daniel rowe

Why Christians Sing

The following post was inspired by an article from Bob Kauflin, author of Worship Matters and Director of Worship Development at Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’ve added some thoughts specific to my own experience and ministry, but you can find the original post at desiringgod.org.

Corporate Christian singing is unique — and strange. Where else, unless you work in a school, do you gather to sing for thirty minutes every week to sing together? It’s an odd tradition in the world we live in. But we don’t do it for odd or unknown reasons. We do it for gospel, God-centered reasons.

As Christians, we sing to remember, respond, and reflect.

1) Singing helps us remember God’s word. In Colossians 3:16, Paul ties the word (the gospel of Jesus) and our singing together in an exceedingly clear way. Why? Because it helps us remember Christ long after the specific points of a sermon have left our mind. We’re hard-wired to connect and remember in melodies and rhymes. We “dwell” (as Paul puts it) in song. But lyrics and progressions aren’t the end of our singing. The word of God is. It only must be supreme ingredient in our signing.

This is why Scripture plays such an intimate role in our services. Not that we get it right all the time, but we do know that singing without the guidance and girding of the Bible is vainity. It’s also why Scripture must play such an initmate role in our own lives. Coming to corporate worship without spending individual time in the Scriptures is neither loving to Christ nor his bride.

Work this week at being a disciple who is rooted in the truth of Scripture.

2) Singing helps us respond to God’s grace. If singing helps us remember the Scriptures, it also helps us correctly respond to them and the hope of salvation we find in them. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus makes it very clear to us that mindless and heartless worship is of no use to him. It is not worship at all. We must honor God with our heart, with our mind, and with our emotions. Emotionless singing is an oxymoron. There is something sacred about Christian singing that gets at places in our being where words or reason alone can not take us. That’s why God gave us the gift of song — to lift our voices in praise and thankfulness to him. No other earthly means can do that for us.

The danger here is to work ourselves in to a frenzy and put on a performance of thanksgiving to God when we gather to sing. This, just like music without Scripture, is vanity. Our hearts are just as far from God if we try to act our way into a response as they are if we do not respond at all. It’s the Pharisee and tax collector metaphor all over again. But we can avoid this trap by being people who are in intimate relationship with God and are overflowing with genuine thankfulness.

Work this week at being a believer who is authentically grateful for the gospel of Jesus.

3) Singing helps us reflect God’s glory. As Colossians 3:17 says, we sing and do all other things in the name of the Lord Jesus — to bring glory to the triune God. Singing glorifies God as it unifies us in one voice and helps us anticipate the joyful worship waiting in heaven. We can most clearly declare what God has done in us and is going to do for us through corporate singing. It’s hopeful and honoring to God.

As a worship leader, it’s difficult some weeks to not want to ‘borrow’ some of the glory given for myself. That’s a prideful tempation of my flesh as I desire attention and appreciation from others. Maybe that same temptation is alive in you as you decide whether to come to church each Sunday, where to sit, or what to do with your hands. But the truth is that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. We need not try to steal the show or resist giving God what he deserves. He alone is satisfying and worthy of all praise.

Work this week at being a child of the Creator who realizes how gloriously worthy of worship he is.

Finally, the worship services you attend this week are not for music lovers. They’re for God lovers. And who cares whether you can carry a tune in a bucket? You know you have been given a song of praise, so lift your voice in remembrance of God’s word, in response to God’s grace, and in reflection of God’s glory.

Gospel Worship

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” (Matthew 15:9)

Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, confirms for us that it is possible to worship God in vain. It is possible to faithfully attend church each week and declare the name of the triune God using biblical words and forms yet waste your time and labor in vain.

True worship only happens after a person has received the gospel of Jesus Christ and been inhabited by the Spirit. Until that happens, we are simply reaching out to God and trying to justify ourselves through forms or words. Gospel-receiving corrects our understanding of worship by showing us the gratitude of a heart that knows God has instead reached down to us. Gospel-driven worship is a grateful response not a legalistic effort.

Most of this comes from an article written by Don Whitney and published in this month’s edition of Tabletalk Magazine. Whitney offers a helpful summary by stating, “People do not decide to become worshippers of God; rather, the gospel produces worshippers.”

Not only does the gospel initiate our worship, it guides and sustains it. We are not worshipping if we are not proclaiming the Good News. If we want to worship in spirit and truth we will preach, sing, and pray it each and every week as we come to know that there is nothing greater than what we have received. Love of the gospel and love of worshiping the God of the gospel are inseperable.

As a team of lead worshippers at First Baptist Belton, we try each week to proclaim and celebrate the gospel so that what we offer up might be a pleasing aroma to our God. That’s why we say that worship is “the overflow of being fully satisfied with God that results in the joyful celebration of God for the glory of God.”
Our worship begins with God, is offered to God, and finds its purpose in God — but only because God first came to us. That is the gospel. And that demands our worship.

Don’t Waste Your Sickness

I have a cold. And a pretty nasty one. No amount of vitamin C this winter could overcome the fact that every other person I know is sick, and that I just spent a week in single digit weather with pastors from every corner of the country. I was destined to be laid up with it. Sorta like trying to find a sporting goods store in this state that doesn’t sell University of Texas gear — you just can’t avoid it.

As I swallowed a capful of off-brand nightime cold medicine before bed, I thought about how crappy it was to be sick. Despite the fact that you have a reason to lay at home and sleep a lot, I’ve never heard anyone celebrating their sickness as a reward.

Now I’m not trying to be holy here. There’s not an ounce of me that enjoys the achy muscles, constant coughing, and pounding headache. But as I laid down to sleep last night, I prayed with Daena that God would keep me from wasting my sickness. And here’s what I meant:

I wanted God to make me acutely aware that this is what sin does to my soul. Like a dog returning to it’s vomit, so does my flesh want to return to sin. So often, I give in to my flesh and choose sin over God’s promises. It literally is sick. And it makes my soul sick. It hardens my heart, but I continue to choose it.

What if I hated sin the way I hate this cold for knocking my body out of commission? What if I labored to defeat it by devouring Scripture and working in prayer the way I am loading myself with meds now?

Second, I prayed that God would help me use the weakness in my body to remind me that heaven will be the exact opposite of this suffering. I’m not trying to be a martyr. This isn’t terminal cancer. But it does remind me that while earth is full of punishment for sin, heaven is free from it. This body will never be sick or weak or in need. It will always be in full health and eager to spend endless energy in the enjoyment of God.

Pray with me that whether the cold or allergies or broken bones or cancer that we would not waste the chances our weak bodies give us to be about the business of killing sin and hoping in heaven.

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In the meantime, I’ve just finished reading This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper. Whether married, single, or divorced, this book gives an excellent and biblical view of God’s purpose in marriage and singleness. Appropriately, it helps us learn to use our relationships to hope in heaven.

You can grab a copy from Amazon or download a free PDF of it from DesiringGod.

A Choir Girl Changes Everything

I give Daena a hard time about being such a ‘choir girl’ who will commit herself whole-heartedly to anything that involves a group of people singing together. It’s fun messing with her (even as I drive us to the Sunday night Christmas show at church) until I sit through the show and lister to her sing with a choir behind her. It’s amazing, y’all. and the choir isn’t half bad either.

Here’s the video from last night’s performance of “A Baby Changes Everything” from the First Baptist Belton Christmas program. Enjoy!

How I ever got this girl, I will never know. And that’s a question I got a lot last night from teary-eyed women as we tried to make our way out of the room and off to dinner with our friends. All I can say is… a choir girl changes everything.

Second Chances

Daena doesn’t remember the first time we met. And I can be pretty stupid when it comes to love.

We can agree that we met as students at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (but the year shall remain unknown since we can’t agree). Daena had stopped by the house of a mutual friend who she knew from Huntsville to borrow some music equipment. Austin introduce me to her and told me later how funny and talented she was. All I remember thinking was how beautiful she was. Apparently, she wasn’t quite as impressed with me as she walked out that day not even remembering our encounter.

Though I thought she was amazing, I never got the courage to try to spend time alone with her. I just settled to be the guy who watched her sing during OneVoice chapel or sang along with her as she led worshipand wondered who the lucky fool would be who eventually won her heart and got to spend the rest of his life listening to her laugh and sing as she cooked dinner for him.

This chance-encounter-every-few-weeks went on for quite a while with me thinking there’s no way I’d ever get a chance with her. She was a year older than me and way too amazing to want anything to do with me. So I never tried to pursue her. I just settled for admiring her from a far. Lame and stupid… I know.

In the summer of 2008, Daena decided to stay in Belton to take a few classes she needed in order to graduate that December. If you’ve ever been to our little town, you know that there’s not that much to do if you are a college student here during the downtime of summer — especially if you’re not a lifelong Beltonian. I was working as an intern at the church, so we naturally started spending more time together. We played volleyball, ate a lot of meals together, and spent more time singing with each other during church — something I really liked. We even got in the habit of watching every night of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics together on DVR at her rent house — also something I enjoyed. It’s this hobby that led to us now calling our time together during those months “Olympic Summer.” And it was one of the happiest summers of my life.

Daena would tell you she was ready to date then. But I just wasn’t picking up what she was putting down. That would be the whole “stupid in love” thing from the beginning of this story. Looking back now, I was completely ignorant. I remember our trip to float the Guadalupe River that same summer where I laughed harder and longer with her than I ever had before. Our friends thought we’d be dating in the matter of a few weeks. But I was still not there. I think there was something that had me scared about just how perfect everything was with her. I guess I wasn’t ready for that lifelong commitment even if I had admitted to myself that she was the one.

Fall semester came, and by September I was pursuing other relationships — ones that didn’t make me near as happy as she did — but I did it anyway. Some people might say that I wasted those months as she graduated and moved to Coppell with barely a word said between us. I’d be tempted to agree with them, but looking back now I realize that I need to miss her to realize how much I wanted her.

By chance, we sang together in a wedding of our friends that March. Daena (God only knows how) was still interested in me, but she never made a move. We sang, ate, and laughed together that weekend just like we had the summer before. It was great, but I was still too stupid to make a move.

Those other relationships came to an end later in the spring of 2009, and I texted Daena late on night in May after I got a new job at the church. I told her it was a lot like what she was doing in Coppell and that I’d love to talk to her about it if we got the chance. We did end up talking about our jobs — and a lot more — for a couple of hours. And it was awesome. I started to look forward to phone conversations with her every night, a practice my roommates enjoyed making fun of. But they made my days worth enduring.

After about a month of phone conversations, something came over me, and I finally got up the nerve to ask her to go to a Texas Rangers game with me. It was an odd request since they were terrible at the time and the stadium was over two hours away from me. But she accepted, and our first date finally happened… after years of my hard-headedness and stupdity.

There’s a lot that happened in that next year, but we’ll save those stories for later.

We got engaged in May of 2010 and were married last month on November 20. It has been the greatest journey of my life. Daena has shown me more about forgiveness than any of my theology classes could have, and she has truly been grace in flesh for me. I still can’t believe I’m that lucky fool who eventually won her heart and now gets to spend the rest of my life listening to her laugh and sing while she works in the kitchen or does laundry in our new home.

We truly are blessed. We want to record some of those blessings here along with our stories about a new marriage and thoughts about life in general. We hope you’ll stop by often to check out The Rowe Record.

Sunday Prayer

“You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place.” (Tim Chester in “You Can Change”)

Father, help me to see my sin as completely pardoned and not focus on its consequences. Instead, send the Spirit to set my heart and desires on Christ crucified. Help me this week to avoid double-mindedness and weak faith, for your glory and my joy.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Wednesday Web Gems

Old Spice Parody – The “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign is pure genius. And imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? Well, the Lee Library at BYU has done an incredible job of imitating. Check out this 1:00 video and be impressed. If you care, there’s an entire behind the scenes blog dedicated to its production.

Long-Term Unemployment – A little history and economics never hurt. I won’t bore you with the details, which you can read for yourself, but this graph represents what we’re up against in a way I haven’t seen yet. It’s time for some fiscally-responsible capitalism.

London 2012 Redesign – I’m a design geek. So when a logo, advertisement, or marketing campaign sucks, it bugs me. The London 2012 Olympic logo sucks. And it bugs me… along with most other sane people in the world. And just to prove how bad it is, check out one graphic arts student’s redesign. Most definitely an improvement.

Jesus and Adam Wainwright – My friends and family will hate that I’m posting a pro-St. Louis link here, but the story is just too good to pass up. So often you hear of athletes being believers and never really now if the faith is authentic or if all the pointing to the sky and thanking God is just for show. Looks like Cardinals star, Wainwright, truly understands his need for a Savior.