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Thursday: Spirit-Filled Worship (Eph. 5:18-20) — 28 Comments

  1. Sing hymns instead of getting drunk? Paul has to be joking! Imagine walking into a pub and saying to the crowd, “Join me in a Christian song service!” You might get a song, but the words would not be very Christian.

    Paul’s comment about not getting drunk is fair enough. I have been to academic conference dinners where the institution has been paying for the drinks. It’s fun and laughter for a while but then the talk gets risqué and the women get offended. Then the men defend their talk and from then on it gets worse. Sobriety is a useful talent at this stage. You can steer belligerents away from one another. And above all drive home some of those who cannot walk a straight line.

    The most serious problem with alcohol consumption is the inappropriate behaviour that goes with it. But, suggesting hymn signing as an alternative in our modern society would probably be treated as a huge joke.

    But what if our hymn singing was only a figure of speech for a rich full enjoyable happy life to which people, even drunks, feel attracted. I must tell you that my singing is enough to get people drunk. My brain can see notes, and, in my head, I can hear melody and harmony. But somewhere between my brain and my vocal cords there is a bit of dissonant interference and what comes out is not what goes in. I don’t sing in church anymore. Carmel nudges me and tells me to open and shut my mouth, and at least look like I am singing, but I feel stupid doing that. However, my life should be the sort of life that has an easily sung melody, and is harmonious in its interaction with others.

    Don’t get me wrong. If you can sing and it sounds happy and cheerful and in tune, then be all means use that to the glory of God. One of my academic research colleagues, who frequently gets drunk, was with his family celebrating his son’s birthday in a restaurant. Coincidently, a group of my Samoan Avondale students were eating at the same restaurant and on noticing the birthday celebrations they came over and sang a four-part harmony, “Happy Birthday” to my colleague’s son. They made a huge impression on my colleague and in the ensuing conversation he found out who they were and how they were connected to me. That is how I got to hear about it. That is the sort of “hymn singing” that makes a difference in our secular world.

    If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matt 5:15-16 MSG

    • If anyone sings off tune it gives more of a reason for all the other singers to vocalize a little louder so that we all can still give a joyful noise and be united.

      Psalm 98:4

      • LOL! I like our new church in Augusta GA. They have a lot of musical talent and the congregation sings enthusiastically and loudly so I can participate without spoiling the result. I love music but I sing poorly like Maurice.

    • Couldn't help but laugh out loud with your comment especially this paragraph

      "I must tell you that my singing is enough to get people drunk. My brain can see notes, and, in my head, I can hear melody and harmony. But somewhere between my brain and my vocal cords there is a bit of dissonant interference and what comes out is not what goes in. I don’t sing in church anymore. Carmel nudges me and tells me to open and shut my mouth, and at least look like I am singing, but I feel stupid doing that"

    • "The most serious problem with alcohol consumption is the inappropriate behaviour that goes with it."
      As a recovering alcoholic and having set up a treatment center at a local Adventist hospital(many years ago), my observation and experience is alcohol, and other mind-altering behaviors block the ability to hear and experience the Holy Spirit. The key to recovery is reconnecting to Him. This can be observed in long-term sufferers' hatred, bitterness, and evil. Part of successful 12-step groups is a pathway to listening to and being directed by The Spirit.

    • The reality is we don't know if Paul and Silas had good voices, but their singing still made an impression on the other prisoners. And a lot of the commands to sing and praise God don't seem to be optional. Music isn't listed as a spiritual gift, though some people can definitely bless us through it. So I would encourage you to sing anyway, even if you don't sound good. I have never noticed anyone having a really bad voice during corporate singing (if the leader can't sing, that is another matter!), so I don't think anyone needs to hold back.

      Just my opinion, and I admit I am a music lover, though I know many are not.

      • I too am a music lover but I know what music sounds with and without my voice and I prefer the former. I still appreciate good congregational singing, but my line says "tacit" and even tacid contributes. Carmel is a performance-rated pianist and is still heavily involved in music. Her contribution is now in the community where she has challenged herself to play the Ukulele and take part in the local U3A music groups. It's secular singing but she is both a valued contributor and a witness to Christianity in that environment.

        • Maurice, I still encourage you to sing.

          An off-tune lay person singing their praises unto God with their heart & soul is appreciated more by God, than a perfectly in-tune soprano or tenor who does not believe in Him.

        • Maurice, GM. I do appreciate your contribution to the Sabbath school discussion. I'd implore you though may I also share the pictures of the birds. So continue to do same. Plz, do not venture to sing". Plz

          • Ronald, you are always welcome to share the bird pictures. And, thank you for undererstanding the demise of my singing. There was a time when I sang in choirs but age has cracked the vocal chords so that my best contribution is to appreciate the singing of others.

    • I agree with you, Maurice.

      I had a friend who recently passed. She sang off key, but she thought she was a great singer. She loved to sing and I wouldn't say anything when she did. But I must admit, I often cringed when she sang.

      I love to sing. I'm not a professional. I sound OK. But there are times when I stand quietly and I sense a spiritual essence rise up from within me in a perfect worship without me singing anything. Also, I may quietly listen to the words of the song and my heart rejoices. Then their are times when I start singing in tongues in harmony with the congregation, and I am amazed at the sound that comes out! We can sing with our hearts and worship our Lord without the use of our vocal cords when the Spirit performs within.

      I encourage you to sing with your heart in the Spirit without opening your mouth, for the Lord sees what is in your heart ❤️ and appreciates your true worship.

  2. In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul imagines Christians gathered to worship. What does he depict them as doing in that worship ?
    They are filled by the Holy Spirit and giving thanks to God through His Son, King Jesus Christ, through praise and worship.

    How can you use music to enhance your own worship experience ?
    When I am in the kitchen preparing something to eat, I sing a hymn. My favourite is "Trust and Obey" by John H. Sammis (1887).

    I met a man on this last Saturday (straight after my first attendance of a Johannesburg North Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath service) at the garage (gas-filling station) nearby my home. His firstname is Ognian and he is homeless and is currently living in his car (he is of Bulgarian descent and is now a resident of South Africa since 1991).

    We made eye contact as I greeted him and he immediately wanted to speak. So, I stopped walking and we exchanged a few pleasantries and then he immediately takes out his cellphone and asks me if I want to hear a song that he recorded about 4 years ago. He is a guitarist and has exceptional vocal ability. He played me an Afrikaans song titled "My lewe op die straat." = "My life on the street.". It was absolutely beautiful.

    95% of the world's music is about love or something related to love (e.g. sex). This represents our search for God since God is love (1John 4:8). I see music as having the ability to bring us closer together and closer to God.

  3. Gift music!
    It touches the brain where nothing else can,
    Created for the Joy
    Of worshiping God,
    The maker of all

    May the Holy Spirit be
    Like music to the heart,
    To the soul
    Like a song
    Of praise
    to the Lord of Hope!

  4. I like the idea of the horizontal element of music in worship as a vehicle for unity. In many of our churches, congregational singing has been replaced with the choir, praise team, or solo singing. And while all of these are important and valuable elements in a worship service, being able to produce those melodies and words with your own mouth is part of what facilitates the spiritual unity that Paul speaks about in Ephesians.

    (Even scientists recognize the social bonding that happens through group singing. )

    • I agree with you Sarah on "...the horizontal element of music in worship as a vehicle for unity".

      On my first visit to the Johannesburg North Seventh Day Adventist Church (last sabbath) I was fortunate to attend the 9am "Traditional" 1st service & the 12pm "Contemporary" 2nd service. Both had wonderful music.

      In the 1st service a beautiful pipe organ and a piano was used, together with the entire congregation joining in to sing with the choir. It was special since it was my first time to hear a pipe organ being played in person. In addition to this there was a brilliant solo piece played on the piano by a youth member.

      The 2nd service was mainly a younger crowd and contemporary songs (e.g. Oceans by Hillsongs) being played on a guitar with a young choir. The whole congregation also joined in again. It was a great for experience for me.

    • I agree that congregational participation in the music is important partly because it gives us an opportunity to actually participate in the service instead of simply sitting there listening and observing.

  5. Music is very important to me and I play it whenever I can. So I don't need too much nudging in this area. For the last five years or so, before I begin my devotional time, I sing a simple praise song. It gets me in the spirit of worship. When I open and close Sabbath I try to sing a hymn that relates to whatever I am reading. These days it's easy to sing even if you don't have music because there's so much on YouTube to accompany you.

    I do feel it's easy to just sing mindlessly and I want to take the time to really think about what I'm singing. That is something I will try to do more often.

  6. I noticed that many songs at our corporeal worship time are about Jesus and our heavenly Father expressing what they did for us in the ‘third’ person, instead of addressing Them directly with our songs of praise and thanks-giving.
    For example: instead of singing: “how wonderful is our God’, we could sing “God you are wonderful”; or, instead of singing: ‘Jesus is precious to all who believe’, we could sing: “Jesus we love you, you are the most precious Son of God” - to us, you are our Lord and Savior.”

    If I had a say in how to arrange the gathering of the Ekklesia, the open meeting time would focus on a short highlight of a special Message of Truth from Scripture, and the remaining time would be spent in song and prayer addressing God and our Savior directly.

    The lyrics coming from the individual’s heart and mind should attempt to engage with our Lord and our heavenly Father directly. If so enclined, one can engage in this type of singing praises and holding conversation with Them all day long; formulating the lyrics as prompted by the heart and mind at the moment in time.

    To me, singing is praying. Instead of feeling isolated and downcast, locked away in some dark place, we can address any issue in song by adding a melody when voicing our problems or when giving thanks. This is especially soothing and reassuring when addressing doubts, when experiencing difficulties with anxiousness or being impatient or feeling unkind at that moment in time.

    I suggest trying to put 'prayer' into song – speaking with a singing voice whenever the Spirit moves you, expressing that which we would speak or think about during prayer time in a song-like voice.
    In short, singing the new song all day long from the bottom of our heart to the heart and ears of our heavenly Father in the name of His precious Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 😊

    • Brigitte, you appear to advocate addressing our songs only to God, but please consider that this lesson points out, "There is also “horizontal” element to worship since, in singing, church members are in a sense “speaking to one another” (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV)." Thus many hymns are personal testimony or sharing with others in the faith community (ekklesia), while giving tribute to God. Other hymns are addressed directly to God and are thus songs of prayer.

      What you appear to prefer - having worship services consisting mainly of singing praises, is practiced in many faith communities. Unfortunately, the same faith communities appear to focus more on feeling than biblical truth. The Bible encourages us to focus on truth as it is in Jesus, not just feelings, since feelings are fleeting and not reliable to sustain us in trials.

      Paul's counsel in Eph. 5:19-20 can be practiced daily and hourly by keeping the Lord ever before us. At the same time, there is a positive need to assemble together for the purpose of praise and exhortation. (Heb. 10:25) When we hold ourselves apart, we tend to get very self-focused - as in "Jesus and me." That is not the religion of the Bible, which is very much focused on each believer being an integral part of a body of believers (ekklesia). Among other things, rubbing shoulders with other believers and working with them can bring out the rough edges of our character which need to be polished and refined in order to reflect Jesus.

      • I neglected to mention Paul's words in this letter (Eph. 5:19) which form the basis of the author's observation: Paul counsels the Ephesians to speak *to one another* in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. So it seems to me that hymns and songs *about* God go back to ancient times. If you'll check you can find them as far back as the time of Moses, at least.

        Thanks for getting us to think about this

        • Inge - yes, I understand your caution. My aim is to highlight the many ways one can express worhsip of our God and His Son in solitary settings or during corporeal worship time.
          It is certainly true that all benefit when coming together for this special time of worship, as long as it does not descent into a form of an organized performance by folks going through the motions.
          Indeed, this is a very special time to foster our bond with each other as we strenthen and deepen our bonds with our heavenly Father by worshipping Him from the depth of our heart and mind in Spirit and Truth.

    • Agreed Brigitte 🙂 One of my favourite contemporary songs is: "Jesus we love you" by Bethel Music.

      When attending my sister Taryn's baptism at New Life Church in Bryanston, Johannesburg, South Africa on Friday the 2nd of August 2019, during a song change-over, I screamed out from the back of the 1000-seater hall: "Jesus we love you !" and immediately Pastor Freddie Wessels, the worship lead, spoke to his worship team and then proceeded to play "Jesus we love you". It was really soulful stuff.

      All praise goes to our King Jesus Christ 🙏 🙏

      • Dear Brendan – your reply brought to mind one song in particular which penetrates my soul so deeply that it brings tears to my eyes every time I sing it, reducing my voice to a whisper because I am so deeply touched by the truth that I cannot sing it out loud.

        This song is titled: ‘It is Well with My Soul’; inspired by Horatio Spafford’s response to incredibly tragic circumstances unfolding in his life, with the melody composed by Philip Paul Bliss. It is a well-known song and, most likely, everyone is familiar with its lyrics but might not know the story behind it.
        It is one of the songs where members of the Ekklesia, singing the refrain together or separately, can create a wonderfully melodic harmony.
        But let me write out Horatio's amazing response for all to reflect on:

        “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well, with my soul - it is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul

        Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpful estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

        It is well (it is well), with my soul, (with my soul), it is well it is well with my soul

        My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but in whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more – Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!

        It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul), it is well, it is well with my soul
        It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul) it is well, it is well with my soul.

        • Thank you Brigitte 🤗 🙏

          My wife loves old hymns and just told me now a bit about the story behind this beautiful hymn. I searched on Google for the story and got this:

          On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel, killing 226 people, including all four of Spafford's daughters: Annie, age 12; Maggie, 7; Bessie, 4; and 18-month old Tanetta.

          His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in Cardiff, Wales, she sent a telegram to Spafford that read "Saved alone."

          Shortly afterwards, as Spafford travelled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write It Is Well with My Soul as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

          • Brendan - yes, and the reason why he sent his wife and children to London was because he lost all his wealth in the great Chicago fire. He deemed his family to be save away from the devastation, only to loose them in this tragic accident.

  7. Well, to me, the counsel of not getting drunk with wine is not only a fair one but a just one as even Noah who built "The Ark," and braved the flood waters, ended up getting drunk with his own fermented grape juice. Probably in the Apostle Paul's day even Jewish and Gentile "Christians' were probably still fermenting their own grape juice and getting drunk with it. I believe that Ellen G. White made a statement about that fermented beverage as being a "Substitude" for The Holy Spirit. Then there seems to be an allowance by the Apostle Paul about using that beverage for medicinal purposes. But this is far from using it for getting drunk with it.

  8. I play guitar and I also sing for the Lord in worship services and also to people that are on their sick beds and also their death beds. I prefer not to sing to people that are not mentally alert on their sick beds even though I have done it unintentionally at times. But I do believe that there are other ways to socially bless other people other than with songs or psalms even as the Apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians to do.


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