January 5th: It’s Not About Your Preferences

Sing Unto the Lord Devotional

 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

 

When Steve Jobs conceived of the iPod, he envisioned “music in your pocket”. His ideas changed the landscape of the way that we consume music. At the click of a button we can have our favorite songs, and only our favorite songs, in our ears all. day. long. “Thumbprint” radio stations, genius playlists, and hand-crafted stations mean we never have to hear a song we don’t like. A quick “thumbs down” and it’s gone. We can personalize the rhythms, the instruments, the artists, the time period—everything to suit our musical palette, everything to our specific preferences and liking.

But is that a good thing? Sure, it’s personalized, but is it profitable? What’s so delightfully enjoyable, is it edifying? I propose that the age of personalized music in your pocket has been a blessing and curse at the same time. We’ve developed a habit of hearing only what pleases us. We’ve become accustomed to rejecting what doesn’t suit our preferences. The habit of only satisfying the preferences of our own ears is a dangerous one.  In Timothy, we are warned that a time will come when people will acquire for themselves teachers to suit their own desires. The context in Timothy is concerning preaching and teaching sound doctrine, but the principle applies to our songs as well since, as we’ve already looked at, our songs are a means of teaching and instruction as well. If we only “heap up for ourselves” that which suits our own desires, we are on dangerous ground.

Philippians 2:4 tells us “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We often think of those interests in terms of business or family affairs, but this applies to all interests, pursuits, needs, and wants. We should not only be interested in meeting our own needs and desires, but those of others as well. If we cultivate ears that are only attuned to what is desirable only to us, then how will we cultivate an ear that can compassionately listen to what is desirable to another? Because we are so accustomed to our own way in regards to music, churches now feel the need to have separate services for those who like traditional music and those who like contemporary music. So instead of becoming more unified, we are more divided, segmented, and disconnected. We think that we are keeping unity and peace, because at least now those who like the old hymns won’t argue with those who like the modern praise songs. But that isn’t unity. It’s isn’t real unity when we are only around those who agree with us, like what we like, and dislike what we dislike. True unity is tested by variety. Can we live beside another with different opinions, different style, different preferences, and still honor, respect and sympathize with them?

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs Photo Credit: Christian Delbert, Adobe Stock Photo

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs Photo Credit: Christian Delbert, Adobe Stock Photo

What I love about the Word of God is that not one word is wasted. “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”, all three terms, are all important. It shows that there is supposed to be diversity in our song choices when we sing to ourselves and to one another. It shows that for the word to dwell richly, for us to communicate all wisdom, we’ll need all those styles. Each one will have its own strengths and weakens; each will have its own purposes. Being finite and limited beings the Lord created us male and female so that both sexes together would be able to reflect the infinite splendor of the image of our God. Similarly, having finite words and musical forms, the Lord gave man the wisdom to create a variety of lyrical and musical styles to communicate His manifold infinite wisdom and boundlessly deep Word of God.

How diverse is your selection of Scripture–filled music? Does it cover the spectrum of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?  In corporate worship, are you setting your musical preferences lower than those of your brothers and sisters in Christ? How are you learning to appreciate the various forms which the Word says should be used to teach, admonish and sing to one another?

 

Scriptures for Further Reading

  • Matthew 26:30
  • Mark 14:26
  • Psalm 40:3
  • Timothy 4:3
  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Ephesians 5:19

 

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for the Lord to open your heart to the interests of others, not only your own interests.
  • Ask the Lord to show you the differences of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and to appreciate the differences of those three.

January 4th: You Ought to Be Teachers

Sing Unto the Lord Devotional

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

 

Chalkboard -- Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photo

Chalkboard — Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photo

There’s usually that one teacher that stands out in our mind. Someone who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Or maybe someone so passionate and knowledgeable about a particular subject that their excitement could not help but spark our interest too. A good teacher like that can change the entire trajectory of an at risk student. A loving, wise, engaging teacher can have a lasting, lifelong, life-changing impact.

Did you know that is what we as Christian brothers and sisters are supposed to do for one another? And specifically, that’s what our singing is supposed to do for one another. The songs we sing in our hearts and the songs we sing aloud to each other are like our teachers. They instruct us. They guide us. They can change our course when we are off-track. That’s where admonishing comes in.

To admonish means to warn and reprimand firmly, to advise and to urge sincerely. Let’s face it. We’re aren’t always where we are supposed to be in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes we become complacent and we drop our guard to the entrapments of this world and the entanglement of sin. Sometimes we lack discernment for certain blind spots and areas of lack in our faith. We need a teacher to come alongside us, to “explain to us a more perfect way” (Acts 18:28).

We often don’t think of ourselves in that way, as teachers. The common objection is, “Teaching is just for the professionals!” But that’s not what the word of God says. In fact, every believer is expected to mature and grow in the faith and to be able to teach and admonish his fellow believers. Hebrews 5:12 chides believers who have not matured in the faith “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” (ESV, emphasis mine)

And while we do not often realize that we ought to be teachers for one another, we do not think of our singing as a means of teaching. We do not realize that the lyrics we rehearse over and over in our minds are instructing us in the principles of God, the tenets of our faith, the wisdom for righteous living.  How careful we should be to be sure that we are maturing not only in our understanding of the Word, but also in our song selections, which should be a reflection of our understanding.

What songs are instructing you right now? Are they godly and filled with the wisdom of the Word?  Or are they superficial? Are you careful to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love? Are those virtues reflected in your songs? Is your heart so seasoned in the Word of God and the songs of the faith that you could give a applicable verse of Scripture, or verse of a spiritual song, to a brother or sister who needed some exhortation, encouragement or instruction?

 

Scriptures for Further Reading

  • Deuteronomy 6:69
  • Matthew 28:20
  • Hebrews 5:12
  • 1 Peter 4:10
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord to show you how you may be a blessing to others, to teach, admonish and encourage in an area in which He has given you particular wisdom.
  • Pray that the Lord will help you to surround yourself with “wise teachers” and uproot any “unwise teachers”.

January 3rd: Wisdom Is the Principal Thing

Sing Unto the Lord: Daily Devotional

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

 

Proverbs 4:7 tells us “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom.” Wisdom is the ability to apply experience, knowledge, and understanding, to proceed rightly with sound judgement and to formulate good decisions and worthy actions.  Wisdom is needed in every facet of life: relationships, careers, finances, health. Is there anyone who couldn’t do with some more wisdom?

In this age of the information super highway– the proliferation of blogs, podcasts, and webinars—the world has plenty of its brand of wisdom to offer. It is hard to wade through the deluge of conflicting opinions, studies, and statistics that grab for our attention. It seems that at every turn there is a different person telling us what we should eat, how we should raise our children, who we should vote for, and on and on the list goes.  So how are we to know who to listen to? How are we to know which advice is trustworthy? We need discernment, and that must come from the Word of God.

Wisdom from the Word of God

Wisdom from the Word of God Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photos

Proverbs 2:6 tells us, “For the Lord gives wisdom, out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” In every decision we make, we must seek the Lord for His wisdom, His understanding, His ways. We should not lean on our own understanding, as we are told in Proverbs 3:5-6, but acknowledge Him in all our ways. Often, if we are honest with ourselves, we acknowledge this truth in our minds and yet we do not put it into action. We go about our lives on auto-pilot, doing what we are used to, or what we see others doing, or what seems logical in our own estimation.  We are often so confident in our own analysis, or so unconscious of any other possible course of action that we so not pause to pray and ask God for His wisdom. And yet, wisdom is everything; it is the chief thing, the principal thing.

But what does this have to do with singing, you might ask? You may have picked up this devotional thinking it was guide to singing, but by now you may have noticed the focus has been, not so much on singing, but on the word of God. That is because we cannot sing without wisdom! Our song selections must be made with wisdom. The lyrics of our songs should be filled with the wisdom from God’s Word.  If we are to keep our minds enriched with *all* wisdom as Colossians 3:16 says, the melodies we hum in our hearts should direct our minds back to the Word of God.

Are you soaking your mind in the wisdom of the Scriptures? Are your decisions and actions being governed by the truths found in the Bible? May God truly give us all a hunger for His wisdom!

 

Scriptures for Further Reading

  • Proverbs 2:6
  • Proverbs 4:7
  • Romans 11:33
  • 1 Corinthians 2:6-7
  • Colossians 2:1-4
  • James 3:15-17

 

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for wisdom which is from above, from the Lord, in all your daily decisions and actions.
  • Ask the Lord to give you a strong desire to search for His wisdom as for hidden treasure.

January 2nd: As Rich as a Chocolate Mousse

Sing Unto the Lord: Daily Devotional

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

 

As Rich as Chocolate Mousse, Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photo

As Rich as Chocolate Mousse, Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photo

Have you ever eaten a gourmet chocolate? There’s a big difference between a high-quality, pure, hand-crafted chocolate, and some run-of-the-mill candy that you get out of vending machine for a few cents.  There is a richness, a depth of flavor, that explodes on your taste buds, one that you savor slowly and luxuriously.  That is the picture that comes to mind in the phrase “dwell in you richly”.  Richness: it is difference between a Tootsie Roll and a Belgian chocolate mousse.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often we are content with being ankle-deep in the Scriptures. Five minute daily readings, grabbed in between our morning coffee and the race to work… Or ten minute half-hearted readings on our tablets as we also scroll through the incessant barrage of emails before we collapse into our beds at the end of the day….  And in between, instead of ruminating on the Word of God, our minds are filled with all the pressing demands of the day or the luring distractions of entertainment. This hurried life we have developed leaves little room for the Word of God to dwell richly, and yet it must. We must grow discontented with ankle-deep Christianity, and yearn for more.

The idea of the word dwell is to inhabit, to take up residence, to fill up a space within. Have you ever walked into a house and it is filled with all the things that make that place a home: the family members bustling to and fro, their belongings tucked here and there, the sounds of their voices, the smells of their meals fill the rooms? That is the idea here of “dwell”. The Scriptures should fill our hearts and minds as a happy family fills a home, the vibrancy of their life together permeating every nook and cranny.

Is there richness to your love for and devotion to the Word of God? Do you savor and meditate on the Word throughout the day? Do you hang on to the “taste” of each morsel of truth, just as one might luxuriate over a bite of a fine chocolate mousse? Is God’s Word “at home” in your mind, just like a family dwells together in a house? Do the Scriptures fill your heart to overflowing?

 

Scripture for Further Reading

  • Psalm 1:2
  • Psalm 104:34
  • Psalm 119:11, 18, 10-11, 97-99
  • Isaiah 26:3
  • Matthew 4:4
  • John 15:7

 

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord to increase the depth of your time in His Word
  • Pray for the Word of God to fill your heart and mind

January 1st: Only the Word of Christ

Sing Unto the Lord: Daily Devotional

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Colossians 3:16

 

The foundation of everything we do must be the Word of Christ.  As Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) There are no better words—no better encouragement, no better comfort, no better inspiration—than those of our Lord.

Words are so important. Words frame our thoughts and our understanding of the world around us. Words are the main substance of our communication and interaction with each other. With our words, we conduct business, make plans, cultivate change, and form promises. The importance of words is no surprise when we consider that that our very being and this created world around us is as a result of the spoken word of God. God spoke the words and the world was made! (Genesis 1) In fact, John 1:1 tells us that a name of Christ is “The Word”.  Is it any wonder then that we should begin our devotional with a focus on the word of Christ?

What words are informing your thoughts, your speech, your songs? Are they the popular words of the latest television guru, hip internet blogger, or Hollywood personality? Are your words borrowed bits and pieces from catchy soundbites and trendy memes? Are you still listening to the old words that have haunted you from your past, from naysayers and critics, from your won doubts and fears? Are the words swimming around in your mind just your own opinions, your own preferences, or quirky idiosyncrasies?

The Word of Christ

The Word of Christ, Photo Credit: Pamela D. McAdams, Adobe Stock Photo

Or is your thinking, talking and singing rooted and grounded upon the word of Christ? Does the Word of God saturate your inner dialogue, that voice that runs through your mind, as you go about your day?   Do the Scriptures permeate your conversations with others? When asked for advice, do you point others to the Bible for their answers? When you lift your voice to sing, or as you hold a song in your heart, is that song filled with the truths of the Word?

In John 6:63, our Lord says “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The English Standard Version renders it this way “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”. Especially in times of need or trouble, the flesh—our natural selves, the world and its brand of wisdom—profit nothing; they’re of no help at all. We need the Word of the Lord to give us life.

 

Scriptures for Further Reading

  • Psalm 19:7-10
  • Psalm 119:105
  • Acts 17:11
  • Romans 10:17
  • Hebrew 4:12
  • James 1:18
  • 1 Peter 1:23

 

Suggestion for Prayer

  • Pray for an increased hunger and desire for God’s Word
  • Ask the Lord to help you to memorize the Scriptures and to hide them in your heart.

 

Introducing a New Series: Sing Unto the Lord

A Daily Devotional

Many Christians feel that singing is “just for those with a good voice”, “only matters for those with musical gifts”, or that it is limited to “a few hymns during Sunday morning worship service”.  Yet, in Scripture we find that the exhortation to teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is without qualification or limitation. That exhortation is to every believer!  It’s not just for worship leaders, not just for musicians and singers. It’s for everyone!  The goal of the Sing Unto the Lord daily devotional series is to encourage believers to enrich their walk with the Lord by fully taking advantage of one of the means of grace with which the Lord has blessed His children: singing!

In Genesis we are told that God has made us in His image. “Imago Dei” means that through these humble and finite physical bodies we somehow get to reflect the characteristics of our exalted and infinite Triune God.  Singing is a part of that reflection! Our God, is a God who describes Himself as one who sings. In Zephaniah 3:17 we are told “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love, He will joy over thee with singing” (italics mine for emphasis). Hallelujah! Our God dwells with us and rejoices over us so much so that His joy bubbles over with singing!

Beyond that verse in Zephaniah, joyfulness, rejoicing, and singing are tied together numerously in the Scriptures. Singing is a means of grace through with the Lord is able to minister us and develop in us joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit. Modern neurologists have recently confirmed this truth that Scripture has long-ago revealed. According to several studies, singing releases oxytocin, a hormone which increases feelings of bonding and trust, and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.  How kind and loving of our Lord to hard-wire our brains to benefit from the singing of His praises!

After studying the role of singing in the Bible and the neurological confirmations of the testimony of Scripture, we’ve developed a new appreciation for the numerous verses which say “The Lord is (our) strength and (our) song.” It’s simply mind-blowing how often the people of God are told to “sing unto the Lord” and equally amazing the benefits to our minds, bodies and souls when we do. Therefore, we’ve endeavored, through the Sing Unto the Lord daily devotional series, to share little nuggets of truth that we’ve gleaned. It is our hope that through this daily devotional, Christians are encouraged to fully make use of the gift of song, to develop hearts enriched with melody, and to lift their voices in the delightful praise of our God. May the Lord truly bless you as you seek to worship Him in song!