Class Book: Sing With Understanding

I wrote this class book to explore the Biblical principles behind the songs we sing. I love learning the stories behind the spiritual songs we sing in books such as*:

*Affiliate links

For some information on enriching your public singing in worship I’d suggest visiting the  Get Them Singing website.

This class book focuses on the major Bible themes of our songs allowing for discussion of both the Bible teaching and reading the words of popular hymns to explore the meaning described in poetic terms. I list suggested familiar hymns for each lesson and some questions reference particular hymns.

Sing With Understanding CoverIt is a 13 lesson series which fits well into most Bible class schedules. There is plenty material to discuss the topics in two class periods per week. I have often taught the Biblical principles in the Sunday class and explored the words of selected hymns in a mid-week Bible class. It would also be suitable for a small group study.

The book contains only questions which will require the teacher to develop the material to suit the class. I have taught it in adult and high school classes.

You may freely copy this book for your classes. It is 16 pages so it will not cost much to print. You may want to print the cover page separately then print pages 2-16 duplex to save paper.

Download Sing with Understanding.

Lesson Listing

  1. Introduction
  2. Eternal God Our Creator
  3. God Our Protector
  4. God Our Shepherd and Guide
  5. Resurrection and Judgment
  6. Crucifixion
  7. Grace and Salvation
  8. Battle Songs and Victory
  9. Kingdom of God
  10. Evangelism
  11. Brotherly Love and Unity
  12. Christian Living
  13. Heaven

7 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

The Power of Daily Prayer

Prayer is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to spend time with God praising Him, thanking Him for all that He has done, and bringing our anxieties, needs, and concerns before His throne. Prayer is not a burden to God; He seeks worshipers, John 4:23. Jesus urges us to pray and taught His disciples how to pray, Matthew 6:5-13. Paul promised peace to the believer who cast all anxiety into the care of God in Philippians 4:6-7:

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through the scriptures and history, great men and women of faith devoted themselves to prayer and trusted its power.  It’s no wonder Paul urges Christians to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.Pray

Obstacles to Daily Prayer

It is perplexing that some Christians confess to not praying daily or forgetting to pray when its blessings are obvious. Some obstacles I have observed:

  1. Start the day focused on tasks and problems instead of praying before facing the demands of life
  2. Little trust that God will answer our prayers because they doubt that prayer is effective despite what the Bible teaches
  3. Can’t figure out how God will answer their prayers or are disappointed when God doesn’t answer the way they want or expect

We must remember that God will hear His children and He answers prayers through wisdom giving us what we need. Sometimes what we want is opposite of what is best for us. Sometimes we are asking for things opposed to His will, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12,  prayed repeatedly for one outcome but rejoiced the outcome God chose for him as it made him stronger spiritually. God is not a genie to grant our every wish; He is our Father who wants what is best for us and acts out of love for our greater good even when we can’t see or appreciate it at the moment.

6 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

Understanding the blessing and power of daily prayer, when Christians fail to act on that belief they are telling God several things:

  1.  You are not important to me or a priority in my life
  2. I do not have time for you
  3. I do not want to spend time with you
  4. I can handle things without you
  5. I do not believe that you can impact the things I am facing in my life
  6. I have nothing of which to thank or praise you
  7. I can take advantage of our relationship and use you only when I am in trouble or need

How Do You Know What God Wants?

Guest Post by Phil Robertson.

My dad has always enjoyed telling a joke about the thermos. It goes like this. Three men were arguing over what had to be the greatest accomplishment of mankind. One said it was the trips to the moon. Another said it was modern medicine and all the cures. However a third guy said it had to be thermos. Bewildered the first two men said, “Why the thermos? All it does is keep hot things hot and cold thing cold” To which the third guy replied, “Yea, but how does it know?” Think about it. It’s silly, I know.

However, how often do you hear people saying they know what God wants? A young fella walks into a church for the first time and immediately says, “I know this is where God wants me to be.” A lady switches from one church to another because she likes the band and the entertaining worship service. When the emotion fills her heart, she says, “I know this is where God was directing me.” Another man looking for deeper love, leaves his wife and moves in with a girl friend. This new relationship is exciting and he thinks, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Obviously, this is where God wants me to be.”

Mankind has a long history of transforming personal opinion into God’s will. He wants to make God in his own image. He assumes that what makes him feel good is what God wants. God has always challenged these blind assumptions. “You thought that I was one just like yourself” (Ps. 50:21). He even challenged man’s ability to reason at all without His guidance.

In the days of Hosea, the Israelites, who were “God’s chosen people,” were condemned for trusting in their “own ways” (Hos 10:13). They claimed to praise the Most High but they never consulted Him (Hos 11:7). God said, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). They did not consult God, instead they sought counsel from their “wooden idols” and allowed the culture to direct their spiritual aspirations (Hos 4:12).

Jeremiah warned the nation of Judah about seeking man’s advice. He said, “O Lord I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10:23).

Even Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, repeatedly warned of the foolishness of following human wisdom:
• “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Pro 12:15).
• “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but its end is the way to death” (Pro 14:12)
• “Every way of man is right is in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Pro 21:2)
• “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge but the mouth of the fools feeds on foolishness” (Pro 15:14)
Instead of assuming we know what God wants, we should trust God knows what we need. “Seek Me and live” says the Lord (Amos 5:4). He will illuminate our path and direct us in the ways of righteousness (Psa 116:165; Psa 23:3).

The only way we can really know what God wants is to study the Bible. It is His Word and His will for our lives (2 Tim 3:16-17). He wants to obey His directions so He can mold us into His image. Therefore, if we cannot find it in His Book, then we do not have any reason to say, “I know this is where God wants me to be.”

A Christian NOT Celebrating Christmas as a Religious Day?

It usually surprises some who know that I am a devout Christian that I do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday marking the birth of Jesus. After all, when the mantra of many in the Christian world is “put Christ back in Christmas” why is a Christian not supporting this and, in fact, not participating in the religious ceremony?

At the foundation is a conviction to look to the teaching and practice of Jesus and the apostles as revealed in the New Testament as the authority for what I practice as a Christian in worship and in my life. Christmas was not commanded or practiced by Jesus and the apostles and there is no record of the churches of the New Testament celebrating the birth of Jesus. It was introduced much later in history and was not even universally accepted then. As The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religous Knowlege notes:

Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.

For those who would argue that even though Jesus and the apostles didn’t command it and the early church didn’t observe it is still a good thing because it honors God, I’d caution you to consider these points summarized from the post “Just Because We Want It Doesn’t Mean God Wants It”:

  1. David and Nathan, two sincere and devout men decided that it would be good to build a temple for God and that God would be with David (2 Samuel 7). God rebuked them for their presumption noting that He had never command this from His people. Even sincere people may assume that God will be pleased with what they want to do to His glory.
  2. King Jereboam was not acting out of sincere motives and, as recorded in 2 Kings 25, changed the practices commanded by God to suit his needs and was condemned.
  3. The Pharisees also changed service to God by adding practices then condemning those who did not follow the man-made traditions. Jesus rebuked them saying, “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” They went through the motions of worship but God did not accept it.

The second reason that I do not celebrate Christmas as a religous holiday is that it is a mix of Christian symbols and idolatrous practices. Even a quick study of the origins of Christmas, by supporters and critcs, note the links between the idolatrous Saturnalia and Brumalia feasts and the introduction of Christmas. Schaff-Herzog again:

The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence…The pagan festival with it’s riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner.

A quick Internet search of the pagan orgins of Christmas will yield an abundance of sites for those who want to pursue this further. If doing things in worship and service to God without His authority displeases God, so much more would would worship that is established on an idolatrous foundation be abominable to Him! The Old and New Testaments teach this clearly. For a more detailed analysis of the mixture of idolatry into Christian practices, view this article at Myth and Mystery.

Finally, I do not celebrate Christmas as a religous holiday because I am not a member of the Catholic church and do not observe the Catholic liturgical practice known as the mass (described here). I eat the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day to remember the sacrifice of Jesus as was commanded by Jesus and practiced by the apostles and early church. I don’t recognize the authority for a Christ Mass to be celebrated on December 25th in the New Testament therefore I reject that practice. It confuses me that many non-Catholic Christians who reject the authority and traditions of the Catholic church embrace this completely Catholic practice.

This time of year is a great time to spend with family as travel plans and relaxed work schedules permit greater opportunities to spend time together. There is no problem giving gifts to those you love at any time of the year. Christmas has, in many ways, left it’s relgious roots and its symbols–the tree, lights, etc.–have lost their religious significance. Each Christian has to decide to what degree, if any, he will participate in the celebrations but must do so considering the commands and expectations of God and do nothing that takes from His glory.

References: The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Entries for “C” here

Update: 12/21/2011: Added Myth and Mystery Link

Just Because We Want It Doesn’t Mean God Wants It

Sometimes sincere and well-intentioned people want to introduce practices in the worship of God that were not commanded or practiced by Jesus, the apostles, or the church in the New Testament. Often they will counter the request for New Testament authorization that we are free to do what we want in service to God because it would honor Him and it seems like a good thing to do.

Before embracing this philosophy, consider these important lessons from Scripture.

David and Nathan

 David, before his sin with Bathsheba was called “a man after God’s own heart” and after that sin, Nathan was the faithful prophet who confronted the king with his sin. After securing peace for Israel through military power, establishing Jerusalem as the city of the king, and building a fine palace for himself, it occurred to David that he was living in luxury while the Ark of the Covenant, where God’s presence was manifested for Israel, was “dwelling in a tent.” Religious students know that the “tent” was the tabernacle built according to the specific pattern that God gave Moses.

When righteous David expressed his concern to faithful Nathan, the prophet told David “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you (2 Samuel 7:3). Since two faithful and sincere men of God came up with what seemed like a good thing to do for God, the Lord must be pleased, correct?

Before he left the palace grounds, God sent Nathan back to David to tell him that He did not want David to build him a house (temple). In fact, God argued, through Nathan:

In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 2 Samuel 7:7

God had the power and means to command what He wanted and never commanded this. And God made that clear to Nathan and David that they conceived this in their hearts (no matter how sincere they were) but it was not in the heart or plans of God.

Though Nathan was a godly man, he was presumptuous to say that God supported David’s plan. Though David was a godly man, he was presumptuous to suppose that God would be pleased with something that He never commanded. God did allow the construction of the temple, but on His terms and instructions.

Jeroboam’s innovations (1 Kings 12:25-33)

Some changes are not introduced with noble intentions. When the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, King Jeroboam feared that people leaving the northern kingdom to worship in Jerusalem, according to the commands of God, would lead to instability in his kingdom. In order to prevent this he made some changes to to the worship God commanded. Some changes seemed minor but God considered it abominable:

  • Jeroboam built calves at Dan and Bethel and told the people that “these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Note: this sentance sermon also preached by Aaron was not acceptable in his time either – Exodus 32:4).
  • Instead of appointing priests from Levi as commanded by the Law, he appointed anyone who wanted to be a priest. The book of Hebrews notes that by commanding tribes from the tribe of Levi it excluded priests from any other tribe: Hebrews 7:14.
  • He changed the days of worship commanded by the Law to days of his own choosing. Similar to those who forsake the Lord’s Day–the first day of the week–as was the pattern of the New Testament church to days that are more convenient to them.

The effect of this sin is that in addition to the sins the kings of Israel committed, they are also condemned for “following the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin.”

Pharisees

The Pharisees, mentioned often in the gospels, were a religous/political party in the New Testament. They tried to be faithful to the law but introduced practices and condemned men for not following their man-made decrees. In rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus said “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” Matthew 15:9. It is vain worship to follow the practices introduced by the wisdom of man and not the command of God–no matter how sincere or well-intentioned those men might be.

God has given us commands for how to worship. It is presumption and arrogance to think God will just accept whatever we want to worship. It is true sincerity and humility to worship as God instructed.