God’s Great Songbook
A.W. Tozer writes…
The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprehensible, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calls unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its source…
No one said it better than Tozer: Our innate yearning to know God and to align our lives with his purpose for us runs deep within our core. It’s that sense of eternity written across the fabric of our being that pulls his worship into our center and us into the center of his worship.
And it was that same yearning to understand more about the worship of Christ that found me living with an urgent sense that God was drawing me towards understanding the Psalms in a new way. To study and study them, to teach them to our teams, to stir up the songs within the Psalms and put them to fresh melodies, to gain more wisdom and fresh revelation as the Psalmist’s journeys of faith and expression inspired me anew. …That was eight years ago now. Hundreds of studies and a stack of songs later and I am only three quarters of the way through.
A VENERABLE TEACHER
I learned as a young Christian, that when I didn’t know how to pray, I could open up the Psalms anytime and say them out loud. There were Psalms for my good days and my bad days. And every time I read the word selah, I learned to take a breath, be calm, pause, and get ready for God to break through once again in my life. Once I learned to open my Bible and sing the Psalms, to be honest, for me there was no looking back.
The Psalms teach us how to pray and how to praise, how to speak and commune with the same God who created heaven and earth. The Psalms teach us songs to sing when we are in the storms of life, or when life is full of good news. The Psalms teach us our first, primal language of prayer: the conversations we have with our great God. The Psalms teach us to come before this great King with thanksgiving and in the fullness of truth, and the Psalms open up our limited sight. Yes, the Psalms instruct us in a language that honors God.
The stories and songs woven throughout the Psalms are critical to the life of any leader of worship, writer, or communicator of songs of worship. This ancient hymnal literally is the greatest handbook on God-song we have. We must ensure that as we are crafting our services or creating songs for others to sing, that both are filled, not just with the Psalms, but with the Word of God; it is his Word that is alive. To assist others by infusing melodies with the living Word of God—giving worshipers occasion to sing strength, hope, and a nearness to our God—now that is one of life’s greatest privileges.
COLLABORATE WITH GOD
Part of our mandate as writers is to help bring songs from imaginings to reality. Creativity in our churches should be about bringing out the glorious color, sound, and texture from the messages contained in the Word of God—weaving together his nature and resolve for humanity in ways that are diverse, memorable, and give him great glory. How beautiful is our God that he would even ask us to sing these melodies of faith? His melodies, sounds, and lyrics help bring a peace and comfort; they anchor our heart to the only one worthy of all praise.
With all my heart, I thank God for all the teachers, writers, and pioneers who have gone before us and proclaimed great songs and hymns of grace and faith, who continue to shine a light on our way forward. But now it is our time. It is your time. Keep filling your songs with Scripture and testimony. In the end, it is the Words of our Heavenly Father that transform every heart willing to receive and sing them. And with this, I simply say, “Lift Jesus higher.”
What a crazy, wonderful honor it is!
Love you dearly,
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Australian Darlene Zschech is acclaimed all over the world as a composer, worship leader, pastor, author and speaker, and became most well known for her involvement in the worship team at Hillsong Church, Sydney, Australia over many years. Although she has achieved numerous gold albums and her songs are sung in many nations of the world, Darlene’s success simply stands as a testimony to her life’s passion for serving God and people with all her heart. Alongside her husband Mark, they are the Senior Pastors of Hope Unlimited Church (HopeUC) on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, which has now grown into India and the USA. As a composer, Darlene is perhaps most famous for the chorus “Shout to the Lord”, a song that is sung by millions of churchgoers every week and has been covered by many other artists. In addition to “Shout to the Lord”, Darlene has written many songs through solo projects: “Kiss of Heaven”, “Change Your World”, “You Are Love”, “In Jesus Name” and “Revealing Jesus”, a live worship album recorded with the Grammy Award winning Israel Houghton. Through the Compassionart project in 2008, Darlene was honoured to have the privilege of writing with some of the most generous-hearted worship writers and leaders of our day.