Singing Like a Canary

Scripture is completely saturated with singing.  There a whole a lot of people who think the Bible is full of sin, wrath and judgement.  But that is not a fair assessment.  It’s misguided, and side tracks many.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

 Revelation 5:13, NLT

The culmination of the total history of mankind, ends up in this song.  All of the history books, and college lectures and symposiums are merely setting up for this massive choir.  It is what we are all about.

In the Old Testament, it seems everyone sings.  One finds melody everywhere.   Moses sings, the Children of Israel sing.  Miriam sings, Deborah sings. David sings, the Levites in the temple sings.  Most of the Psalms sing. Mary sings, the angels sing. And when the curtain falls on history, everyone sings.  (God’s people are quite melodic it seems.)

“Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. And we see how David and all the saints have wrought their godly thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song.”

Martin Luther

But where does this take you and I?  A common denominator is when one comes to a revelation of God.  With a deeper understanding there is a wider capacity to sing.  Another commonality is responding to a miraculous deliverance, from sin or enemies.  These are just a couple of the reasons we should “join the choir.”

“Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
 At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.”

Psalm 27:6

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

Col. 3:16, NLT

So sing. Sing alone or in a group. It’s the will of God, that pleases Him immensely.

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Worshiping With a Knife

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In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics there exists the ‘Law of First Mention.” Essentially it means that the first time a word or a teaching is mentioned should determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle and a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’

In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the extreme.

“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Genesis 22:4-5

This is the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible. It sets the tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there was no musical instruments involved. Just these things:

  • stones,
  • wood,
  • rope,
  • fire,
  • a knife,
  • and Isaac, the ‘would be’ lamb.

When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ has been used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of. Just a handmade altar, and a knife.

In the end, as Abraham raises his knife, he is stopped. His faith has withstood the test, and he has truly ‘worshipped.’

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Gen. 22:11-12

There really can’t be worship without a sacrifice.

Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better ‘presentation.’ To do this would be a tragic mistake.

The first worshipper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife. This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There can be no worship without sacrifice.

“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”  

Harold Best

Ultimately we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s his blood on God’s altar. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this fact. We of all people have reason to worship.

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Singing New Psalms

Written to bless God’s people, Psalm 136 takes on the issues of life, and the grind of the day. I hope it encourages you to give thanks and praises to God. If you feel like it, add your own verses. His love endures forever.

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Psalm 136, New Bryan Version

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
When I feel lost and alone
His love endures forever.
When my prayers are not answered:
His love endures forever.

When I have marriage problems,
His love endures forever.
When I’m misunderstood,
His love endures forever.
When my job is a big hassle,
His love endures forever.
When my children go astray—
His love endures forever.
When I can’t pay my bills on time,
His love endures forever.
When my ‘discipleship is in doubt;
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
10 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
11 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

12 When I just been diagnosed with cancer,
His love endures forever.
13 When I face chronic depression,
His love endures forever.
14 When I am filled with doubt,
His love endures forever.
15 When everyone wants to rip me off–
His love endures forever.
16 When I can’t see the sun for weeks,
His love endures forever.
17 When it seems like its just one thing after another,
His love endures forever.

Selah

Beyond Worship, [True Understanding]

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“But I will sing about your strength. In the morning I will sing about your love. You are my defender, my place of safety in times of trouble. God, my strength, I will sing praises to you.  God, my defender, you are the God who loves me.”

Psalm 59:16-17, NCV

I’ve always considered singing as strange.  To vocalize with music as a bit bizarre.  The dictionary doesn’t clarify it, but makes it even stranger,

“to utter words or sounds in succession with musical modulations of the voice; vocalize melodically.”
 
And yet from this strangeness, David can find a solid reason to sing.  At this time in David’s life, things are quite tense.  Saul has been focussed on him, and has come very close to pinning David down.  I’m sure David is struggling with anxiety, doubt and despair.  And yet, it is from these considerable issues that David starts singing.
A precedent has been set.  Singing while in deep water.  The song has a theme and direction.  David sings about God.  He sings about His strength, and love, and protection.  I suppose if you are walking through an evil mob– it is really good to be watched over, and to be securely protected is very much appreciated.
When evil is immense and active, our first response should be to sing.  When we direct ourselves toward the Lord, and begin to sing to Him, the enemy scrambles for cover.  Worship scares him.  Satan is confused and frightened when we start to praise our God.  (I tend to think he has an allergy.)
I consider myself to be pragmatic and logical.  There are things I see right through.  Pyramid schemes, Nigerian banking plans, and multilevel marketing are things that are discernible to me.  But this particular Psalm punches through, and I confess I have come to understand this extraordinary power of worship.  When I decide to worship, all heaven breaks loose.
Often, I think, we can “sugar-coat” worship, and make it for feeling good about ourselves.  And yet when we do come into His presence, it is a joy and there is peace for us.  And this is terrific.  But we should reformat our thinking.
Worship is warfare.  As we stand and praise Him, the kingdom of Satan is substantially degraded and minimized.  Worship does this and more. It is an offensive weapon against dark forces. It is a defensive weapon to protect our minds.
Satan fully hopes that we will forget this idea of worship, he strategizes actively against it.  It frightens him when we start to understand.  Worship of the True God drains Satan of his power and authority.  Perhaps sinners truly become kings and queens when we start to praise our God. And that doesn’t sit well with the darkness.
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“Fool’s Wisdom”–Malcolm & Alwyn, [1973]

Alwyn Wall, Jano Wall and Tom Hooper at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, Florida, playing “Fool’s Wisdom.”

Malcolm and Alwyn were a popular British gospel beat music group in the 1970s. They played Beatles-influenced rock music with lyrics reflecting their conversion to Christianity. The duo was composed of Malcolm Wild and Alwyn Wall, who had been performing together in a band called “The Zodiacs” prior to their conversion.

Malcolm and Alwyn recorded two albums in the early ’70s before they disbanded in 1976, and a live reunion album in 1981 before again parting ways. The live album was recorded on January 24, 1981 at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, California.

They recorded “Fool’s Wisdom” in 1973.  It is a simple, spiritual song.  It identifies and expresses the heart of the early “Jesus Movement.”  My personal thinking is that is, the simplicity of lyrics and performance was a blessing.  When I first listened to “Fool’s Wisdom” back in 1976, I was astounded.  Not for its flair, or pyrotechnics, but for its core simplicity.

Fool’s Wisdom Lyrics

Got myself some wisdom from a leather-backed book
Got myself a Saviour when I took a second look
Opened up the pages and what did I find?
A black and white portrait of a King who’s a friend of mine
Funny how when you think you’re right
Everybody else must be wrong
Till someone with Fool’s Wisdom somehow comes along
His voice was strange and the words He said
I didn’t quite understand
Yet I know that he was speaking right
By the leather-backed book in his hand
Hey, hey, what a day!… Fool’s Wisdom
Got myself some wisdom from a leather-backed book
Got myself a Saviour when I took a second look

 

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18, NLT

Some of this was edited from Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_and_Alwyn and

http://robertigno-christianblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2008/10/malcolm-and-alwyn-fools-wisdom-1973.html

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Hope for the Hopeless [Joy]

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12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Romans 12:12

Three things are critical for the New Testament believer:

  1. To rejoice out of a real hope,
  2. a deliberate endurance,
  3. and a prayer life that is unceasing.

These three are vital for us if we want to be authentic saints. These three aspects must become foremost in our discipleship.

Of the three, the first is to rejoice out of a real hope is the most important. It seems like I take the most “hits” over this one. There is a constant erosion  over my joy and my hope. I encounter the false belief that I will be one of the damned. A variation is that I’m ‘cursed’ by God and my life from this point is always going to be hellish and miserable. Frozen like a mosquito in ancient amber.

For me, my mental illness is a sin– the sin of despair. I don’t insist on the right terminology or of definitions. Some believe these issues are demonic. Some wonder about the use of meds, or the value of seeing a psychiatrist or going into therapy. These are all valid, but it seems like polishing the brass rails as the Titanic is seeking.

I won’t try to give answers, because there isn’t a single one to be found. There’s a complexity about the human heart, and God’s sovereign plan that I can’t venture anything. I will only suggest we give room for our own misunderstandings. Perhaps it’s the presence of Jesus we can agree on.

Rejoice in hope,” goes a long ways to combat the enemy, our own fallenness and our own sin of despair. A ‘song to the Lord’ breaks our souls free and is the brokenbelievers true hope is the best antidepressant. But I vote we keep singing out of our cells (Acts 16:25).

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A Jubilate Discipleship: Psalm 95

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A Psalms Study

“Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
    Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let’s sing songs to him,
because the Lord is the great God,
    the great King over all gods.
The deepest places on earth are his,
    and the highest mountains belong to him.
The sea is his because he made it,
    and he created the land with his own hands.

Come, let’s worship him and bow down.
    Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us,
because he is our God
    and we are the people he takes care of,
    the sheep that he tends.

Today listen to what he says:

Psalm 95:1-7, NCV

Such joy: it just bubbles through the words. This is a psalm saturated with excitement. These first seven verses are ‘carbonated joy.’ They pronounce an excitement of a living God that excels in every way. These are simple words made to escort us into a true worship, unlike any other. We might use the word, “jubilant” when hearing this psalm. And we wouldn’t be far off.

“The Lord is the great God,” and He is the King of any ‘so-called’ gods. Everything concerning the earth is His doing– for He created it, with His own hands! And our creating God is also our Shepherd, tending and caring for us as His very own flock.

These verses extol our God, to the point of exuberance. It channels us to the point of worship upon our knees, with the realization of the greatness of God. But this Psalm continues for four more verses.

Today listen to what he says:
“Do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah,
    as they were that day at Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me
    and tried me even though they saw what I did.
10 I was angry with those people for forty years.
    I said, ‘They are not loyal to me
    and have not understood my ways.’
11 I was angry and made a promise,
    ‘They will never enter my rest.’”

Psalm 95:7-11

There are two parts to Psalm 95. The first is of jubilant worship. But the second part emphasizes a solid obedience. The phrase, “Today listen to what he says:’ welds these two sections together.

Worship must always lead to obedience. You can do ‘cartwheels’ on Sunday morning, as long as you follow Him on Monday.

The issue is an history lesson that goes back to Israel’s days of Moses and the days following the Exodus. Because they were so hard and stubborn, they would wander for forty years in the desert. Their continued ‘stubbornness’ not only closed off the Promised Land, but also closed off their relationship with God— a relationship that would’ve been ‘jubilant’ and  profound (at the same time). They missed out on verses 1-6 and settled on verses 8-11. How tragically sad.

There is a thread that works through scripture called “the rest of God.” The book of Hebrews uses in 12x usually as a warning:“Now, since God has left us the promise that we may enter his rest, let us be very careful so none of you will fail to enter.” (Heb. 4:1).

 “Let us try as hard as we can to enter God’s rest so that no one will fail by following the example of those who refused to obey.”

Heb.4:11

To be in God’s rest is to be in harmony with Him. It is a mixture of confident faith mixed with a careful obedience. When you combine these two, you have the recipe for joy.

I believe this rest is the believer’s place of joy, peace and confident faith. It obeys because it really wants to. It is Psalm 95:1-7 in action. It is for the jubilant Christian.

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