Monday, May 25, 2009

Open up the door

We were singing a tune from Ps. 24 a few weeks ago...where the Psalmist says "be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in." What does it really mean to open up the door so that the Lord can enter? This is what came to my mind...We want to create an atmosphere that is inviting to the Lord, because without the presence of the Lord, I explained, we are nothing more than a social club. I explained that a key ingredient for an authentic corporate worship gathering requires us entering the place with a right attitude. I believe that attitude includes thankfulness, praise (Ps. 100) and an expectancy of what the Lord is going to do. While it is our personal responsibility to show up on time and in the right frame of mind to help usher in the presence of the Lord in our gatherings, we, as leaders, must remember that the younger crowd probably stayed out way too late the night before, parents have struggled getting their kids there, and somebody probably had car trouble. It is our responsibility, as leaders, to direct the attention towards the goodness of the Lord and why we rolled out of bed, got the kids ready, and fixed the flat tire to get there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Power of Jesus' Name

In the scriptures, Jesus' name caused the lame to walk (Acts 3), silenced the opposition (Acts 4), expelled spirits, opened prison gates and converted lives (Acts 16) among many other miraculous feats. You probably have personal experiences that attest to the power of the name of Jesus.
I've become more conscious of this in the last couple of years. Sometimes the name of Jesus may be absent from a song's lyrics, which is not neccessarily so bad, but sometimes, though not intentional, His name is absent from the whole setlist. We can't forsake the power of His name, and we must not take for granted that our congregants know who we're singing or speaking about. It's inferred, of course, but we often miss the magnitude of His name.
A few years ago, a powerful song by Claire Cloninger and Morris Chapman came on the scene titled, "Jesus, Your Name." It didn't have a hammering chorus or a face-melting guitar riff...only three potent verses that stirred the soul with the following lyrics...

Jesus Your name is power
Jesus Your name is might
Jesus Your name will break ev'ry strong - hold
Jesus Your name is life

Jesus Your name is healing
Jesus Your name gives sight
Jesus Your name will free every captive
Jesus Your name is life

Jesus Your name is holy
Jesus Your name brings light
Jesus Your name above every other
Jesus Your name is life

Let's be conscious and intentional about the use of His name during our corporate worship times and watch how acknowledging the name of Jesus breaks down walls and brings life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Serving Attitude

Be it vocational or volunteer, ministry has a great deal to do with serving people. Before I was ever involved in ministry I helped my dad who opened and closed graves. It was a unique learning environment, but here, I learned some valuable lessons in servanthood. We were around people during some of their most trying and needy times. I learned to be sensitive to the situation and do whatever possible in order to serve those people at that particular moment...it comes down to putting oneself aside and focusing on others.
Ministry and particularly, leading a time of worship in song is also about serving others. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we want to create an environment that is conducive to praising and worshiping the Almighty God. Many times, that means putting personal preferences aside in order to serve the whole body or other musicians...as well as being prepared so that we eliminate distractions that are in our immediate control. Ministry constantly presents different scenarios in which we must put the needs of others in front of our natural selfishness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Growing Your Team

Just as the church body is supposed to be actively growing, both inwardly, in the form of spiritual maturity, and outwardly in number, our music teams should follow suit. I'll save any methods of growth for a later post, but I wanted to mention a few reasons that we should be pursuing growth.
First, I believe that it is a model to the rest of the church, as to our responsibility to evangelize. When there are fresh faces as a result of active growth within the ministry, it helps remind the church body of its' evangelical responsibility. Conversely, when we see the same people every week, it could contribute to an attitude of complacency. We need to steer as far as possible away from the "holy huddle" mentality.
Secondly, the Lord has gifted members of the church body in different ways in order to contribute to His purpose. Many of those who are gifted to contribute musically may be sitting in the crowd. Some are hesitant to speak up because of a fear of being in front of people, and/or the fear that they'll come across as prideful. We must present opportunities for growth in the form of auditions as well as actively pursuing those who we know are musically gifted. If we don't utilize what abilities God has sent our way, then they'll go somewhere else.
Thirdly, fresh faces and new talent will breed growth and creativity within your team. True, your band that has been playing together for years can develop a certain chemistry, but new additions have the potential to bring some much needed creative elements.
Granted, there will be growing pains and new challenges when we pursue and present opportunities for growth, especially in the form of open auditions. Yet, we can't let the fear of telling people that they may be gifted in another area keep us from experiencing the new talent God may be sending our way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Things

We all like new things and the feeling that comes with getting something new. For the ladies, it may be a new outfit or a new pair of shoes. Guys like me get a fix from a new tool, gun, or piece of music gear. For instance, the last guitar I bought was a Gibson Les Paul. I remember getting out of bed every morning, opening the case and just looking at it. This went on for about a week, and then, it gradually became just another guitar. Now, I don’t get that same feeling when I open the case. What happened?
I’m reading a book that addresses this issue. We all have it. It was placed there by God…an internal mechanism that longs for a certain happiness or joy. It’s no secret that mankind spends countless amounts of money and goes in and out of relationships in search for the next outrageous experience in attempts to satisfy this desire, but God intended for us to quench this appetite in Him and more specifically by spending eternity with Him.
Author Kevin Navarro said this about believers and unbelievers alike: “God has put eternity in their hearts.” The Apostle Paul describes it as follows…

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Cor. 5: 1-5.

Phil 3:20-4:1 and Romans 8:22-25 both re-enforce this same idea.
Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven and calls us strangers or aliens in this world. Think about the last long trip you were on…or maybe after a particularly long day when you couldn’t wait to get home…your house, your sanctuary. I think it will be that feeling multiplied a thousand times over. This desire of which we speak can only be satisfied when we arrive at home (heaven) and not by anything in this world.
I think that is why we are stirred in a specific way when we sing throne room songs…those that contain lyrics taken from the worship settings described in Revelation or Isaiah 6. Singing lyrics such as: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God Almighty who was and is and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8) gives us a taste of heaven on earth and wets our appetite for home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Practical Post

I've primarily played acoustic for 10 years now, but I'm slowly familiarizing myself with the electric guitar world...and what a vast world it is! Anyway, I ran across these guys who are electric players in various churches and found some good stuff for worship tune players.
guitarpraise blog
worship guitar guy
guitar for worship

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sacrifice of Praise

“Through Him, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share with others what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:15, 16

I’ve heard this particular passage in Hebrews presented as containing the two aspects of worship…verbal and practical or saying and doing. The first part of the verse contains the verbal aspect, and the second puts the verbal into action. I was recently studying the particular phrase “…a sacrifice of praise.”
Praise, we know as acknowledgement, adornment, giving proper respect, etc, and a sacrifice must cost us something. Araunah offered to give David the threshing floor to make a sacrifice, but David insisted on paying for it. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD, my God, burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Sam. 24:24) Putting these two ideas together…how can praise cost us something? I suggest that it’s a denial of self at the least…recognizing someone as greater than our self.
Secondly, a person might not “feel” like praising. We gather this from the Psalmist in 42:5. “Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?” This writer documents what goes on within all of us at some point or points along our spiritual journey. Just because we don’t “feel” like praising doesn’t mean God is any less worthy. The psalmist goes on to command his soul to praise the Lord “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation.”
There was a chorus that we sang in the late 80’s/early 90’s that contained the lyrics, “we bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” I remember this being an upbeat/fun song...hardly a fitting style for a song about sacrifice, I thought. After studying this verse in the book of Hebrews, I understood the idea a little better. Even when it doesn't calculate with our circumstances, we must command ourselves to praise, just as the Psalmist did.
The next time you don’t “feel” like praising, be it in a corporate or personal setting, try it anyway and see what happens.
Any additional thoughts on the subject?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Salvation Is Here

The prophets told of a Redeemer...a figure who would come and make right the relationship that had been marred because of the sin of mankind...a Rescuer who would come and save us from the power of sin and death. His name is Jesus, and He stepped out of His heavenly dwelling to embody and bring salvation. I love the Joel Houston tune. What a thought?!...Salvation is here.
It's interesting that the major "perks" of salvation aren't realized while one is on this earth. Sure, there are earthly benefits such as: having the Holy Spirit as a guide, growing in the knowledge of ourselves and God, playing a role in God's grand scheme, seeing others come to know Him and grow closer to Him... I'm sure I left out a few, but eternal life with God is the ultimate prize.
So, in this world that sees through the "buy now before it's too late" marketing ploys, how does one go about explaining that the deal must be sealed while on earth, but the major benefit can't be experienced until the post-earth life? ...and what is to come will be worth signing up for even if there were no earthly perks?
I think the early Christ followers, who were persecuted for their belief, to the extent of painful death in some cases, understood this perfectly. In the early life of the Christian church, signing up as a Christ follower basically meant signing your own death warrant, but they understood that what was to come was worth enduring any earthly hardship or persecution.
Salvation is here. Live it out in your daily life, and proclaim it in song.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Secular Tunes in the Church

Secular tunes in the church can be such a controversial issue. As a result, different schools of thought have developed. One says we must be relevant and not so withdrawn from society. The other extreme says to totally distance ourselves from the worldly culture. I've wrestled with this issue over the years, and as for now, I feel like I’ve come down between the two extremes with a viewpoint that is culturally relevant but strategicly done to re-enforce a biblical point in the message.
If I do a secular tune, I like to make people think...”wow, I’ve never really listened to that song and thought about it that way. Then, the next time they hear it on the radio, they're reminded about that point of the message.
Prime example: The pastor at a church I attended was talking about roadblocks in our spiritual journeys that have been caused by hurtful past relationships. During a closing point to the message, the band and a young lady came out and nailed Kelly Clarson's song, "Because of You." I felt that it really hit home to the folks dealing with that issue, and the pastor came back to wrap up and give a proper response.
On the other hand, I’ve sat in services when a secular tune was done just for the sake of doing it, with no connection whatsoever, and it seemed so performance/entertainment driven. Though it was a cool tune, I thought...I didn’t come to church for this. Those 3-4 minutes could have been used in a more effective way. We must remember the fact that a person’s time has become so valuable in our "get ahead" society, and we get roughly an hour, in some cases, to introduce a person to the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Your thoughts?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Perspective

One translations reads..."The Lord has given me everything I have, and now He has taken it away."
I don't claim to be a scholar, and I sure don't want to impose anything on scripture that isn't there. I've just been thinking on Job's statement here lately, and I think Job, because of his limited information, might have been missing the proper perspective...still, there is a huge lesson in his clouded point of view. Job was unaware of the conversation in heaven that had preceded his calamity. Long story short, Satan and his entourage had approached the Lord with a challenge. Satan claimed that people only loved God because of the blessings He bestowed on His followers, and Satan wanted a chance to prove his point. So, aside from taking Job's life, the Lord allowed Satan to have free reign on Job, and the havoc insued. From the reading, it appears that in a matter of minutes, Job finds out that his crops have been destroyed, his animals have been killed, and all of his children have died in what appears to be an accidental roof collapse. Talk about a bad day! Nevertheless, Job makes a huge statement..."The Lord has given me everything I have, and now He has taken it away...Blessed (or praised) be the name of the Lord."
Now, remember that the Lord just allowed Satan freedom on Job's life because the Lord's reputation was in question. Satan was the one who actually did the taking away, with the Lord's permission of course. Here is the lesson as I see it. Job recognized the Lord as the supreme power, and for all Job knew, it was the Lord who took his crops, his animals, and his children. Job had a view of God that many of us miss. He is God. He created us, and our next breath comes from Him. If He wants to take away every "good and perfect thing," then He has every right, but the beauty is that He extends His mercy and grace to us, namely through His son, Jesus, so that we might have a relationship with Him. So, the next time you're having a bad day, check your perspective, and remember that the name of the Lord might possibly be on the line. Choose to praise on the bad days as well as the good.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Excellence: an unblemished offering

While reading through some of the passages in which the Lord was giving the requirements of the sacrifices and offerings in Exodus & Leviticus, I began to think about the reoccurring “without blemish” phrase. I counted at least 12 times in which the Lord made reference to sheep, rams, goats, and bulls with no blemish as acceptable sacrifices and offerings.

“…if it is to be accepted for you, it shall be a male without blemish…you shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” Lev. 22: 19, 20.

When reading this reoccurring phrase, we begin to better understand the idea that the Lord requires and desires nothing except our best or excellence. As He was giving the Commandment not to have any gods before Him, He even said: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” Ex. 20:5.
So what does this mean for you and me? As a Christ follower, I understand that my whole life is an offering to God. However, I was particularly thinking about excellence in ministry when I was reading the phrase “without blemish.” God has gifted us all in different ways so that the body of Christ (the church) can function appropriately, and I view what we do with our gifting as being a part of our offering to Him. For a period of time, I was responsible for the video editing at my church, and I remember working 25 hours on a 5-minute video for the weekend. Part of that was my perfectionism, but the other part was that I wanted to know that I had presented my best to the Lord. From Scripture, I gather that excellence is a big deal to God, so it should be a big deal to us as well.
It must be noted that excellence can have an imbalance as well. A person can get so caught up in the presentation that the communion is forsaken. Personally, I have to be very aware of this balance. I understand that things are going to happen that are outside of human control, but when something is off for my lack of preparation, then my offering is blemished. For that, there is no excuse.
For the last several years, ministry, for me, has been mostly involved with the musical aspect of worship in the corporate setting. So, for me, an offering “without blemish” is presenting my best to Him by sharpening my skills, being prepared, being in the right frame of mind, and bringing with me a lifestyle that has made a valid attempt at honoring Him throughout the week. Too many times, my offering is unacceptable because one or more of these elements are blemished.
Thanks to the work of Jesus, the sacrificial system of the O.T. is no longer needed, but the idea behind presenting unblemished offerings is still as applicable as ever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A "Prodding" Thought From Louie

Louie Giglio has been a major influence on me as a worshiper and leader. Since I began listening and reading his work around ten years ago, Louie has always had a challenging word from the Lord that seems to hit me square in the chest. In April, worshiptogether.com posted an interview with Louie. They asked about the path that led him to where he is today, but towards the end, he made a statement that particularly caught my attention. As a person that has had a part in some of the great songs that have steered us towards God over the last few years, Louie promotes that we "turn down the music, and see if the worship is still there." We can be all about turning the music up and having a "rockin" time of song worship, but does worship sometimes get lost in the music? I admit that I love the instruments, the dynamics, and the creativity, but I have to be careful that I don't let that get in the way of the main reason I'm there...and that's to give honor to my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. You see, music has an enormous affect on one's emotions, so we must be careful that music isn't playing on our emotions in the church. We must also ask if the same level of worship is going on in the lifestyle of the worshipper outside the church walls.
Many of us enjoy worshipping in song with the amps cranked and the bass pumping, but what would happen if we scratched the music this week and read some passages that praised God, or had some folks share what the Lord is doing or teaching them, or what about some congregational prayer and reflective time? Would the worship still be there?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Cattle Prod...of sort


My dad and I had cattle a few years ago, and if you’ve ever had any dealings with livestock, you know they don’t always fully cooperate. Occasionally, we would use a little tool called a cattle prod in order to get them moving in the direction they needed to go. I was thinking today that we, as worship leaders, sometimes must do a little prodding. The title of this post uses the phrase “of sort,” because a cattle prod is a forceful instrument. We must be gentle and loving with our motivation. I’ve seen leaders chastise the congregation for not participating, and it was very inappropriate and distasteful. True, we don’t always enter the corporate worship setting in the proper mind frame. That is where an effective lead worshiper knows how to handle the situation.
Some useful tools that I’ve used over the years…
• Before a note is sung, begin with a “call to worship” scripture passage that outlines why we are there, whom we are honoring, how we are to do that particularly, etc. Many of the Psalms contain great words to read over the people.
• Leading into a song is a great way to draw people in and engaging them to the particular characteristic of God that we’re singing about. When I say “leading in,” I mean speaking what the song means to you personally, reading a scripture passage that enforces the song idea, or perhaps there is a story behind the song or author that might make a connection. You’ve seen this done effectively…you know what I mean. Sometimes it’s planned, and sometimes it’s spontaneous. If it’s planned, I’ll think about it for a few days, and have key points that lead me through the segue. When I first started trying to do this, it was awful. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t articulate it because I was still working through the thought of being in front of people. A friend of mine suggested that I write it down and study it, kinda like a prepared speech. I did that for a while, and it seemed to help. If you’re struggling through that, you might try writing it down. Sometimes those very memorable moments happen when it’s spontaneous and the Holy Spirit seems to be putting the words on your tongue.
• Sometimes I’ll read a passage and leave it at that. I feel that some passages speak so well for themselves that anything I might say would just be getting in the way. The book of Hebrews describes this so well. “…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (4:12)
This is by no means a complete list…just a few of the more common “prodding” techniques that I have observed and used. Feel free to add any thoughts or other methods of motivation, and remember to lead in love.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Healer

If you're part of the worship music circle, you've probably already heard the story. Mike Guglielmucchi, the writer of the popular song, "Healer" who claimed to be suffering from a terminal illness has confessed that he has been deceiving people about his condition for the last two years. You can watch the interview.



I've heard that some, because of their disappointment, have decided to scratch the song from their list. Here's my take...Yeah, the guy deceived many people, hurt those within his circle of influence, and he took advantage of some by accepting their contributions. The bottom line is that he sinned. But wait a minute...so have we. Society and even our Christian community seems to put a degree meter on sin, as though some sins are worse than others. When the reality is, some are just more public than others and sometimes carry different consequences, but let us not forget that the ultimate consequence of our sin is death (Rom 6:23.)
We have inherited it. It's in our DNA. It is imputed into our very being as a result of the Fall. It's the sinful nature (Rom 3:23,) and it's like a disease. However, there is a way out. There is rescue. There is salvation through the Savior, the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Healer, Jesus Christ!
So, I say do the song, and sing it loud because the lyrics are true. And when you sing it, be reminded that the only way out, the only remedy is the Healer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Welcome

I've had it on my mind to put together a site like this for awhile, but I'm just getting around to it. I desire for this to be a place where we can be transparent, interact, share ideas, and most importantly, be unified for the cause of helping people engage with the Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I've had so many people pour themselves into me along the way, and I want to do the same for others. Feel free to share thoughts and resources as we leverage all of our tools and experiences for the common cause. So put a bookmark on it because there is more to come...and thanks for stopping by.