Tag Archive | Hymns

Some Things Should Never Change!

images[5]In my last blog post I mentioned a number of negative things I believe are going on in the church world when it comes to music, which do not lend themselves to a productive worship experience for many people.  Today, I would like to take a positive approach to worship by sharing a couple of scriptures from the New Testament, written through the hand of the Apostle Paul, about what, ideally, our corporate worship should look like.  The Bible says “in the mouth of two or three witnesses a thing shall be established”, so I have chosen two verses which say nearly the same thing.

The first is found in Ephesians 5:19 and 20, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

The second verse is in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (ESV)

It is pretty clear from these verses that the Early Church used this pattern of worship in its services.  Psalms have been used since the time of David as poetic themes from the Word of God set to various musical patterns.  Many churches, as well as synagogues, use these to this day.  Some use them exclusively in worship.  Psalms are simply passages of scripture dedicated to praise and worship of our Father which, when set to various melodies, can be extremely conducive to entering into His presence in the corporate worship setting.

Last night I attended a choir rehearsal of a world-famous and highly renowned choir.  They were rehearsing the familiar old tune from the 1800’s, “The Lord’s My Shepherd”, which is a musical adaptation of Psalm 23.  The associate choir director, a young man in his 30’s, related the story of how four years ago he had been experiencing severe trials in his life which had led him into a sort of depressed state.  One Sunday, as he walked into church, he heard the choir sing the words from this psalm,

“My table thou hast furnished

In presence of my foes;

My head thou dost with oil anoint,

And my cup overflows.”

He said that immediately a peace came over him and his whole outlook and attitude changed as he thought about our Lord who gives us so many blessings that our cups overflow with them!  It was a major turning point in his life that he never forgot.  God used a simple hymn to transform the life of a young man from feelings of depression to victory!

The second form of musical worship mentioned in the above verses is “hymns”.  These anointed works containing much scripture, worship of God and theologically sound doctrinal themes, have been penned by men and women for centuries as expressions of their love for their Lord, often mentioning the omnipotence and majesty of God, as well as the themes of crowning Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, now and in Eternity!  I could go on and on, naming such great hymns as “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and so on.  To omit these mighty works, which have endured in the church for literally centuries, from our modern repertoire in favor of some light, fluffy tunes with words that copy current pop or rock lyrics, simply substituting the word “Jesus” for “you, my lover” is missing a sacred opportunity to enter into the presence of the Holy One!

The last type of music mentioned by the Apostle Paul is the term, “spiritual songs”.  I think we all are aware of what “spirituals” are…the African American people learned hundreds of songs by rote, which we still sing, as they were working in hard labor in the cotton fields and wherever they happened to be.  No doubt these songs were a great comfort to them in their physically agonizing times of stress and strain and probably “got them through” much pain and suffering.

Even if we today are not enduring the trials of the American slaves of old, we still have trials and tribulations that cause us to turn to our Creator for peace and help.  This is where many “spiritual songs” have sustained men and women, boys and girls for centuries.  These are “testimony” songs about God’s sustaining grace and power to deliver in time of need; songs about how God rescued us from the pit of despair and put us on the path to Eternal Life; testimonies and praise to Him in upbeat, as well as quiet and worshipful, tunes; and songs simply expressing our heartfelt love and gratitude to the One who has changed our lives!

I believe the Church collectively would do well to consider including music from each of these three categories in our worship services.  Surely this admonition from the New Testament is just as important for us to observe today as it was back when it was written.  Some things are not meant to change!

 

 

There’s Power in the Name of Jesus!

images[5]  musicnote[1] Do you believe in the statement, “There is power in the Name of Jesus”? Have you ever thought about even singing that Name to the Enemy of our souls, who has to flee?

I just read an amazing story that I was unaware of, but it is well documented.  It has to do with the old hymn we all know and sing in our churches, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”   The lyrics, written in 1779 by Rev. Edward Perronet, a British minister and close friend of John and Charles Wesley, have been translated into almost every existing language and the song has often been called the “National Anthem of Christendom.”

In the early 1800’s a missionary by the name of Reverend E. P. Scott was living in India attempting to reach the native people for Christ.  At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but against the advice of his fellow missionaries, he set out alone to visit a remote village, determined to share the Gospel with a dangerous savage tribe.

After a journey of a few days, Scott was met by a large group of warriors who quickly surrounded him, each one pointing a spear towards his heart.  The missionary expected that he would die, so he made a decision to use his last few breaths to glorify God, while hopefully stirring something within the hearts of his captors.  He was a musician who always carried his violin with him, so he took it out, closed his eyes, and began to play and sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” in the native language of the warriors.  He fully expected to feel the agony of the spears being plunged into his heart at any second.

Amazingly, after singing the first verse, the second, the third and then beginning the fourth, Rev. Scott realized he was still standing, and that the angry warriors around him had become peacefully quiet!  As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw every spear lowered!  There stood those mighty warriors, with tears in their eyes.   The power of the Name of Jesus had just been demonstrated once again!

The warriors invited Rev. Scott to stay with them!  He lived among them for over two years, sharing the love of God with them and leading many of them to Christ!  The power of just one song sung in a moment of crisis changed the lives of many that day, accomplishing what a hundred sermons may never have been able to do!

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2 9-11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (NKJV)

There is ultimate power in the Name of Jesus!  I challenge you to speak and sing that Name against the onslaughts of the Enemy in your life, whether it be for a physical, spiritual, financial, emotional or other need in your life. He responds when we call His Name out in prayer and praise….He is ever present to hear and answer us, even when things seem darkest.  I hope you will sing the words of this song in praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name, let angels prostrate fall;

Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all;

Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the Fall;

Hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all;

Hail Him who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball,

To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.

To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.

*****

O that with yonder sacred throng we at His feet may fall!

We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all;

We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all.

The Story of “Amazing Grace”

Perhaps the most famous, best-loved hymn ever written is “Amazing Grace”, penned by Anglican clergyman John Newton in late 1772 for a prayer meeting. The story of how God brought this hardened sea captain to a knowledge of saving grace is indeed remarkable!

Born in 1725 in London, England to a shipping merchant father and devout Christian mother who died of tuberculosis when he was not quite seven years old, John joined his father on a ship as an apprentice when he was only eleven. A headstrong, disobedient young man, he denounced his faith while still in his teens, joined the Royal Navy for a time and, after deserting, joined the crew of a slave ship where he began his career in slave trading.

After openly mocking the ship’s captain, creating obscene poems and songs about him that became popular with the crew, and entering into violent disagreements with several colleagues onboard, he was ordered to be chained like the slaves the ship carried, starved almost to death and imprisoned at sea. He was then enslaved and forced to work on a plantation in Sierra Leone in West Africa for several months until his father intervened and one of his ship captain friends picked him up on another ship bound for England.

While aboard this ship called the “Greyhound”, Newton gained notoriety for being one of the most profane men the captain had ever met. Even among the sailors, known for their foul-mouthed cursing, Newton was admonished several times not only for using the worst words the captain had ever heard, but creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery. In March 1748, while the “Greyhound” was in the North Atlantic, a violent storm came up, so rough that it swept overboard a crew member who was standing where Newton had been moments before. After hours of manually pumping water from the ship’s decks, expecting to capsize at any moment, John Newton turned to the captain and said, “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy upon us!” During the next eleven hours he continued to ponder his divine challenge.

About two weeks later, after the battered ship and starving crew landed in Ireland, Newton remembered a book he had read aboard ship, The Christian’s Pattern, a summary of the 15th Century The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and his uttered phrase in a moment of desperation. He began to ask if he was worthy of God’s mercy and grace or in any way redeemable as he had not only neglected his faith but directly opposed it, mocking others who showed theirs, deriding and denouncing God as a myth. He began to believe that God had sent him a profound message and had begun to work through him.

Although John Newton pointed to this time in his life as his conversion, he continued in the slave trade through several voyages up the rivers of Africa, now as a captain, procuring slaves offered for sale in larger ports and subsequently transporting them to North America. Two days before he was to embark on his fourth slave-trading expedition, a mysterious illness temporarily paralyzed him. His doctors advised him not to sail. Even though he was subsequently promised a position as a ship’s captain with cargo unrelated to slavery, he never sailed again. The replacement captain of the ship he was to command when he became ill was later murdered in a shipboard slave uprising. God’s hand was upon John Newton!

He was only thirty-years-old when he ended his slave trading career. Teaching himself Latin, Greek and theology, he and his new wife, Mary, took a pastorate in Olney, England, after the Earl of Dartmouth, impressed with Newton’s story of his conversion and renunciation of the slave trade, sponsored him for ordination. Newton soon became friends with people like Charles and John Wesley, who had encouraged Newton to go into the clergy and was the founder of the Methodist Church; George Whitfield, a famous Church of England evangelistic preacher; and William Cowper, a gifted hymn writer (“There Is a Fountain” among others). Newton and Cowper began weekly prayer meetings in 1768 and attempted to present a poem or hymn at each one.  “Amazing Grace” was probably used in a prayer meeting for the first time on January 1, 1773. In 1779 a collection of the poems these two men had written for their services in Olney was bound and published anonymously under title “Olney Hymns”. Newton contributed 280 of the 348 texts and titled his best known poem, “I Chronicles 17:16-17, Faith’s Review and Expectation” with the first line: “Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)”, no doubt thinking back on his remarkable conversion from a sinful life of shame! The entire first stanza, speaking of a “wretch like me”, undoubtedly expresses his regret over years spent in the slave trade.

Newton soon joined forces with a young man named William Wilberforce, the British member of Parliament who led the campaign to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire which culminated in the Slave Trade Act 1807, and became an ardent and outspoken abolitionist.

Years later, in 1847, William Walker assigned Newton’s words to a traditional song named “New Britain”, and published the song in the United States in his songbook, “Southern Harmony”. It was an immediate success and became enormously popular all over the country. A new verse, not written by Newton, was added by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her best-selling 1852 anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which had been passed down orally in African-American communities for at least 50 years:

When we’ve been there ten-thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.

“Amazing Grace” continues to be an emblem of the Christian faith today, as well as a symbol of hope during tragedies like the Civil War, the persecution of various groups such as African-American slaves, the Cherokees who sang it while on their “Trail of Tears” as a way of coping with their ongoing battle, and all of us who suffer in one way or another. If it were not for God’s “Amazing Grace” where would any of us be?

My Thanksgiving Acrostic

001 facebook_cover (1)Here is an acrostic I made that contains verses about thanksgiving, music and praise to God.  As you read through it, remember Psalm 95:2, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (ESV)    Let us think about all of our blessings and the One who made them possible as we feast and enjoy the company of those we love on this special day!  I hope you will enjoy this little Thanksgiving acrostic:

                   Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts     to the Lord.  (Col. 3:16b, KJV)

                   He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  (Psalm 40:3, ESV)

                   All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! (Psalm 145:10, ESV)

                   No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11b, KJV)

                   King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.   To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  (I Timothy 6:15b & 16, NIV)

                   Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 6:19 & 20, KJV)

                   Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!  Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.  (Psalm 33:2 & 3, ESV)

                   I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.  (Psalm 101:1, ESV)

This is the Victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  (I John 5:4b, NIV)

                   It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sings praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the   morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  (Psalm 92:1-3, ESV)

                   Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!         (Psalm 115:1, ESV)

                   Give thanks to him; bless his name!  (Psalm 100:4b, ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

What is an “Anointed” Song?

Many times we hear people say, “That song is so beautiful and so anointed!”  What are they really saying and how can we tell if a song truly is “anointed”?

Let’s first of all explore what the word “anointed” means.  Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “anoint” as “to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration”.  We know of several instances in the Old Testament where the priests or kings of Israel were anointed.  There was a special ceremony and they were “set apart” or consecrated for this office.  Some verses about this are found in Exodus 28:41, Leviticus 16:32, and I Samuel 15:1.  You can look up many others, as well.  This brings us to the other definition for “anoint” which, according to Merriam Webster is “to choose by or as if by divine election”.  In my concordance, the word “anointed” gives the subtitle, “consecrated”.  This brings me to my real question:  Can a song truly be “anointed”?

First of all, let’s explore what the term “the anointing” we hear used so often is not:  It is not necessarily chill bumps all over your body when you hear a good song, although this definitely can be a part of it!  It is not tears or emotional responses to a certain song, although this may, also, be a big part of it!  If this is all the “anointing” were, then many  secular love songs and patriotic songs which invoke similar responses would also be “anointed”.  So, what is this term we often uses so loosely and why is it so important to a song’s ability to speak to hearts and change lives, often turning them towards God in a way not possible through mere spoken words?

The Word of God speaks of “the Lord saving His anointed” (Psalm 20:6) and the “saving strength of His anointed” (Psalm 28:8).  Psalm 105:15 also says, “Touch not mine anointed…” (KJV)  It appears from these and other similar verses throughout the Word that God has special ones that He has “anointed” and that He guards and watches over them diligently!  Could this be the converted, elect children of God?  Could it be that when we place our trust in Jesus as Savior and choose to follow the Lord in all of our ways that we then become His “anointed” and that we are saved for Eternity and protected with His divine provision from harm and danger?  Even though we may “walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil for He is with us!” (Psalm 23)

So what does being “consecrated”, or as the dictionary definition puts it, “dedicated to a sacred purpose” have to do with anointed music?  Can we feel this “anointing” in a song?  I think the answer is simple:  When a person becomes a Spirit-filled child of God, this anointing, the “oil” of the Holy Spirit spoken of in the Old Testament,  overflows from our lives, making the words or songs given by the Holy Spirit “dedicated” or “consecrated” as well, or in essence, “anointed”.  Words or songs given to that person by the Holy Spirit will be “anointed” because He is enlightening our minds with the words of God!  That is why I believe the entire Word of God is totally inspired; every word is anointed and valuable to us.   II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (KJV)  This means that if God through the Holy Spirit gives someone a song, that song, including the words and the music, is inspired and “anointed” to bring Him glory!

So, can a song be anointed?  The answer is an emphatic “yes”!   The reason?  Because the person who wrote the song under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was “anointed” and God’s words and melodies flowing through the writer’s pen bring to bear that same anointing on the song they have written!  Do some songs, even supposed “Christian” ones, leave you cold and flat emotionally?  Perhaps they are not really “anointed”.   Some hymns that have come down through the centuries are just as poignant with emotion and God’s Word beautifully set to poetry as the day they were written.  For example, how can you improve on best-loved songs of all time such as “Amazing Grace”, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”?  Hard to compare these with some of the current dribble that passes for music!

One of my friends who happens to be the wife of a pastor of a large church really summed it up for me.  She told me of a recent experience where her daughter who is in her late 20’s decided to buy a CD of just hymns to play on a lengthy trip she needed to make with her two small children.  She told her mother she put the hymn CD into her player and  just couldn’t stop listening as tears ran down her cheeks.  Her two children were quiet and slept most of the way and they, too, seemed to sense the “anointing” coming from the words and music.  Her last comment to her mom is one I will never forget.  She said, “Mom, these hymns are so different from the standard “praise” music we usually hear.  Those songs are ‘all about me’; these hymns are ‘all about Him’!”  I couldn’t have put it any better!  The anointing of the Holy Spirit is real.  It truly can even “fill a song with God’s presence!”

Does God Send Tornadoes?

My heart is broken as I watch the devastation and heartbreak on TV from what is now being called one of the worst tornadoes in history!  I don’t know what it would be like to lose everything I had worked so hard for in just a matter of seconds.  Of course, even more heartbreaking would be to lose one’s child in school, not knowing, as you kissed him or her goodbye in the morning, that you would never see them on this earth again!  Of course, questions come to my mind:  Why did God let this happen?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Were these people more wicked than others to have such a catastrophe occur in their neighborhood?

I can answer the last question with an emphatic, “Absolutely not!”  I lived in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which also suffered severe tornado damage a couple of days earlier, a lovely city located about 30 miles from Moore, the city virtually destroyed in the storm.  My late husband and I pastored a church in Shawnee for two years and our youngest daughter was born there.  Oklahoma people are by and large God-fearing, salt-of-the earth people and my feeling is if God were choosing somewhere to pour out his wrath, it would not be Oklahoma!  Then, you may ask, why do catastrophes like this happen to seemingly good people?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the Word of God!  In Job 1:1  God called Job a man who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God and avoided evil”.  Satan asked God if he could destroy Job, a very wealthy man,  and God allowed him to bring about evil in his life on several fronts.  Verse 19 tells us, “(His) sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead.” (ESV)  His oxen used for plowing, camels used for transportation, and servants were also killed.  Then Satan struck Job with severe boils over all of his body.  Even so,  Job 1:22 says that “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (ESV)

We all know the story:  In the end God restored back to Job twice as much as he had before, including 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, and 2,000 oxen and donkeys.  He also had seven more sons and three more daughters and lived to be 140 years old!

Does God send tornadoes?  The short answer is: No!  But he allows some tragedies to occur on this earth because we know Satan and his evil presence is alive and well on Planet Earth!  Jesus said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  Matthew 5:45 (ESV)  Jesus also told a gathered crowd, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Matthew 13:3, 4 (ESV)  These passages point out that God’s principles and patterns, even regarding the weather, apply across the board, and that many times seemingly innocent people will fall victim to weather-related phenomena.  This does not mean these people were more wicked, but rather that because of sin, this world is an imperfect place.  Many times God’s hedge of protection is lifted from entire nations who do not put Him first by obeying His laws. It is only because of intercession on the part of godly people that He delays His judgment.

One of my favorite verses is Lamentations 3:22, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”  (KJV)  There is a wonderful hymn written from this passage called, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” which I think should be sung in every church!  So, in answer to the question, “Does God send tornadoes?”, the answer is “No, but he allows them and other catastrophes and tragedies to take place in our imperfect world.”  Someday He will set up His Kingdom, and in that New Earth during the Millennial reign of Christ, there will be no more horrible, violent events, either from the weather or from humans.  Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and all will be peaceful.  In the meantime, God has chosen to use the tragic events we humans all experience at one time or another to mold and make us into His likeness and bring out the character of Christ in us, if we let Him.

Let me close with a story:  We all love the beautiful hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”, but do you know how this hymn came to be written?  An evangelist named Horatio Spafford wrote the song in 1873 after he experienced profound tragedy and sorrow in his own life.  He was a successful attorney and Presbyterian church elder from Chicago who had a deep faith in God.  Although he and his wife, Anna, and five children seemed to have a charmed life and beautiful home on Chicago’s north side, they were severely tested.  In 1870 their only son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. In October 1871 the “Great Chicago Fire” destroyed their vast real estate holdings near Lake Michigan.  Still they trusted God!  In 1873, Spafford decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe to assist the great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, and his song leader, Ira D. Sankey, who had written many songs.  A business emergency kept him from accompanying his family, whom he sent on ahead on a steamer.  He planned to join them in Europe a few weeks later.  Tragically, on November 22, 1873, the steamer his wife and four daughters were on was struck by a British iron sailing ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  All four of his daughters were killed.  Miraculously, his wife, Anna, who had lost consciousness, was picked up by a life boat as she floated in the middle of the ocean. A few days later, Spafford sailed to meet his wife in Europe.  As the ship passed the place where his beloved daughters had drowned, he looked out at the sea and through tear-stained eyes, said aloud, “It is well with my soul.”  Even though he could scarcely understand it at the time, and perhaps felt like Job of old, he was able to write the song that has gone down in history as one of the most beloved hymns of all time, “It Is Well With My Soul”!  By the way, God gave him and his wife three more children.

Do we understand all of life’s tragedies?  No!  Does God work good through them?  Yes!  We can stand on Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV)  My prayers are with the victims of the Oklahoma tragedy.  I know many have already given testimony on national TV of the grace and mercy, as well as their love, of God!  May He continue to help them through the days ahead.  Let’s all hold them up in prayer!

Cold Pea Salad, Part II

In my last post, I detailed some apparent problems in church worship services today, seemingly contributing to many feeling they have no say in the type of music played and sung by worship teams and congregations.  I received so many great comments on this topic by people of all ages, including worship leaders, who let me know they have grappled with these same issues, sometimes in utter frustration.

I think we can all agree that the whole purpose of worship is twofold: First of all, it is not about “me” but about “Him”, or His ” Worth-ship” if you will.  The term worship was derived from these two words originally, as a form of adoration to the King of Kings.  Let us not forget this important point!  The second reason for worship is that it allows us to enter into God’s presence in a special way as we “unclutter” our minds from the mundane and secular aspects of our lives, if even for a few minutes, directing our love, praise and thanksgiving to the One who redeemed us and gives us the blessings we enjoy each day!  It is also something we do voluntarily, which is why our Father derives such pleasure from it.

So let me list a few points on the positive side to take us from “monotony, form and ritual” in music to entering into a new dimension of true meaning and appreciation for this important time!  If you missed Part I of this post, please read it before continuing.  These concepts and ideas are the result of much prayer in this area, as a worship leader myself.  With that in mind, I want to address the worship leaders first:

1.  Take time to pray and seek the mind of God through His Holy Spirit about the songs you are choosing for each service.  Remember, no two services are alike, and many times God wants to move in different ways if we’ll allow the Holy Spirit to do so.  In other words, don’t let any service get into a “rut” of, “Well, it worked fine last time; we’ll do it the same way today and every day!”  Perhaps some services will have more lively songs; some more worshipful and slower in tempo, coinciding with the message the pastor feels led to bring (it is good to find out what God is saying to him about the service, as well) and who is in attendance.  The Holy Spirit knows this ahead of time and as you pray, He will reveal to you which songs are right and which are not!  I have seen this happen many times and know it is vital; lots of prayer is so important!

2. Be open to trying different styles of music, as long as the words are full of praise and adoration to the Lord.  Testimonial songs, primarily about us and our experiences, are good in limited number, but let the majority be full of praise and worship, including scripture and perhaps words from the Psalms.  If you think all the songs sound similar, perhaps they do!  Try bringing in some “older” worship choruses and songs, even from the ’80’s and ’90’s, such as “As the Deer”, “Shout to the Lord”, “He Is Lord”, “We Exalt Thee”, and “Breathe“.  Remember some of those songs?  They are very anointed and seem to always bring the presence of the Lord into a service!  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you see some people with tears in their eyes and hands lifted in worship when you begin to sing some of these older songs.  Don’t forget to incorporate a hymn or two every once in awhile, too!   Many of these were written centuries ago by men and women of God who experienced deep feelings of gratitude to their Lord and it shows in the anointed praise and worship which ensues when they are sung properly.  Remember “Amazing Grace”?  Wow, how can a person improve on that?  Try modulating up a half step on the last verse, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years….” and watch your congregational singing soar and “raise the roof!”  I’ve seen it happen countless times!  Remember to teach unfamiliar songs by using them a few times until everyone has a chance to learn them; it is easier to worship when a song is familiar!

3.  Try utilizing some of your talented singers and musicians in the congregation (who may not be participating on the worship team) for special music!  I was in one church that had an opera singer and a first chair violinist in the congregation, who rarely performed!  I thought this was very sad.  Remember, Paul tells the Church in  I Corinthians 14:26…”when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine…” (KJV) and so on.  It appears that it is scriptural to let the various members of the Body of Christ contribute according to the talents and gifting God has given them.  It’s not wrong to use gifted musicians in special music; it is actually quite scriptural and brings blessing to everyone!

4.  Why not include a brief questionnaire in the bulletin asking your congregation to give feedback on what types of music they would like to see employed in the worship services, what some of their favorite hymns or songs are, and how they feel about various styles of worship?  Let them give feedback (they don’t even need to sign them) and you can prayerfully read their responses to give you a much better idea of what your people want.  You don’t necessarily have to change everything to please each person, but the ideas given may be beneficial in planning future worship services!

Now, to the rest of you who are worshipping from the pew!  Pray for your worship leaders and music directors; pray for the instrumentalists and vocalists.  When you come to church, prepare your heart ahead of time for worship and ask God to give you an understanding heart and right spirit directed towards Him.  Think about the words of the songs as you sing; turn your eyes heavenward and choose to enter into God’s presence in worship, shutting out distractions about you.  (One of my biggest gripes about some worship services is the amount of people coming and going, talking, even texting, in short not caring one bit about the worship.  It is so distracting to me!)  So, just shut your eyes and begin to worship in “spirit and in truth” and trust God to take care of the things that annoy you about certain songs.  You may even find you begin to like some of those you thought were awful at first!  Remember, even the old hymns were once new; many of them were simply words set to well-known “bar tunes” of the day!  I wonder if they got flack for this at the time, too?  In short, Satan will always try to bring division among those who choose to worship, including the musicians leading the worship, so let’s not give him any territory!  We know God inhabits our praises and receives glory from our worship, so let’s make a choice to continue worshipping and entering into His presence.  He loves to hear our praises!