We have been looking at a sermon given by Chris Otts at Antioch ATX in Austin TX (our son’s home church) all week here on the Journey. I have been learning and relearning with you and I hope it has blessed you. If you missed the series, start at Monday…and here is the link to the podcast for the original sermon https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/new-year-talk-to-me/id1257271009?i=1000504316920
Today I am covering the bulk of his message which was based on Acts 16.I suggest a refresher read of this chapter at some point but let’s dive in.
In the Acts passages, Paul and Silas have been beaten and are imprisoned. The charges against them are based on exorcising a demon out of a slave girl. Her masters, who made a good bit of income off of her, were so angry they roused a mob and attacked Paul and Silas. Their bleeding bodies are chained in an inner cell of a prison and they are assigned an armed guard. The situation was completely out of their control as they were foreigners held in a high security prison with no means of escape or representation.
So they sang.
In their confinement, under the watchful eye of an armed soldier, they sang praise songs. And so the other prisoners and the guards and anyone within ear shot heard these two carrying on a worship service through the night. Pretty sure that was a first for everyone listening
When I read that I am reminded of the last trip I made to Kenya. We had left the clinic way too late in the afternoon and so as we drove, night fell. Our host missionaries had been warned by the people of the village that there were rumors of bandits waiting for us along the rough roads that led back to our home base. It was quiet and tense in the vehicle I rode in. My friend and I prayed together, but then the Kenyan drivers of our car suggested we sing praise songs. They sang the most beautiful Maasai hymn with gusto and then asked us if we would sing something.
I am embarrassed to say we stumbled around racking our brains for some song we could sing that we would know both the tune and the words. We explained that we aren’t really talented singers, not on the praise team at all…not even asked to be when they are desperate to fill a choir. Even in the dark I could sense our brothers were a bit confused by our hesitation to bust out a praise song.
Much time has passed but as I recollect, we may have managed a feeble attempt at Jesus Loves Me. We got home safely that night and it troubled me that as Americans, we traveled halfway around the world to bring Jesus and we couldn’t even muster up a song of praise.
I realized how much I rely on Christian radio and the praise teams to lead worship and I can just mumble along to the words on the teleprompter. I am not alone in this. Our worship music tends to be trendy and we pick and choose the songs we like to listen to without giving much thought to raising the voice God gave us to sing back to Him.
You would think I learned my lesson, but no.
Years later I found myself in homes in Cuba where our hosts and hostesses for dinners invariably ended up suggesting a hymn sing. With windows wide open to passers by who glared in; and knowing that outward expressions of their faith could mean serious sanctions, they sang with unabashed joy.
Teenage boys and girls, young couples, children, grandparents…all singing loudly. Again I found myself red-faced amongst my American friends having to try to drum up some song we stood a chance of remembering the lyrics to. Without the help of a few instruments and some strong lead singers, we warbled out what we could. It was a noise, but not so very joyful.
It was, as I think of it, extremely self-conscious…which is completely the opposite of what a praise song is supposed to be.
So as I have pondered this week about speaking words of life instead of death, and the power of the tongue and the example of Paul and Silas, it occurs to me that instead of using many words to explain to God what is so very wrong around me or share with my fellow humans the plight of my misery as I struggle with keeping myself upright in a world that has gone topsy-turvy or consuming the many words of others who are in similar chains of the times, perhaps the lesson here is to use my tongue to learn to sing praises first.
For Paul and Silas, praise broke the chains that bound them, flew wide open the doors that confined them and brought the entire household of the jailer to salvation.
Yes. I think I need to go dig out that journal I started many years ago where I was collecting the lyrics to old hymns and new praise songs and practicing singing them all by myself….off key, wrong tempo, sometimes substituting words in that sounded like what I thought they were saying…but God-conscious instead of self-conscious.
Then with a tongue that has been eating words of Life…and a heart that is bearing the fruit of worship…I can speak life and hope and Jesus to those around me who are desperate for hope and healing.