Enthusiastic Singing

Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lute” (Psalm 81:1-2).

These words call for God’s people to make music with great enthusiasm. The “raise a song” was often used to greet a king (e.g., Saul in I Samuel 10:24) or celebrate victories in war (e.g., Judah over it’s enemies in Zephaniah 3:14). It was done with great fanfare and noise. In other words, when you sing, you should REALLY SING.

Some of the loudest singers I have known in church are bad singers. But they don’t care and neither, 0I would argue, neither does God.

Image result for singingNothing in the Christian life should be half-hearted! And that includes our singing to God. So, why don’t people sing out? Why aren’t people louder when they sing? Why don’t people open their mouths wide? I want to give you some other reasons that people aren’t louder when they sing and aren’t as expressive as they should be. Let me give you four reasons to meditate on today:

  1. We don’t understand (or accept) that physical expression is an acceptable form of worship both privately and publicly. This is an issue of ignorance. Worship is not only a mental engagement. We worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). And if we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then that must include how we sing too. When you study how people worshipped God in the Scripture you will find people clapping, bowing, kneeling, raising their hands, shouting, playing instruments and dancing. Physical expression is a biblical means to worship God in song. Some are comfortable swaying their bodies; some enjoy raising their hands; some enjoy singing with loud voices.
  2. We care too often what others think. This is mostly an issue of pride. We grow concerned that people might think we are weird or strange for expressing ourselves in some physical fashion. “What if I sing loud, but off key?” “What if I start clapping and get the rhythm wrong?” “What if I start to kneel over and fall instead?” May I suggest that these are the types of questions coming from someone who thinks more about pleasing man that living transparently before God in their worship? Our worship is not to be driven by man’s expectations of us; if that was the case that we should wonder what others think when we sing, it wouldn’t be worship. At best, it’s worshipping what others think of us.
  3. We interpret reverence or awe of God as emotional and physical stoicism. In other words, because worship is a reverential act, we think we must be quiet and monotone when we open our lips. Thus, our singing becomes can be like a funeral dirge.

Keith Green sold out for Jesus in his music. He loved Jesus more than anyone I know who has ever sung a song … period! One time, he said at a concert,

“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence…? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!”

He was never bored with God in his music and it showed. Making music with enthusiasm includes not only voice volume or physical expression; it also includes frequency.



The Whole Earth Is Filled with God’s Glory

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts – the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57)

Have you noticed that David, the man after God’s own heart, the author of most of the chapters in the Psalter, who led all the worship processions and led all the choirmasters, and, yet, did so before the land of Israel had any permanent House of Worship? Why such an emphasis on worship without a permanent place for worship? It wasn’t until his son Solomon built the temple that the land would have a place to officially gather for worship.

And since then for thousands of years the church has met in a place – in a location. While there are a handful of churches without a meeting place, most churches have a building or tent to meet within. We gather to worship.

But too often we buy into the notion that we gather to worship and when we drive our cars out of the parking lot, we aren’t worshipping God any longer. This is simply not true. Every action – mundane or not – is an opportunity for worship (I Corinthians 10:31).

When we read Psalm 57, we come to see that David understood something we too often forget. David understood that a house was not essential for worship to take place. Why? Because the whole earth is filled with His glory).

In his book Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper reminds us,

“Worship is not a gathering. It is not essentially a song service or sitting under preaching. Worship is not essentially any form of outward act. Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world – a valuing of God above all else that is valuable, a loving of God above all else that is lovely, a savoring of God above all else that is sweet, an admiring of God above all else that is admirable, a fearing of God above all else that is fearful, a respecting of God above all else that is respectable, a prizing of God above all else that is precious.”[1]

Deep, powerful, God-centered worship is to take place everywhere we go because the whole earth is God’s sanctuary.


[1] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Ada: Baker Book House, 2010), pgs. 206-207.

Martin Luther, the Hymn-Writer

On July 6, 1415 John Huss – the Protestant Czech – was burned at the stake for his faith. He said at the stake before he was burned, “Today, you are burning a goose however, a hundred years from now, you will be able to hear a swan sing, you will burn it, you will have to listen to him. In a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed.”

Exactly 102 years later, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther was nailing a piece of paper to the community bulletin board – the church door in Wittenberg. We refer to that document of theological protest the 95 Theses. And it was that moment that God used to help launch the Reformation.

luther-martin-2It is not an overstatement to say no one had a greater impact on the church than Martin Luther. Many people throughout church history have talked reform; Luther lived reform. Some even claim that outside of Christ no one has more books on the shelf about or by Martin Luther. In short, no Luther, no Reformation.

There are many legacies with Martin Luther – his preaching of justification by faith, his condemnation the Roman Catholic Church, and his translation of the Bible into German. One such legacy that is often forgotten is his contribution to the ministry of music and his encouragement of corporate singing.

In 1526 at the age of 33, Luther began to rearrange the typical church service. Luther believed the congregation should take a more active role in the service and he wanted this activity to be more singing.

Luther said, “We need to remove hymn singing from the domain of monks and priests and set the laity to singing. By the singing of hymns the laity can public express their love to the Almighty God.”

In fact, Luther even had his own congregation practice their songs during the week before the services on Sunday!

This led Luther to begin writing hymns for his congregation to sin. He wrote a total of 36 hymns. Not many of them are sung today, but you have probably heard of “All Praise to Thee, Eternal God” or “Away in a Manger” or “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”; those are the most well-known of Luther’s music compositions.

Luther played the flute and sang in multiple choirs and was nicknamed “the nightingale of Wittenberg.” Luther loved church music. Luther once said, “I can say without timidity that there is next to theology no such fine art on earth that could push music off to the side … to prepare a peaceful and joyful heart.”

One of Luther’s critics – Johann Eck – said of Luther’s hymn-writing: “The Reformation was brought into existence more through Luther’s songs than through Luther’s writings.”

On this day, October 31, Reformation Day, I exhort you to thank God for men like Martin Luther. Who knows if the church ever would have started singing together in their worship services? I, for one, am delighted that we do.


Spirit Worship + Truth Worship = Genuine Worship

19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”        (John 4:19-24).

True worshipers will be known not by the location of their worship but the internal focus or nature in how they worship. Our worship is to be marked by two characteristics:

First, we are to worship in spirit. This is a reference to the inward attitude of the true worshiper. Worship is not meant to be based upon external conforming to customs or traditions. One who worships in Spirit might clap, raised his hands, show emotion, sing loud and boisterously, etc. This is the opposite of someone who is heartless in their worship. It is someone who has a physical expression of worship.

samaritan-womanSecond, we are to worship in truth. This means that our worship is what is true about God or what can be known about Him in the Scriptures. This is why the study of theology is so important for us. For within the study of theology, we arrive at a place of deeper worship. True worship is educated from God’s Word. “Truth worship” is the opposite of hypocritical worship that says and sings certain things about God but doesn’t actually believe them.

By the way, you cannot have one without the other. They form one central idea of how God is to be worshipped. If you worship Him only “in truth,” your worship becomes liturgical only and ritualistic. If you worship him only “in spirit” you open yourself up to empty frenzy or spiritual flakiness. Worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Praising At All Times

Psalm 34:1 – “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Say what? How is that even possible? “I will bless the LORD at all times!” Easier said than done, right? David is saying simply, “There is no time in life when His praises are not on my lips.” I don’t believe David is saying that 24 hours a day some formal praise must be coming from your lips. Just like God doesn’t expect every minute to be a prayer (I Thess 5:18), there is something else David has in mind here.

I read Charles Spurgeon explain this way, “In every situation, under every circumstance, before, in and after trials, in bright days of glee, and dark nights of fear. He would never have been done praising, because never satisfied that he had done enough; always feeling that he fell short of the Lord’s deservings. Happy is he whose fingers are wedded to his harp. He who praised God for mercies shall never want a mercy for which to praise.”[1]

David has determined to celebrate God. He is resolved. His mind and spirit are fixed. His heart is riveted on Him. As Spurgeon would say, his hands are wedded to this harp of praise.

Here is the obvious challenge: we often find time to praise him when things are going good.

But when is the last time you had a terrible day at work and sang His praises in your car on the way home? When was the last time your husband, wife or child yelled at you and you thanked God for your family?

David is saying, “I will praise the Lord when it is good and when it is bad.” So Job had it right when he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

David is saying every opportunity I have I am going to praise Him for something somehow and somewhere.

What will you praise Him for today?


[1] The Treasury of David, pg. 122.

Hymns of Grace

The Master’s Seminary recently released a hymnal for the church, called Hymns of Grace. In it, you will find songs written by modern artists like Keith and Kristen Getty, Bob Kauflin (of Sovereign Grace), R.C. Sproul, Stuart Townend, Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger, John MacArthur, Mark Rice, Tom Jennings along with many hymns the church have been singing for centuries.

To hear and see more, watch the video below.

How Loud is Your Shout?

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” (Ps 100:1).

The “shout” is what we are supposed to do and the word “joyful” is an adjective describing what our shout is to be like – “boisterous.”

Sometimes the word “shout” can be translated “making a loud noise.” That may seem strange, because rarely do you hear people just shouting in the middle of their singing – unless you have heard a recording of the late Keith Green or attending a T4G conference with Bob Kauflin leading music.

This “joyful shout” is not just one with a smile on your face or in your heart. This refers to a boisterous or loud shout that communicates homage and loyalty.

In I Samuel 10, when Saul was crowned king, we read,

So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” So all the people shouted and said, ‘Long live the king!’” (I Sam 10:23-24).

This was not some soft, quiet somber celebration. It was lively and energetic.

There was never a negotiation about whether or not you would cheer your king (e.g., a President’s inauguration). It was never soft or quiet or reserved. Why shouldn’t it be any different we worship our King?

The psalmist is not content to keep this worship private. Because everything was created to glorify Him, he is asking everyone to imply do what they were created to do.

Shouting joyfully means more than just shouting in the middle of song. In most cases, it would actually include just verbally proclaiming God’s kingship every chance you get.

It is not being reserved when you have the opportunity to tell people who rule the universe.

You might even say this would include our personal evangelism. Faithful evangelists are those people who don’t cringe when opportunities arise to defend God, His doings and His sovereignty. People who shout joyfully are enthused to give an explanation for why things are the way they are and how man should respond.

Do you do this? Or are you more apt to hearing people trying to solve the world’s problems and wonder why things have gotten so bad and you just turn around and walk the other direction because you don’t want people to hear about your crazy religion? Someone who shouts joyfully walks into those conversations with boldness and proclaims, “Long live the king.”