is deep and continuous, like training children, it has to be a 'lifestyle' of the church and her leadership, always cultivating, always being amazed, always on the lookout for wonder in everything
4) don't be content to just show people a wonder, teach people to wonder

Anyway, that's how I approach this. I think it helps us attack the issue from a proper angle. Looking forward to digging through this will all of you.

thoughts? pushbacks? etc?

your longwinded brother,


Monday, August 4, 2014

Today: Newton's Birthday and Initial Step into Ministry

As I mentioned 11 days ago, many people consider John Newton's birthday to be July 24th, but Newton himself did not. Newton indeed was born on July 24th, however it was according to the Julian calendar.

So today is the day when John Newton celebrated his birthday. The first year he was to celebrate his birthday on August 4th was 1758 (when the calendar change occurred) which was Newton's 33rd birthday. But interestingly it was this year that Newton seriously considered his call into the ministry. He set aside 6 weeks to pray and study and "to examine my own heart to consider at large the nature, dignity, difficulty, and importance of the great undertaking I have in view [entering the ministry]". The purposely placed end of the six weeks would be August 4th. This would mark not only the first time Newton would celebrate his birth on this date, but also serve as the date in which Newton felt satisfied to confirm his calling and fully set forth on his journey to enter the ministry. He wrote on August 4th, 1758: "The day is now arrived when I propose to close all my deliberations on this subject with a solemn, unreserved, unconditional surrender of myself to the Lord." So today not only marks John Newton's 289th birthday, but also marks the first step Newton takes in pursuing his call to the ministry 256 years ago.

He concluded in his diary on that day,
And here I shall conclude for the present; it is drawing near 5 in the evening and I have been waiting upon the Lord in retirement with fasting and prayer since 6 in the morning. When I go from hence I shall take my refreshment with a thankful heart humbly trusting that the Lord has accepted my desire and that in His good time He will both appoint me work, and furnish me with grace, wisdom and strength to perform it. I cannot boast of any peculiar sensible manifestations in this day’s attendance; but I think my heart has in the general bent set to seek the face of my God, and that I now find my spirit submissive to His will. My desire to serve him still continues, and I am enabled to cast everything else upon him. What remains but that I shut up and confirm all with unfeigned praises for all His mercies.
We know that God was faithful to use John Newton in his time and even unto our own. The ripple effect of his ministry is hard to measure because it was a monster wave. One those crazy surfers only dream about.

For more information about John Newton, here is a post I did some years back that includes a lot of links and resources.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Directions for Singing: Part 4 - Sing Lustily and with Courage

In John Wesley’s first two points we have seen what to sing. His third point has allowed us to touch a bit on why we sing and specifically why we should sing together. Now in these final four points Wesley directs us how to sing. To be honest, this is my favorite instruction. Years ago when I first came across these “Directions for Singing”, this is the one that stuck out. It lingers about my mind nearly every Sunday morning.

4. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

A few posts back I mentioned an experience that contrasted with my normal expectations about congregational singing. After years of being formed by dreary, yawn inducing singing, I attended a congregation who taught me a lesson. We began with “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” and I thought the church would crumble like the walls of Jericho. The rumble, the boom, the power of that gathered voice, full of mirth and might, was almost overwhelming to my unaccustomed ears. It was this moment that gave me the clearest understanding of just how anemic my experiences up until then with congregational singing really had been. It was like being raised on rice and beans my whole life and then someone offered me a steak. These people were doing exactly what Wesley tells us to do; they were singing lustily and with good courage. And it made me want to join in.

Sing Lustily
What does it mean to sing lustily? Words like, vigorous, hearty, and mighty come to mind. There is oomph behind it. It’s warriors singing as they march to battle. It’s the National Anthem sung after a gold medal at the Olympics. It’s the seventh grade girl’s sleepover where hairbrushes are microphones.

Maybe the best way to think of it would be singing whole-heartedly. If we love the Lord our God with all of our heart and mind and strength then we should sing to the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and strength. That includes our voices. Which includes the volume of our voices. Which means your half-sigh-sing-along is less than whole-hearted. Which means your song is lacking in more than just volume. When you sing half-dead or half-asleep, or when you are ashamed of being heard, you are saying something to God and to the Church (and about them). You are saying that you are half-hearted. Which means the only thing you’re good for is to be spat out. Were that you hot or cold…

When I think of the epitome of whole-heartedness I think of my 7 year old son. When he sets his mind on something he doesn’t let it go. Ever. The kid is a pit bull. However noble (giving money to the church) or silly (playing a certain video game) he pursues his desire with every fiber of his being. His joy or misery hinges upon it. It’s his first thought when he wakes up and his last thought before his eyes close. Often it’s his whole-heartedness that gets him in trouble. The (fantastic) reason it gets him into trouble is because it gives him boldness. If he sets his mind on something he’s going to ask me to do it until I give in or punish him for asking for the 1000th time…or he’ll just do it without asking. He “knows” that he will get in trouble if he asks “one more time”, but in his whole-hearted boldness he risks it anyway. He’s still learning how to be obedient and how to have self-control, but his whole-heartedness is a good thing. But for most of us, whole-heartedness doesn’t come so easily. This is why we need courage.

And With Good Courage
Courage requires us to risk whole-heartedness. Courage tells us to act whole-hearted without being whole-hearted to begin with in the hope that acting whole-hearted will lead to whole-heartedness. That’s a chewy one. I explain it to my kids like this: You cannot be courageous without being afraid. Fear is necessary for bravery. You cannot have courage without it. If fear is absent from your action, then you are not being brave, you are being normal (or stupid). Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway. Every time my kids say, “I’m scared” it is an opportunity to teach courage. Courage never feels like courage to begin with. It feels like anxiety. You only feel courageous after the deed is done (maybe).

So singing with good courage doesn’t mean you have to feel like it before you sing. In fact, with our understanding of courage, it means the opposite! You don’t feel like singing? You’re exactly where you need to be. Now sing as if you are singing with your whole heart. You feel like a liar? Because you are. Keep singing. You feel your voice isn’t very pleasant sounding? At least you know it. Keep singing. Whatever fears and excuses (legitimate!) you have, sing through them. If Christ has conquered Satan and the gods of this world, if Christ has conquered sin and death, then whatever fears we have that prevent us from singing whole-heartedly when we gather to sing will pale in comparison. Christ gives us courage greater than the courage of the world because He has already conquered.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So sing out!

Epilogue: A word to the men of the church
My eye is heavily upon you here. Growing up, those who actually did sing were the ladies. It was the men with folded arms and furrowed brows with their traps shut. That taught me another thing I had to unlearn later: Singing is for girls. Such an impact is not just harmful, it is evil. The force behind such thinking is satanic. Satan is dancing to your droning. He’s giggling like the schoolgirl he makes you think you’ll be if you sing out. Though the fiery dragon has been dealt a mortal wound by our great Savior, his death throes are still dangerous. He still has poison and the power to enchant you. But God has given you a weapon to break the spell and fight back. What are you doing with it? Yawning? Martin Luther said,
The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God…Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful.

Every Sunday when the church gathers in song, a sword is always held at someone’s throat; the devil’s or yours. Worship is war and your half-hearted singing is a position of pathetic weakness, a treacherous act. Your mumbled song is a whimper that only discourages your comrades and emboldens the enemy. Your children will see your defeat and follow you. What will their children do? Do you care? Paul encourages us to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Singing is a way to guard and stand firm in the faith, so act like a man and sing with strength.

This Sunday sing with vigor and might. That means with oomph. Your guts are going to have to get involved. Intestinal fortitude two ways. If people notice then you’re probably doing it right. You’re not going to feel like it, but that’s where courage kicks in. Sing out and sing through. 

Previous installments of the Direction's for Singing series