October 28, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
I grew up singing lots of wonderful songs in church, Sunday School, and youth group: “Jesus loves me, this I know . . . . Trust and obey, for there’s no other way . . . . It only takes a spark to get a fire going . . . . We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord . . . .” I had a deep appreciation for music that allowed me to express my faith with joy and gratitude.
But during my youth I rarely experienced what it was like to sing intentionally to the Lord. I’m not saying that God didn’t hear my songs or was not honored by them. He surely received them as worship. But I did not think of God as the audience for my adoration. Part of the reason for this was that so many of my favorite worship songs addressed people, not God directly. I sang, “Jesus loves me,” not “Jesus, you love me.” But even when the lyrics of a hymn did address the Lord, such as in “How Great Thou Art,” it really didn’t feel to me as if I was actually singing to God.
All of this changed when I went to college. I became involved in a small, Pentecostal church. Though some of the worship expressions in our fellowship fell outside of my comfort zone, I did discover what it was like to sing to God. We’d often begin worship by singing “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. He has done great things . . . .” But, soon, our worship leader would lead us to sing, “You have done great things, . . . Bless your holy name.” For the first time in my life, I was deliberately and wholeheartedly singing to God. This transformed my experience of worship and deepened my love for worship and, more importantly, for the Lord.
I was so struck by the wonder of singing to God that for a while I became critical of songs that did not address him directly. Why, I would complain, do we sing “A mighty fortress is our God” when we could be singing, “A mighty fortress are you, God”? My zeal for singing to God limited my appreciation of the diverse genres, actions, and purposes of worship. I wish I had paid more attention to Ephesians 5:19. This verse teaches us to “sing and make music . . . to the Lord.” But it also encourages us to speak to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. If we are always singing to each other, we miss out on something essential in worship. And if we’re only singing to God, we’re also missing out on the edification and encouragement that comes when we speak or sing to each other.
I continue to love psalms, hymns, and songs that help me to sing to the Lord directly. But, as I have grown in my faith, I have also learned how I can sing to the Lord even if the lyrics of a song don’t address him explicitly. When I open my heart to God and incline my attention in his direction, I can sing to him even when saying, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” As my lips sing these words, my heart says, “How amazing is your grace, Lord. You saved a wretch like me!”
Something to Think About:
Do you have favorite psalms, hymns, or songs that address God directly?
Do you have favorite psalms, hymns, or songs that speak to the people gathered for worship?
What helps you turn your heart to the Lord in worship?
What helps you to live your whole life as worship to God?
Something to Do:
The next time you’re participating in corporate worship, play close attention to the songs and hymns. To whom are they being sung? What are they seeking to communicate?
Gracious God, I thank you for the songs and hymns that have filled my worship and shaped my relationship with you. Thank you for those that have instructed and encouraged me. Thank you for those that have given me words to share with you.
No matter what I’m singing, no matter what I’m saying, no matter what I’m thinking, no matter what I am doing, may I offer all that I am and all that I do to you, dear Lord. May I learn to worship you all the time with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. May this happen even today! Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.