Tune Our Hearts, part 1

Read other articles in this series: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

I love music. I love to sing. I always have.

I particularly enjoy singing with other Christians. I love the harmonies and the encouragement. I love worshiping God in song.

One of my favorite worship songs is an old hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I am especially fond of the first verse:

Come Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.

It’s such a majestic thought, that God’s “streams of mercy” that never end call on me to worship Him with “songs of loudest praise.”

That thought leads me to an interesting question: why songs? Couldn’t I just say the words of praise on my heart to God? Can’t I just pray, and speak worship? Why do we need the music?

Paul, in both Ephesians and Colossians, strongly urges his Christian audiences to sing. Here’s his instruction from Ephesians 5:18-19:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.

Paul tells us to address one another with songs, to sing, and to make melody to the Lord. If the words and message are all that is important, then he could have as easily told us to teach, preach, and pray. But, Paul tells us to use music. Why?

I think part of the answer lies in the first verse of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. We need singing and music to help “tune our hearts.” The music itself is an essential element of being “filled with the Spirit” (the true command in the passage).

p.s. – for more reading on this subject, check out this wonderful article.

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11 thoughts on “Tune Our Hearts, part 1

  1. Clint,

    This reminds me of another N.T. Wright quote. I’ll paste it in. . .

    “The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way. The present world is good, but broken and in any case incomplete; art of all kinds enables us to understand that paradox in its many dimensions. . . .”

    -N. T. Wright in Simply Christian

    It seems that the church, maybe even especially the ‘church of Christ’, has banished the arts and the artists in many ways. I believe many artists have left churches because of not being allowed to use their gifts. Creativity, although central to God’s nature and ours as his image bearers, has not been valued in the church, at least in the traditions I’ve grown up in. Music is certainly one of those areas that we can start to do this more in.

    Pablo Picasso said that everything you can imagine is real. I guess it depends on what he meant by that but I think the open-endedness of it is part of the point. That Picasso quote is very motivating to me. Sorry if this has strayed to the point of having nothing to do with your post. Later. . .

    • I agree, Mark. We have some outlets for artists, but they are usually restricted to song-leading and VBS prep. We should encourage more creativity. Wouldn’t it be great to have original paintings or drawings up on the walls at the church building? Or songs written by members to sing with the congregation? I think so.

      • I think the comment about songs written by members would be good. I know, as a young lad, I heard quite a few songs my mother wrote and sang in Church. I know most COC do not allow solo singing but the members could write songs that could be sung by the assembly.

        Randy

        Ps. I had 2 accounts with FaceBook…now just one. Can I send you a friends request?

  2. Yeah, we do have a few outlets, but I feel like even those are so restrictive that real creativity is difficult. Paintings in church buildings are a great idea. I’ve brought that up many times, but nothing ever happens. I think one reason is because we’ve already driven most of the artists away.

    I think we used to shy away from that sort of thing because we thought that was for Catholics and they worshiped ‘icons’ when they had paintings and statues and such in their buildings. Now, I think we just are used to the status-quo and don’t do it because its different. These are all over-generalizations I’m sure.

  3. Clint,
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post and, especially, the link to the Guthrie article. He goes where we, as a fellowship, typically fear to go because 1) it involves us in “spiritual” contemplation and we are afraid of the Holy Spirit, and 2) it involves us in “emotional” contemplation and we are afraid of emotion. Maybe, even more, we are afraid of any connection between the two, and that, of course, is precisely Guthrie’s point. I, personally, have certainly tended more toward the Augustinian and Calvinistic views he expressed – music must serve the Word, must respond to reason and rationality. I’ll probably still continue to “live” there, because the Word is the primary concern. But I he certainly presents a compelling analysis of Ephesians and, further, a compelling argument for allowing some room for the “sense” to lead the “reason.”
    Music is very important to me. Thanks for drawing me into some “deeper” thinking about why that is true for the church.
    Bobby

    • I think you are right about our fears. Hopefully we can help to nudge our congregations in the right direction. I also agree that the Word is most important…….but as Guthrie said, that doesn’t negate the fact that the music is a necessary, important, scriptural part of worship and edification.

      I will probably explore this more in future posts, but that edification business is incredibly important, and something else we have not emphasized enough. We sing to God, but we also sing to one another….which means it’s good for us to enjoy the music and be encouraged by it. In fact, edification seems to be the primary focus of nearly every “worship” section in the NT. I’ll save that for later 🙂

  4. Cint: As to the “paintings” discussion, ask me about the Jesus painting in the teen room some time!

    Back to the singing. Here’s a thought to ponder. Discipline. Participating in, teaching, or learning singing requires discipline. Getting an 80% on a math test is great. Hitting 80% of the notes in a song is not (Radio commercial rip-off statement).

    There is something in the way that God created us that causes us to enjoy good music and hate bad music. I am not talking about Rap vs. Big Band styles, but rather the simple recognition of sounds, chords, repitition, harmony, etc.

    Sit alone in a tree stand for hours and pay attention to nature. The sound of the wind, rain, leaves, animals, and even man all have a blending that brings inner peace. The same is true with good music. Through good music we can experience something that we can’t experience alone!

    Re-examine the first part of this familiar verse–“addressing one another”. We sing not just to God but to each other. That is why good music lifts us up and bad music irritates us, makes us depressed and/or upset. It is the bad blending of the music that we automatically recognize.

    A good musician must apply dicipline in mastering his craft. Hours of practice, experimentation, testing, and even more failure than success leads to the end product that we share with our brothers. If you care about “addressing” your brother, you take the time and put in the effort to address them in a pleasing or blennding manner.

    Thanks for the good article.

    LM

    • I saw a guy (not sure if it was the same one) do a painting like that once. It was pretty neat.

      I agree, good music takes some discipline, and our congregations could probably use more diligence in our singing. To think that we are singing to God and to one another, but we often don’t sing well or with much heart…

      On the other hand, there are many poor musicians whose singing I have been very encouraged by…just humble, sincere, Christians who may miss 20% if the notes, and may only know how to sing the melody, but they put their heart into it.

      That’s not to say that those of us with the talent and opportunity shouldn’t improve our music for the sake of others, but it is to say that we have to be extremely careful not to emphasize correct music over a correct heart. I have been to a lot of “worship” seminars, but none of them did a very good job of maintaining this proper emphasis (in my opinion). I think we need worship seminars that encourage sincerity over correctness. Or at least that properly balance the two.

      I also think that for those of us with training in music it can be somewhat of a curse….we hear what others don’t, and we focus on mistakes others would never give a thought to.

      • Harry Sisek! A name that will never mean anything to you or anyone else who reads this. You KNEW when Harry was in worship. The absolute worst singer God ever planted on this earth. But no one who knew Harry would ever question his sincerity, commitment or his love of God or his neighbor. I think of Harry when I hear people say they can’t sing. They have no clue what that means, if they haven’t heard Harry. I miss him!

  5. Clint,
    Here’s how I see it, music if done the right way is there to teach us somithing. The trick is we have to pay close attention to see what the message and what we can gain or take from it! I Belive that God uses music as a bonus tool that goes along with his word to helps better understand and grasp what it is hes trying to tell us. It is ever to get caught up in the instrumental part of the music and not pay attention to the lyrics. This is what I love about worshiping the Lord in acapella, by taking out the instruments your forced to listen to the lyrics. Moreover when you sing the lyrics you do so with more joy and more heart. Which in my opinion when blended with Christians gives it a deeper meaning and more heavenly sound!

    As for creativity I believe we are creative in our own way, what we lack is the ability to bring all those talents together as a family of God and use them for his honor and Glory!

    Thanks for your insight
    —Bryant

    T

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