Click HERE to download our bulletin from Sunday, October 23, 2016.
Unplugged. There is a sense of transparency and honesty that comes when musical artists go back to the basics without modifying the sound or creating special effects. There is something neat about getting back to the basics; all natural, simple, pure.
Ours is a church that celebrates worship in song, unplugged. While the song leader’s voice is amplified to help everyone follow him, everyone else just sings. No guitars, no percussion and no keyboards.
To my knowledge, singing has rarely been a controversial topic because the Bible tells us to do it and singing holds the power to open the doors to our heart. We all know the sudden sensations we feel when we hear a certain song that reminds of us of a time in our lives; joyful and painful memories are triggered by certain tunes, taking us emotionally right back to the moment. Music connects to the heart!
Actually, singing serves several important purposes. For example, Paul tells the church in Colossae that it is an important part of coming together to teach one another, to express our gratitude to God and to release the emotions of the heart before our God.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17, New International Version)
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus stresses the importance of being filled with the Spirit, singing to one another as well as connecting our hearts to God in a spirit of thanksgiving:
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20, New International Version)
So, we sing. Sometimes it is not too pretty to the ear because there are no qualifiers about whether or not anyone can carry a tune or keep in time. When I asked a sister who is hearing impaired how she sings she immediately answered, in sign, “With my heart!”
We simply choose to go unplugged when we sing together. Why? Because singing is a matter of the heart; all natural, simple, pure. We ‘unplug’ so our hearts can ‘plug in’ to God and one another with songs of the heart. Of course, there are many other ways for us to do this such as prayer, reflecting and meditating upon God’s word, caring for one another, sharing in communion, listening to contemporary Christian music and more. Singing just taps into God’s Spirit as He cries out with our own spirits: “Glory!”
Sometimes we have conversations about whether to sing the old songs or the new; so we try to sing both. Plus, when we gather together we can spontaneously choose songs that reinforce the teaching, reading and prayers. No practice, no rehearsals; just sing with all of our hearts.
Keith Lancaster, the founder of the a cappella vocal singing group, Acappella, has some great things to say about singing:
Years ago I sat in front of a brother who obviously could not hold a tune but who sang out as though he were the star performer on an opera stage. Initially, I felt slightly annoyed until I asked myself, “I wonder what God is hearing?”
That question changed everything for me because I knew the answer: God’s listening to his heart!
When we contemplate what Jesus requires for His followers, humility is a key concept that underlies every aspect of our faith and hope. For example, consider the following, personal questions:
Is it possible to have confidence in what I know, to be secure in my salvation and to know the truth without it effecting how I see other people who may disagree with me, who believe differently than me or who do not understand the truths the same way that I understand them….and not judge whether or not they are right or wrong, saved or lost, thinking clearly or thinking poorly?
This was the challenge of the Pharisee (last week’s lesson: Luke 18:9-14) and, Jesus tells us that even though he was confident that he did the right things in the right ways for the right reasons he was still not justified before God.
Who was justified?
The tax collector who probably did not keep the law as carefully as the Pharisee and who realized that he had nothing to which to point that he could offer in order to be justified. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” was his simple plea. Jesus tells us that he was the one who was justified, not the Pharisee.
When Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” He meant it. I am not justified by the blood of Christ AND anything! No one is.
The works that we do are the fruit of what God does in us through the blood of Jesus Christ. We do not judge the world by the fruit we bear but by the one who rescued us when we were helpless to save ourselves. We do not justify ourselves before God by the good He has done in us but in the fact that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all of our sin. This is our only plea. “For,” Jesus says, “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:14).
Today we will review last week’s lesson on humbling ourselves before God and talk about what true humility before God looks like. Jesus says it’s innocent, trusting and simply dependent, just like little children.