Why Should Christians Sing?

Some things are fascinating by what isn’t said. For instance, in the Christmas carol It Came Upon A Midnight Clear there is something conspicuously missing. 

One thing that isn’t missing is singing. Every one of the stanzas ends with a phrase about the angels singing. But can you spot what IS missing? I didn’t see it at first until I read this quote from respected music professor Dr. C. Michael Hawn: “This may be the only commonly sung Christmas carol in our hymnals that does not mention the birth of Christ! 

This carol just sort of assumes that we know why the angels are singing. But do we know? 

The Bible tells us that the angels were singing at Creation and that they are still singing in Heaven for all of eternity (Job 38:4-7; Revelation 5:9-13; 7:9-12; 15:2-4). Then we have this glimpse of the angels singing when Jesus was incarnated as a human baby in Bethlehem (Luke 2:14). Where did they get their song and their inspiration to sing it?

Their song comes from the Choir Leader who is the King of kings. Jesus is singing in Heaven, before the throne of His Father, about the salvation that He brought to mankind through His incarnation, sinless life, death on Calvary, and resurrection from the grave (see Hebrews 2:9-12). 

The song that Jesus sings tells the story of how He came to earth just like us—made a little lower than the angels—so that He might taste sin and death and conquer them for us. Now as our victorious Savior, He is not ashamed to call those who put their faith in Him His brothers and sisters.

Now perhaps you see why angels are also singing all the time! 

Even today there is a lot of singing around the Christmas season, but there is something missing in most of the songs: a focus on what Christmas really means. The world’s songs are about trees, and gifts, and Santa, and falling in love, but it’s a song that is out of tune with the angelic song. 

As Christians, we have a choice we can look around at this out-of-tune singing and lament what’s happening in our world, we can join in these meaningless songs, or we can look up at our Savior and sing the song He is singing. 

Christian, will you join with the angelic choir to let the world hear the unmistakable love song that Jesus is still singing today? 

Join me on Sunday as we continue our look at the fascinating messages in the old familiar Christmas carols. 

Humbug?!

In Longfellow’s classic I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day every stanza ends with the phrase “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Unless you’ve been living someplace that doesn’t get the daily news, you might be saying, “Peace on earth? Really? I just don’t see it….” Or as Ebenezer Scrooge might say, “Peace on earth? Bah! Humbug!” 

A humbug is an imposter, or something empty of meaning. 

The third stanza of I Heard The Bells seems almost to slide into that Christmas humbug note: “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’” 

Indeed, even for those who call themselves a Christian, Christmas could become a humbug if…

  • … it’s all about busyness or just trying to “survive the holidays” 
  • … we get more excited about Santa Claus coming down the chimney to fill stockings than we do about Jesus coming down to Earth to be born in a manger 
  • … our main focus is on gifts—both what you’re giving and what you’re getting—and then we regret putting ourselves into debt 

Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) is a time span of about 400 years that is called “the dark period.” God had promised through Jeremiah that He would restore the Israelites and rebuild Jerusalem. There were promises of the Messiah coming to set things right, but after 400 years of darkness, the mindset of most Israelites was probably, “Messiah? Peace? Bah! Humbug!!” 

What God really promised through Jeremiah was a peace that came about as a result of two things: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) restoration of a perfect relationship with God. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means one’s personal sense of wholeness and well-being, free from anxiety and fear, knowing that all is well between my soul and God. 

This is what God promises—I will cleanse them from ALL the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive ALL their sins of rebellion against Me (Jeremiah 33:8). 

This shalom is what comes through the First Advent of Jesus! As Longfellow observed, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

And this is what Jesus brought—

  • She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 NIV). 
  • Now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us… (Ephesians 2:13-14 NLT) 
  • Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us grasp the fact that we have…peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Romans 5:1 AMP). 

The bells and carols and remembrances of Christ’s First Advent should send our hearts soaring in anticipation of Christ’s Second Advent—when Christ shall return to take all of His own to be with Him forever, where He will wipe away every tear and where we live forever with Him in the New Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 33:9; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4). 

Let us guard against Christmas ever becoming a humbug—an imposter, something empty of meaning—but let’s make sure the rich meaning of Christ’s peace dwells richly in us! 

Join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the carols of Christmas! 

A Radical Change In Perspective

My friend Josh Schram shared a great message yesterday, wrapping up our series called Fading Gratitude. 

Josh was transparent about some of the struggles he overcame during his younger years, explaining how his decision to be grateful even for those roadblocks completely changed his perspective.

When we’re not intentional, our gratitude naturally begins to fade. It’s not that we’re intentionally ungrateful, but we just merely forget to be thankful. 

Our fading gratitude creates a domino effect. When gratitude fades we live with… 

Anxiety can keep us from even trying to pursue what God has planned for our lives. 

When a large group of people needed to be fed, a couple of Jesus’ disciples forgot about the miracles Jesus had already done in the past, and as a result, they became anxious about what to do next. 

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:7-9)

Yet Jesus multiplied more than enough for everyone to eat AND there were more leftovers than there was food that they originally started with! “So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves” (John 6:13).

That’s why Jesus tells us, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). When we’re grateful for what God provided yesterday, and we’re thankful for what He’s providing today, it will cut short any feelings of anxiety about what God will do again tomorrow!

“No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changed the future, but any amount of gratitude changes the present.” —Ann Voskamp 

Gratitude can radically change our perspective! 

If I’m not choosing gratitude, then gratitude is fading. I can be grateful for things I originally thought were holding me back. I can give those things to Jesus—He is not only more than enough but He also gives back to me more than I gave to Him. 

 

The Gospel Of The Kingdom (book review)

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis presented a series of radio talks which became the book Mere Christianity. It was in this book that Lewis went beyond any denominationalism to the basic tenants of Christianity as outlined in the Bible. T.M. Moore persuasively warns us today of the trend away from “mere” Christianity to what he terms “near Christianity.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is an important book for those who desire to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). 

An increasing number of people who call themselves Christians—and even more alarmingly, those who are in positions of church leadership—aren’t living or preaching the full Gospel as presented in the Scriptures. Moore sounds the clarion call: “We are in danger, I believe, of having embraced, not the Gospel Jesus and the Apostles proclaimed, and for which our forbearers in the faith lived and died, but another gospel, a shallow, self-centered, merely sentimental gospel, which ‘assures’ us of heaven but does not equip us for the kingdom of God.” 

The followers of near Christianity tout how they have been saved from hell, but their profession and lifestyle don’t go beyond that. In other words, there is very little—if any—evidence that Jesus has become the Sovereign of their lives, and that they are living as citizens of God’s Kingdom. “Near Christianity, therefore, produces little in the way of kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it,” says Moore. 

In The Gospel of the Kingdom, Moore fully defines the imposter known as near Christianity, and then systematically details the characteristics of the Kingdom of God that should be evidenced in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. This isn’t just Moore’s opinion, but this short book is thoroughly cross-referenced with over 100 biblical passages.

All Christians—and especially those in the pastorate or other leadership roles—would do well to digest this book. If we aren’t vigilant, near Christianity may dominate the landscape of our churches, which really isn’t Christianity at all. 

I am a Wax Tablet Publications book reviewer. 

Killing Discontentment

Fading gratitude is a terrible thing. Not being thinkful of our past not only keeps us from being thankful, but it also keeps us stuck in the past. And allowing gratitude to fade also sucks the life out of our every-day experiences.

Asaph told us about the manna that God provided for the Israelites to eat every single day that they were in the wilderness. He called it the bread of angels. But even this wasn’t enough for people who weren’t thinkful nor thankful. Instead, they craved more (Psalm 78:25-30). 

The dictionary defines forgetfulness as “ceasing to think about something.” Gratitude, then, is to continue to think about Someone—that “Someone” being God who daily provides for us.

Fading gratitude brings two ugly realities: 

(1) Discontentment. The dictionary calls this “a restless desire or craving for something one does not have.” In other words, it’s counting up what you don’t have instead of being grateful for what you do have. 

(2) Entitlement. This is discontentment’s sickly twin sister. Where discontentment counts up what it doesn’t have, entitlement says, “I deserve what I don’t have!” Jesus told a story about entitled people who had been given land, a vineyard, and everything they needed to be successful with their farm. Yet when the owner of the farmland asked for his rightful payment, the renters thought they were entitled to keep it all. 

There are serious—and potentially eternal—consequences for our unchecked discontented entitlement. Jesus said, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9). And Asaph reported that for the discontented, entitled Israelites, “God’s anger rose against them; He put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel. … So He ended their days in futility and their years in terror” (Psalm 78:31, 33). 

One of two things is going to happen: either we kill discontentment, or discontentment will kill us! 

It’s not complicated to kill discontentment, but it is hard work. We kill discontentment with contentment. We learn to separate the dis from discontentment with the sword of gratitude! 

The apostle Paul wrote “…I have LEARNED to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have LEARNED the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). 

One way to learn contentment is to keep reminders around you of all the things which with God has blessed you. Don’t let your gratitude fade for one moment! 

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by considering what can happen to our future outlook if we let gratitude fade from our hearts and minds. I hope you can join me! 

Forgetfulness Can Be Fatal

Have you ever noticed the up-and-down track record of the Israelites? We see them worshiping God, enjoying His abundance, with their enemies on the run in one chapter, only to see them worshiping idols, barely scraping by, with their enemies closing in on them.  

What led to the downturn from freedom and abundant blessing to slavery and scarcity? I think it’s summed up in two words: They forgot. 

Asaph captures this idea in the 78th Psalm. And if we’re honest with ourselves, Israel’s history is our history too. 

There is a peril in our forgetfulness!  

“When we have much of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the bounties we have received. We are full and we forget God: satisfied with earth, we are content to do without Heaven. Rest assured it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry—so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God.” —Charles Spurgeon (emphasis added)

When our thoughts about God begin to fade, so does our gratitude to God. When our gratitude to God begins to fade, so does our reliance on Him. 

The dictionary defines some important terms:

  • Ungratefulness—not giving due return for benefits conferred
  • Unthankfulness—not repaying the blesser with thanks

I don’t think anyone consciously chooses to be ungrateful, but if we don’t choose to actively remember our blessings—and our Blesser—we will become ungrateful. So what if we began to think differently about the definition of gratitude? 

  • Forgetfulness—to cease to think of something
  • Gratitudeto continue to think of Someone (with that Someone being God!) 

When we are continually thankful—when we don’t let our gratitude fade—it keeps God’s blessings at the forefront of our minds. Gratitude—continuing to think of Someone—makes us completely God-reliant. 

Moses had a good idea to help us to continue to think of God’s blessings—

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9) 

What if you posted reminders of God’s blessings all over the place? What if you made it almost impossible to forget God? What if you were constantly thinking of your blessings? 

Join us for our series called Fading Gratitude during the month of November.

Fading Gratitude

Looking back at the history of God’s people in the Bible, there is a distinct up-and-down cycle. The Israelites would be worshiping God and enjoying His blessings, and then we see them turning their back on God and needing Him to rescue them from oppressors. After God rescues them the people praise Him, only to slip right back into the same downward slide again. 

I believe their slipping away from God can be directly linked to their forgetfulness. 

If any of us allows our gratitude for all of God’s blessings to fade, we will experience the same slipping away. 

However, there is good news! If there is a peril in our forgetfulness, there is also a power in our thankfulness! 

Join us every Sunday in November as we uncover the dangers of fading gratitude, and learn about the blessings that come with our renewed thankfulness. If you cannot join me in person, check out our Facebook Live broadcast.

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