Friday, June 19, 2009

Closing the Doors

So for anyone who has been checking in on me, you notice that I post once or twice a month at best. I have decided to officially close the doors on the blog for a little while. I will re-open when I get a better picture of what I have to offer as a blogger and can post often enough to make it worth everyone's time.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

VOY o Voy

Hey all, this Sunday is Vitality of Youth Sunday, which means that the spotlight will be on our Junior and Senior High students. Please make sure to come support our students as they help lead us in worship in all three services. Then, stay for the picnic afterward where we will welcome members of other congregations that meet at Hope and OCMC.

Monday, April 27, 2009

3 Chapters a Day

Did you realize that if you read 3 chapters of the Bible each day, you can read the whole thing in a year? Ok, so you have to read 1 extra chapter a week to make it work out, but that is more than manageable. There is an average of about 700 words per chapter, which means reading around 2100 words a day. For ease, let's call it 15 minutes a day. Can you carve out 15 minutes a day to read God's revelation to us?

(Is it wrong to suggest you skim genealogies?)

If you've never read the whole Bible before, I encourage you to challenge yourself to do this in the next year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why I should stop being a muscial snob

I found this article by Bob Kauflin through another blog. I am guilty of a lot of this. Are you?

I Hate That Music

by Bob Kauflin

I’ve been musing recently about how we express our musical opinions. Why do we feel so strongly about songs, bands, and styles? And why do we draw conclusions so quickly? Someone plays a new song or band for us and we have an immediate response:

Nope. Don’t like it.

That stinks.

I can’t stand that kind of music.

You like that stuff?

Is there anything wrong with raving about the music/artists we love and being swift to trash those we despise?

If we’re Christians, yes. Let me suggest ten reasons why musical forbearance might be good for our souls.

1. Being a self-appointed music critic is often just a sign of pride.

Using exaggerated or biting words to put down certain songs, styles, or artists can be a symptom of selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. Music is a vast topic, and no one knows everything there is to know about it. I know at times I haven’t taken time to consider whether or not my assessment was accurate because I was busy sharing my opinions. (Prov. 18:2)

2. Music doesn’t define us.

Why do we become offended when someone critiques our favorite song, group, or style of music? Often it’s because they feel like they’re insulting “our” music, which means they’re insulting us. The problem might be that we’re viewing music as an idol, the thing that satisfies us and gives meaning to our life. Music isn’t our life — Christ is. (Col. 3:4).

3. Great songs don’t always sound great the first time through.

Some songs require repeated listenings to appreciate their value. Albums and songs often grow on us over time. Is the best music always instantly accessible or appealing? If we’ve learned anything from hundreds of years of music making, the answer would have to be no.

4. Listening to music the masses have never heard of doesn’t make us better.

Some of us derive a particular joy in finding and listening to obscure, undiscovered artists. I sure like coming across a great band I’ve never heard of. But finding an unknown artist isn’t admirable in and of itself. Some bands are undiscovered because they’re not very good. And if we do happen to discover a talented unknown band, it’s an opportunity to serve others, not look down on them.

5. Listening to music that is massively popular doesn’t make us better.

This is the opposite craving of the previous point. It’s the mindset that says if the song or artist hasn’t been on the radio, at the top of the charts, or on TV, it’s not worth listening to.

6. Learning to appreciate unfamiliar music is one way to prefer others. I can find this hard to believe at times, but not everyone likes the music I do. And patiently seeking to understand why my friends like the music they do will not only cultivate humility. (Phil. 2:4) It might broaden my musical world!

7. Learning to like other kinds of music can open my eyes to God’s creativity.

In his book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best addresses musical elitists. “Among all this stuff that needs aesthetic redeeming, there is also goodness, a whole lot of integrity and honesty, from which they themselves can learn.” (p. 89) That means I can actually enjoy music that is less sophisticated than what I’d ordinarily listen to.

8. We may have to eat our words.

It’s happened more than a few times. I mouth off about how bad a song is, and later on start to think it’s actually pretty good. Or I tear up a song on my blog and later find myself talking to a person who loves it or the person who wrote it. Oops.

9. We might be missing an opportunity to be grateful for God’s gifts.

Our tendency is to assume that God’s gifts all look and sound the same. They don’t, and that shouldn’t surprise us. What would happen if the first time we heard a song we were grateful rather than critical? James 1:17 tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Those good gifts might include that new song that sounds so strange to our ears.

10. Being opinionated about music can affect our ability to worship God corporately.

How many times have you heard the first few bars of a worship song on Sunday and thought, “Oh no…I can’t stand this song.” Or maybe you’re talking with a group of friends at lunch on Sunday, and you’re letting them know which songs you really didn’t like. In either case, we’re giving more value to our musical preferences than God’s command to sing his praise and to love him with all our hearts. Do we really want to let our musical opinions keep us from worshiping the God who gave us music in the first place?

Let me be clear. No song is above evaluation and some songs are better than others in a particular genre. But we just might serve others and ourselves more effectively if we expressed our musical opinions with a little more grace.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Worship is Eternal!

Did you realize how big a deal worship is? This morning as I was torturing myself on a stationary bicycle, I read something that may change the way I look at worship forever.

Reflecting on Ephesians 1:3-6, Bob Kauflin had this to say:

God chose us before the foundation of the world because he loved us. But why did he choose us? Not so that we might endlessly reflect upon ourselves, but for the "praise of his glorious grace." When we worship God, we join an activity that began in eternity and will continue forever - the triune God valuing his beauty and worthy above everything else
(From Worship Matters page 176.)

When we worship God, we are joining in something that began in God's mind before time began and is going to continue on forever. When we worship Jesus Christ, we are tapping into eternity! That may change my attitude every time I offer my meager worship to God.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Find what works for you

I spent a lot of years and a lot of money trying to get the sound that other guitar players had. In fact, a few years ago, I had the exact same set up as a friend of mine who is an amazing guitar player. We had the same guitar running into the same multi-effects pedal, running out to the same amp. The only difference was that it sounded good when he played, and it sounded mediocre when I played. A lot of people have put all their money into gear that is named after their favorite musicians, but don't have the same results.

It turns out that the most important factor in determining your individual sound comes before the pedals, before the pickups, before the strings, and before your pick. It starts with the notes you choose and how your fingers play them. Finger pressure on the strings, the strength of your attack with your right hand, and a multitude of other techniques all make a significant difference.

Once I realized that I was the main reason my guitar sounded different, I started to find what worked for me. Turns out my friend thinks I am way better than he is at other things. Why? Because we play differently. Don't worry about sounding like your favorite musician. Find your style and do the best to make it better.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let Your Kingdom Come

We are doing a new song this week. I have really appreciated Bob Kauflin's work as an author and blogger. So we are singing a song he wrote called "Let Your Kingdom Come". Enjoy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Challenges of Writing Music for Corporate Worship

Zach Nielson over at Take Your Vitamin Z has eloquently summed up much of what I was trying to communicate with my "Examining Worship" posts. Here are the 3 most common problems facing songwriters:

1. Catchy Yet Simple Melodies: Writing melodies that are easily accessible to a large group of mostly non-musicians is very difficult, especially when most of our churches don't use musical notes on a page. If I were your average artist on the radio, I would just write melodies that are really catchy and sound good when I sing them. The worship songwriter cannot approach his craft so selfishly. The worship songwriter has unique constaints: Is this too high for the average non-singer? Is this melody too rhythmically challenging? Can this melody be quickly remembered? Is the range of the melody too extreme (like Silent Night or The Star Spangled Banner)? Writing for a large group of mainly non-musicians is not easy.

2. Unique But Not New: Writing songs that have lyrics beyond "grace, place, see your face, run the race" is difficult as well. Expressing great theological truth without sounding awkward is very challenging. We have a fixed message. Our Biblical content is unchanging. Within these fixed theological boundaries, saying something in a unique way (being creative) without saying something new (this would potentially be heresy) is quite daunting for the worship songwriter.

3. Creative and Clear: If I were a typical artist that was just looking to sell some records I could be artistically creative and to some degree could care less if my audience totally understood all my metaphors. They might just write me off as "arty" and that would be a good thing. For example, I love Radiohead and I seriously could not tell you what one of their songs is about. The worship songwriter does not have this luxury. They have to be creative enough to be respectable as an artist, but clear enough to have the mind quickly engaged in the truth that is sung. This again, is no small feat.

I recommend Zach's site for anyone with an interest in Church music, jazz, adoption, and pro-life apologetics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Meditations

During 2009, I will be reading the book of 1 John ever so slowly. During February and March, I will read chapter 1 each day, then move on to chapter 2 for April and May, and so on. And as a blogging exercise, I will take a few minutes each Wednesday to express what the Lord is teaching me as I read His word.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4; ESV)

Just as John started his gospel talking about the Word, so he begins this epistle talking about the Life. And just as the Word was with God and dwelt among us, the Life is eternal and yet is among us in Jesus Christ.

I think it is a wise thing to spend some time pondering the eternal nature of God, the unsearchable depths of the uncreated Son, and the immanence of Jesus, who emptied himself and became a servant, dwelling among us.

John begins his letter with the absolute truth of God. This is not a series of philosophical theories that may or may not work. This is the revelation of the eternal God from before the creation of the earth. But it is also the direct revelation that he has seen with his own eyes. There is no ambiguity, and there is no questioning the facts. The only variable is how we respond to this truth.

So the truth is revealed, the truth is clear, and the truth is proclaimed. John does not keep this to himself. Because God has revealed Himself, John must also proclaim what has been revealed. It is what brings fellowship between people because they have fellowship with God through Christ, who is the Eternal Life and gives us eternal life. And the truth makes our joy complete.

Are you sharing the truth of Christ with those who have not heard, and are not in fellowship with Christ? Are you in fellowship with those who are in Christ? Do you speak the truth to one another? It seems that John doesn't see any other way.

In Defense of Contemporary Worship

By no means can I present the definitive debate-ending argument for the use of contemporary worship in Churches, especially on a tiny little blog like my own. But I will offer these short thoughts.

First, nowhere in Scripture are we commanded in what our music should sound like. While we read descriptions of harps, lyres, and cymbals, we can never know if they played in 4/4 time, fast or slow, one part or SATB, major or minor, and so forth.

Second, the demand for exclusively traditional music is counter intuitive. When a man is converted, he is being asked to die to himself, his old habits and sins. There will be many changes. Yet he may work the same job, live in the same house, be married to the same woman, drive the same car. Does it follow that he should be made to abandon his old tastes in music for an outmoded and irrelevant style that is completely foreign to him? I believe that it could well be a hindrance to his worship. It would be much like the Latin Mass or the Arabic Koran. Most pre-Vatican II Catholics do not understand Latin, and most Muslims do not read or understand Arabic. It is not edifying to instruct people in a language they can't understand. Yes, he will probably have to stop listening to some bands because of their lyrical content, but Scripture encourages him to sing, and he will be most likely to sing in a way that is familiar to him. And unless he is a big fan of classical music, his comfort zone is within the realm of contemporary worship.

Contemporary worship music is merely a tool to help the body of Christ as they offer worship to God, just like traditional worship. I would contend that the arguments of traditionalists rarely deal with the style of music, but instead deal with the way in which it is presented. But these arguments can be made toward traditional music as well.

Let me know what you think.

coming soon... in defense of traditional worship!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Examining Worship: part III - Who is the focus?

This post is a follow up to Lecherous Worship

I think Louie Giglio put it well. "You know your church is healthy when people are going to lunch going 'God, how'd you feel about it. Did you like it? Did you get a lot out of it? 'cause we came for you.'"

In my last post in this series, I left out one category that could really have fit in either entry, the issue of over-emotionalism. I decided to address the problem of over-emotionalism under the heading of focus because it has a different effect than the other two. Songs and worship 'experiences' built primarily on emotions remove God and His works as the central foundation of our faith, and instead places our faith in how we feel. When our faith becomes captive to our emotions, our picture of Christ can become morphed and twisted to suit our desires. This is when we start hearing songs that talk about Jesus as though he is our boyfriend.

A close cousin to over-emotionalism is what I would call self-righteousness. It is singing to God of all the things we have done and will do on His behalf. This does not celebrate the Gospel of Grace. It is work righteousness.

Jesus Christ did all the work on the cross for us, while we were dead in our sins. Worship begins with a grateful recognition of who God is and what He has done. Yes, we can have emotions, and yes we can declare what we will do in response to God's work in our life, but it begins with God.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Practice Before You Practice!

Sorry I haven't posted very frequently. I have been wrestling with a long post for a week or two. So in the mean time I will leave this short word of wisdom.

I have been thinking about the idea of practicing before you practice. This is specifically aimed at musicians, but it may apply to other areas too. I will consider this the musical equivalent to "measure twice, cut once."

It is helpful to me when preparing for rehearsal to walk through each song in my head, and perhaps on my guitar so I have an idea of what direction I am going with it. I also can brush up on specific riffs and make sure I start on the right fret. When I do this, I can play what I intend to play during rehearsal without messing up (too bad), and I can hear if it works, and the rest of the worship team have a solid example to try their performance against. Then, if anything needs adjusting, it can be adjusted more easily and confidently.

I don't always do this, and it shows. I would encourage everyone to take 5 minutes when they see the set list to think through it so we can bring our best and be unified in our efforts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

God of This City

I hear a lot of songs that do nothing for me, and God of this City is one of them. But I had an opportunity to see Chris Tomlin explain this song in concert and it clicked. I developed a picture in my mind of people in every city in the world looking to do God's work in that city, and how the work of each Christian where they are at could have a profound cumulative effect for the Gospel throughout the world.

So this week we are introducing "God of This City." I hope you are blessed by this song and are praying for God to reveal how you are to be used in your city.