Take Up and Read

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:16-17)


The self-described conversion experience of the Church Father, Augustine, includes his hearing a child’s voice repeating the Latin phrase “tole lege,” which translated means “take up and read.”  The philosopher decided the voice was from God and that it was pointing him to read scripture.  The report goes that Augustine opened scripture to Romans 13 and there read verses 13 and 14 which told him something of how to live, including instruction to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  He had heard a word from God found in the Word of God.


I am not big on New Year’s resolutions.  My track record of turning over a new leaf at the beginning of a new year is pretty lousy.  Given that reality, I have nevertheless begun anew a practice I am committed to continue in this year.  It is not a first, but is a repeated practice that I believe is crucial for me for such a time as this.  I certainly do not normally try to get others to join me in making an identical New Year’s Resolution, but in this instance I can readily encourage all of you to join me in this resolution.  I want to invite you to “take up and read!”  I have begun again to read the Bible through.  In the past I have always approached this process by a Genesis through Revelation method.  I have a new approach, one that I have discovered in a new book by friend and highly respected biblical scholar, Union professor,  Dr. George Guthrie.  I ran into George while attending meetings at Lifeway in December.  George said, “I want to give you a copy of my new book.  Have you heard about this project?”  I was stumped and had to admit I had no idea what he was talking about.  In his gentlemanly, kind way George began to tell me about a project to help our churches become more biblically literate.  I was instantly engaged, because I have a deep conviction that our worship contains far too few readings of scripture.  George went to another room to retrieve a couple of copies of his book.  We talked a bit more and I left to attend my group meeting where I shared the extra copy he gave me with a colleague from another state convention.


Over the holidays I read George’s book.  It is very readable and for me, a convicting tome.  Most every day I have been reading sections of the Bible, but the Lord used George’s book to convict me anew of the need to methodically engage in a routine of reading prescribed sections of scripture.  One of the plans outlined in the book for reading the Bible chronologically aids a worship emphasis that I am convinced we need; that of placing ourselves in God’s story.  This new commitment helps me read His Word in just such a manner where I am taking in the acts of God in some kind of order as opposed to just searching for the Word to apply to some want or desire that I have for an answer to some life situation of my own.  It encourages me to consider my place in God’s story rather than just wondering how He fits into mine.  The method helps me center life in Him.


I am reading daily and hope you might consider joining me in the venture. Why am I asking worship music leaders to consider this?  Because I am convinced we desperately need to guide our people in worship that is rooted in God and His story.  Methodically reading His Word places us in a position to gain appropriate perspective that subsequently will have effect on the material we choose for worship.  Being in the Word daily, letting the Word work on us, influence our worship planning, and frame our personal worship journey, will inevitably sharpen our evaluative skills as we consider songs’ appropriateness to be placed on the lips of our people in corporate worship.  I believe a consistent reading of the Word can avail our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work in us and among His people as we work on worship plans.


A word of warning, however, if you do join me in this venture through scripture, get ready!  In planning worship for some upcoming events where I have that responsibility, I have found myself steering away from some songs that first came to mind.  I had selected some because I knew they were things people would like to sing.  Others were pleasing melodies.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these motivations, but biblical impressions challenged my preparation.  I have found myself praying more fervently that God would guide my thoughts and decisions in music and other worship material selections.  While the specific verses I have been reading may not be immediately applicable to thematic sermon material, I find that the saturation in His larger story has helped me think more organically (holistic) about the worship dialogue – revelation and response.  The churches and meetings where I have upcoming worship leadership responsibility will be happy to know I am not hunting songs that have them singing through all the names of the levitical tribes found in 1 Chronicles which is one of the books in which I have been reading as part of the reading plan.  I trust, however, that they will sense a renewed confidence I have in biblical foundation for what worship singing itself is all about.  I pray groups will benefit from leadership I might share that is emboldened by my own sense of calling to lead worship rooted in biblical truth.  I pray they will see Him in the worship I might have privilege to lead, and will respond to His truth, His greatness, His revelation of Himself.


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

–John Rippon






Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Leading Worship, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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