We Win (Drops of Blood)

Here's a song I wrote for this year's Easter services.  I just now had a chance to mix it down.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

Drops of Blood upon the ground

and with thorns, He wore the crown,

as He carried the weight of all my sin

 

Driving spikes into His hands,

unrecognizable as man,

He cried out and all creation saw His end.

 

Now that darkness had its cost,

and ev'ry hopeful day was lost,

placed into the ground,

carried to a bed of rock,

 

Descending in to regions only known to death,

surrounded in the lies of all unrest,

 

Separated from the Love

and ev'ry thing from up above,

He became the curse that I deserved.

 

And when the debt was paid,

the wind of Heaven came,

and burning light came blazing through the door.

 

For the gates of hell shall not prevail

against the love that tore the veil.

 

Heaven's eyes toward us

are filled with tears of grace,

and a longing to behold us face to face.

 

With a blazing light and burning pow'r,

radiation filled the tomb,

as a New Creation, and a brand new Nation

came forth from Heaven's womb,

 

He's alive in us, and we're alive in Him!

All of Heaven now proclaims,

"We win! We win!"

"We win! We win!"

 

He is alive, He's ruling in His power,

We are alive in Him!

Ev'ry pow'r is put now beneath Him,

We declare, "We win!"

 

Heaven's gates are opened wide,

All His life is now inside.

Light and life are here to stay.

Ev'ry blessing shines today.

 

He is alive, He's ruling in His power,

We are alive in Him!

Ev'ry pow'r is put now beneath Him,

We declare, "We win!"

 

Heaven's gates are opened wide,

All His life is now inside.

Light and life are here to stay.

Ev'ry blessing shines today.

 

We win! We win!

We live in Him!

We win! We win!

 

We win!

You Are My God (I'm jumping off)

(recorded by the Odessa Christian Faith Center music ministry)

Here's a recent song I wrote about trusting God when you step into new territories.   Even when things may be unfamiliar, foreign to us, it's going to be OK when we just learn to trust Him.  He'll keep us safe and He'll guide us, navigate us where we need to go.

Hope you like it.

You Are My God (I'm Jumping off) (©2012 Lowell Hohstadt) 

I’m jumpin’ off into the deep

That’s where my life is truly free

I’m livin’ life eternally

That’s where my heart is meant to be

 

I trust You, You only

I love You, You hold me safe

in all I am and all I do

 

Living my life to love You

Living my life to worship at Your feet

 

You are my God

You are my God

You are my God

You are my God

 

Here I will trust You

Here I am near You

Living my life with You

I’m holding onto You  

Leaning ev’ry part I am to You

 

 

We Win

(recorded by the Odessa Christian Faith Center music ministry)

“And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” (Col. 2:13-15) 

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:37-39) 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith.” (I John 5:4) 

It is evident that Christ has won the victory for us, both now and to eternity, in which we can confidently say, “We Win!”

 

We Win (©2011 Lowell Hohstadt)

In the darkness You shine Your light through

In the battle Your ev'ry word comes true

In the chaos You shine Your glorious light

With You on our side, we win the fight!

 

All the victory here

comes from victory there

All the promises here

You brought us the victory hanging on Calvary!

 

Takin' a walk of faith ev'ry day now,

Talkin' talk of grace, as I look in Your face

Set my eyes on things above this world

With You on our side, we win

 

We win, we win,

We win, we win,

We win,

We win the fight!

 

'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

A simple hymn of trust, “Tis So Sweet” challenges the believer to simply relax and release control of our cares, worries and all of life’s difficulties, placing them all into the hands of our loving Creator. 

It seems too good to be true, this message of God’s love, forgiveness and grace.  It’s so easily mocked because of its simplicity.  Many wonder, “Could there really be a way of escape from all the uncertainties of this life?”  Yes!  It’s in the simplicity of trust and faith in Christ.

“Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.”  (Heb. 11:1) 

God placed in each person the ability to perceive His goodness and to see that which is spiritual.  Some people call it “women’s intuition” or they say, “I just knew in my heart…” 

Modern science has proven multiple dimensions in the known universe.  Is it really that hard to believe that there are things happening the realm of the unseen?  After all, how many radio, television and cell phone waves are all around us, carrying messages, yet are imperceptible to the human eye?

The spiritual realm does exist, and God’s love, care and guidance are ever-present.  It’s really not that hard…take a deep breath, lean back in your chair and say, “I trust You, Lord.”

 

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

 

Louisa M. R. Stead

 

Just As I Am

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Just As I Am".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

Many churches today have stopped doing altar calls, hoping not to offend anyone.  This is a departure, however, from the past century of American churches whose congregants became familiar with the hymn “Just As I Am” as it was either sung or played during an invitation for salvation.

In 1934 famed evangelist Billy Graham came forward to become a Christian while this song was being played, and subsequently used it in his own widely renowned crusades. 

I remember my own decision to step forward publicly, as I got up out of my seat to stand before a congregation.  It was both a bold moment and an awkward one.  I knew all too well my own insecurities, weaknesses and failures, yet when presented with the idea that I could approach the Creator of all things in a sort of ‘divine forgiveness/relationship’, it evoked desire, wonder and fear all at the same time. 

As I remember back, I’m glad I decided to get up out of my chair that day, even with all the uncertainty that that moment evoked.  As I continued to grow as a Christian, I remember coming across a passage in the Bible that said, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33) 

Knowing that I was willing, and am still willing, to be identified with Jesus Christ produced a foundation upon which I could continue to build my faith and deepen my spiritual roots.

That one awkward moment grew into a strength that has extended wonderful benefits, not only to my own life, but to those of my family, friends, co-workers in ministry, and many people I may never know.

My hope is that the American Christian will continue to require passage through that narrow gate of awkwardness for the unashamed.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16)

 

Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown

Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - of that free love

The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

 

Charlotte Elliot

 


Amazing Grace

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Amazing Grace".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

What is grace?  The Bible defines it as follows (from the Greek word Charis):

That which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, a benefit, thanks, gratitude, a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.

That’s what God has done for us by His love, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and resurrection, having justified us before God.  As God sees Jesus, He sees us.  The Almighty God, perfect and complete, sees us through “Jesus-colored glasses”, if you will.  The same way He views His Son, in righteousness and completeness, is how he views all mankind.

You may not feel holy and righteous.  You may not always do holy and righteous things, and you may feel completely undeserving of total forgiveness, wholeness and peace.  But it’s God’s gift to you.

Like any gift, we can refuse it or accept it.  For those who choose to simply accept it, saying, “Thank You”, all the benefits pour in.  How could anyone reject such a lovely gift?

Receiving it inspires us with a new idea: we want to give a gift to someone else.  It's the gift of unmerited, undeserved favor, forgiveness and acceptance.  Our desire to do this is the evidence of whether or not we first received it for ourselves.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends, if you do what I command you…This I command you, that you love one another.” (Jn. 15:12-14, 17)

His grace is truly amazing, as it comes to us, but it takes on a whole new dimension when it flows through us to others!

 

Amazing grace!  how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

 

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

 

Thro’ many dangers toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

 

Destroying the Malachi Mindset

There is a mind-set that has unfortunately been pervasive regarding Music Ministry for a number of years.  It's similar to Nathanael’s remarks to Phillip when he said he had found the Messiah, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Our culture, together with many musicians and artists have a similar disdain for the capacity of the Church to produce anything worthwhile, stating, “Can anything good come out of the Church?” 

The viewpoint is: if an artist wants true recognition and success, he or she must find it outside the realm of ministry or Church involvement.   Church ministry is not usually a consideration, and is even disdained by those who are serious about fulfilling their career pursuits and dreams. 

To make matters worse, many of those in Church ministry have accepted the premise that maybe they can’t ‘make it’ in the world, so they just settle for a non-competitive ministry position. 

All of this stems from the general conclusion that local church (or the Church at large) is irrelevant to current culture, even unnecessary.  It certainly is not viewed as a place where high artistic achievement can exist. 

There was a time in Israel’s history that people had a similar mind-set.  The people through whom God chose to carry His Name had come to a place of ambivalence and even neglect of His temple.  It was as if they had grown cold to their calling, nonchalant to the richness of their heritage.  The prophet Malachi wrote to the people of Israel: 

“ ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  Then if I am a father, where is My honor?  And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.  But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’  You are presenting defiled food upon My altar.  But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’  In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’  But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?  And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil?  Why not offer it to your governor?  Would he be pleased with you?  Or would he receive you kindly?”  says the Lord of hosts.  “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us?  With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts…You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’  And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering!  Should I receive that from your hand?” says the Lord.” (Mal. 1:6-9,13) 

The priests had grown weary in the administration of temple service, and the people were not bringing their best anymore.  They were giving God their ‘leftovers’.  The temple (which represented God’s presence in their midst) was being shunned for other ‘more important things’ in their lives. 

Today’s artistic community has become a place in which fame, finance and dissipation has supplanted discipline, sacrifice and a desire for integrity (even at the expense of obscurity).

The local church, to today’s artist, has come to represent the death of an otherwise successful career.  The path is an exact reversal of what today’s artist hopes to achieve. 

Our community, much like the Israelite’s in Malachi’s day, has willingly walked away from God’s presence, while still wanting to receive His blessing.

Even many of our priests (those called into the service of the local church) have longingly looked away from the altar of sacrifice, to the approval of pop culture and compromised integrity. 

What does integrity as a dedicated artist look like in today’s world?  What does pure dedication, holiness and honor look like for someone who is ‘sold out’ to God, having a passion for worshiping His Name and exclaiming His excellencies with whole-hearted commitment?  Is it even possible that the phrases: ‘dedicated Christian minister’ and ‘artistic excellence’ can be uttered in the same breath? 

King David, who established a pattern of whole-hearted worship in his reign in Israel, had become a distant memory to the Israelites in Malachi’s day.  His passion would have been distasteful to them.  Had David lived in their time, he may have even been persecuted or killed for his ‘extreme’ views.  (Interestingly, today’s media culture demonizes anyone who is ‘passionate’ in their religious convictions, calling them ‘radicals’ and ‘extremists’.)  

Here is just one of many accounts in David’s life revealing his whole-hearted passion for God’s presence: 

When the Ark of the Covenant had come to Araunah the Jebusite, David wanted to offer a burnt offering.  Araunah offered to give David everything necessary to do so, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what is good in his sight.  Look, the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.  Everything, O king, Araunah gives to the king.”  But David’s response, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:22-24) 

David wanted to give God his very best.  Nothing less would be congruent with his heart of gratitude, respect and honor for all that God was in his life. 

At a time, historically, when numerous artists are struggling to be heard above the myriads of voices in the world, a time when community for the artist seems to be closing in with greater isolation and fewer opportunities, perhaps the long forgotten venue of the community of the local Church is prime for renewed artistic expression. 

Perhaps the hollowness of today’s secular ‘success’ will give way to a new generation of artists who are ‘sold out’ to a higher purpose of extreme spirituality, commitment, dedication and sacrifice, those who are willing to be motivated by the approval of God rather than the approval of man, willing to release the pursuit of fame for the motivation of pure craftsmanship in His Name rather than their own.

Perhaps the true prophetic role of the artist will return to those whom God can trust, vessels of honor through whom Almighty God will speak, artists who have become instruments in His hand, through whom He changes the course of human culture, yet are incapable of being changed by that culture.

Such artists are fearless among men, highly esteemed in secret places.

 

(for more, see The Three Uses of Music and the Arts)

 

7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 7

Attribute #7: In the previous six blogs, we have seen that the complete contemporary musician will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1).  He will be open to cultural influences, learning from great artists of the past (Attribute #2), as well as embracing the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3).  He is able to both improvise and read music (Attribute #4), and is willing to study and participate in new innovation (Attribute #5).  He will have a rich understanding of both composition as well as performance (Attribute #6). 

In this seventh and final blog, we will discuss that the Complete Contemporary Musician is willing to teach and train the next generation of artists.

It is not enough to simply achieve artistic greatness for the sake of one’s own personal goals.  That is certainly more noble-minded than the pursuit of fame and fortune, but there is yet a deeper and more profound meaning to an artist’s existence.  He must be doing more than serving his aspirations for the sake of his own name, or the duration of his work, but rather have an awareness of a larger historical context.

The sincere artist is part of a much bigger picture.  He is part of a community that is influencing the course of human existence in the expansion of noble purposes and eternal consequences.  Upon the accomplishment of his life’s work, a sincere artist will have influenced society on a much more profound level than what can be measurable by Billboard’s top 10 list.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)

An artist’s ultimate goal should not be that of fame, notoriety, wealth and personal gain.  Rather, it is the propagation and continuance of the very inspiration and beauty he has stewarded throughout his life.  The flow of the creativity he has nurtured, and the inspiration with which he has co-labored, must be carefully handed over to the following generation.  Successfully passing the baton insures that this flow will continue to influence succeeding generations.  Some call this an artist’s legacy, but it is really not about the artist at all.  It has more to do with the inspiration being transferred than it does the skills and philosophies of the artist himself.

“And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior…teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women…” (Titus 2:3-4)

The Scriptures are full of admonishment to train and educate the younger generations.

“He has also set eternity in their heart…” (Eccl. 3:11)

Whether we like to admit it or not, our journey on this earth is finite.  We can somehow perceive eternity, but this eternal vision should not cloud our thinking when it comes to how precious the commodity of time really is.

The priests who ministered in the temple were given a set number of years that they would serve.  “This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting.  But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more.  They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting.” (Num. 8:24-26)  There is a time in life to shoulder the burden, and then there is a time to step back and help those who are carrying the load. 

Teaching and training is a precious commodity.  “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Prov. 25:11)  “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” (Prov. 27:9)

The willingness to give the wisdom and skillful knowledge gained, combined with the inspiration from which it came, is seed sown, ultimately producing a harvest.  This harvest is not just for the student, but for the teacher, as well.  As we give away what we know, more is given back to us.  This miraculous process of teaching and training deepens the roots of the very things we have shared, giving us even richer insights than what we initially gave away.

Perhaps J.S. Bach did this out of necessity, but the role he lived as teacher to those around him produced exponential benefits in his artistic work.  Even though he didn’t have the modern tools of our day, he was able (through delegation, training and leadership) to produce a huge quantity of music, arguably greater than anything produced in our generation. 

The only way an artist’s 'legacy' can be perpetuated into history, causing exponential influence, is through this process. 

There is a sacrifice, however.  It takes a willingness to look beyond the natural human desires of today’s prestige.  It takes an eye to see another artist’s burgeoning creative pursuits, along with the compassion to give away time and energy you would otherwise have used for your own work.  It takes patience to help the maturing artist see in himself what you have seen in him, and the willingness to push past his natural human failings, knowing that the treasure hidden inside is worth mining.   

The sacrifices, however, are well worth the effort and even though the giver may only see the results through heaven’s eyes, ultimately, there will be a harvest of eternal proportion.   

 

(for more, I encourage you to read “What About Fame?”)



Grace and Giving

I Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

The word ‘gift’ is the word Charisma (SEC 5486), which is an extension of Charis, or grace.  (The word special, before it, was added by the translators.)

Psalm 110:3 “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power.”

The word/phrase ‘volunteer freely’ is the word Nadab (SEC 5071), which means: a freewill offering, denoting an uncompelled and free movement of the will unto divine service or sacrifice.  Among other places, it occurs in the building and rebuilding of the Temple (I Chron. 29:5, II Chron. 35:8, Ezra 1:6)  It shows abundant and voluntary giving and sacrifice from God’s people.

Putting these two passages together (I Peter 4:10 and Ps. 110:3), it is evident that Psalm 110 is a prophetic utterance regarding the age of grace, as grace is an exhibition of God’s power: “…in the day of Your power”.  It is referring to the Church age, as God’s Spirit has been poured out upon all flesh. (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17)  In the building of His Church, as the building and rebuilding the Old Testament Temple foreshadowed, His Spirit moves through His children in various manifestations of His power.  His grace is given as a free gift to each person, flowing through each person, to the building up of His Church.

This exhibition of God’s power is seen through the free and uncompelled choice of His people to voluntarily give and serve.

The grace of God is the power of God, which has been released now in the age of the Church.  As God’s people respond to His gift of grace, being motivated by His Spirit, they will give and sacrifice towards the building up of His Kingdom.  The process is simple: God gives (grace, Charis) to people, then people give (Charisma) to others.

Conclusion: When people volunteer their time, money and abilities at church, they are fulfilling and validating the prophetic utterance made in Psalm 110, making it evident that we truly are living in the ‘day of His power’.  Through the responsive giving of His children, God’s grace and power now flows into the earth.

 



7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 5

Attribute #5: In earlier blogs, we have seen that a complete contemporary musician will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1).  He is open to cultural influences, learning from those who have come before him (Attribute #2).  He is willing to embrace the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3), and he is able to both improvise as well as read music (Attribute #4).  In addition to these, the complete musician/artist must be willing to participate in new innovation, utilizing and expanding current tools available to him.

Every society and time period has its own ‘cutting edge’ innovation, whether it is artistic, philosophical, governmental or industrial.  Perhaps the greatest innovation in our modern day is the advent of electronic technology, i.e. the computer (and internet/communication possibilities).  It continues to shape not only the development of music and art, but also its dissemination around the world.

The ‘stage’ an artist performed upon didn’t change much from the Greek amphitheater to the Wagner opera house (representing about two-thousand years), but all of that rapidly changed just in the last (less than) one hundred years.  Music’s ‘stage’ has moved from the concert hall, to radio and television, then to the recording industry and finally to the home studio via You Tube and the internet.  With much of the world embracing technological interactivity, the Internet is now music’s stage, and its performers are the world’s population.  Talent and skills developed upon past ‘stage’ paradigms may or may not have a role in success.  Rather, it’s about innovation and creativity.

Here’s a short list of some of the areas easily available to the musician/artist today: 1) Multi-track recording, 2) MIDI Sequencing, 3) Sampling, 4) Looping, 5) Micro-tonality, 6) Synchronization to other media (lighting, video, etc.).  This is just on the creative side of things.  There’s another arsenal of tools on the distribution/marketing side: 1) Pod-casts, 2) Forums, 3) Blogs, 4) Facebook, 5) You Tube, 6) I-Tunes, 7) Personal web-sites, 8) Digital distribution in so many ways it’s almost ridiculous to try to enumerate them.

One can become so involved in the technological tools, however, that he can lose objectivity.  This is a real danger for today’s electronically savvy artist.  I believe it is critically important for the artist (as shown in Attribute #1) to have a firm grasp of history so that he can objectively navigate his future.

I had a conversation with a co-worker one day, as I was making a photocopied ‘archive’ of a report.  When he asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m all about archiving.  If you don’t know where you’ve been, then you don’t know where you’re going.”  His smart reply to me was, “…unless you have a map.”  But a map does no good if one doesn’t know his location on it!

Knowing history, combined with a comprehensive knowledge of currently available tools will give the artist an awareness of ‘where he is on the map’. 

It’s not good to be stuck in the past, but it’s equally detrimental to be so immersed in contemporary ideologies that one loses objectivity.  When the artist loses objectivity, he also loses direction and motivation.  Objectivity, however, can be regained by reviewing history.

Here’s a simple example of what I’m trying to say.  When I begin writing a song, I generally have a ‘seed’ idea that just came to me.  It could be one short phrase, or a measure of music.  When I begin to think of that phrase over and over again, something miraculous happens: it grows out of itself!  I wonder what I will do next.  I might even get a little nervous that I don’t know what to do (there are so many possibilities).  But then I remember to go back to the beginning and think about the material that’s already there.  When I do this, yet another miracle happens: it grows out of itself again!

Through this process of ‘organic growth’, all of my creativity comes.  It comes by thinking about what has already been given to me.  The same is true for the artist, as he endeavors to discover his destiny and future.  If he feels lost or overwhelmed by all the possibilities, he should go back and review his artistic roots.  He should study historic examples of others, seeing how they overcame unique obstacles in their day, as this can directly relate to current struggles he may be facing.  (The tools of today are new, but human nature is the same!)

“The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” (Prov. 14:8)

Having a secure sense of artistic direction is the best foundation to stand upon as the artist forges ahead with the newest and latest technological tools, establishing new creativity and artistic paradigms.

Who knows, if he's successful, perhaps he too will one day be studied.



Crucifixion Song

As we approach the Easter season, here's a song from a musical I wrote called "Resurrection Power".  I just call it "Crucifixion Song".  It's set to the text of Isaiah 53.

Hope you enjoy!

As a lamb led to slaughter,

as a sheep before its shearers,

He opened not His mouth He was silent

He was despised and forsaken of men,

a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief

Surely our griefs He bore and our sorrows He carried,

but He was pierced through for our transgressions

He was crushed for our iniquities

The judgment for our peace fell upon Him

By His stripes we are healed

By His scourging we are healed

 

By His Blood

By His Blood

His sacrifice brought us freedom

His sacrifice made us whole

 

Bought by the Blood of the Lamb

Bought by the Blood of the Lamb

Purchased with nail-scarred hands by love

 

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

Bought with the price of love,

by love, by love,

by love, by love,

by love

 

 

Emotionalism In Worship- Part 2

In the previous blog, I wrote about the dangers of emotional worship which is unfounded upon a solid understanding of God’s Word.  This kind of worship is empowered only by human sentiments and therefore can only produce natural results, tending towards failure.

There is, however, an emotionalism in worship that is profound and rich with meaning, one that emanates from a deep well-spring of revelation that “God loves me and has forgiven me.”

When Jesus went to visit Simon the Pharisee, there was a prostitute who brought an alabaster vial of perfume to pour on Jesus’ feet, kissing and wiping them with her tears.  Simon was critical in his heart of Jesus, thinking that He didn’t know what kind of woman she was.  But Jesus responded to him through a story of two people that were in debt, one who owed a little money and the other a lot.  In the story, they both had their debt cancelled.  Then Jesus asked Simon which of the two people would appreciate the man who had cancelled their debt more, the one who owed little or the one who owed much.

Simon responded, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”  Then he enumerated to Simon all of the ways the woman had blessed Him since the time He had walked through the doors versus Simon’s negligence to show hospitality and care, finishing up by this comment, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Lk. 7:47-48)

David wrote, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:1)

“Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9)

The greatest message (and perhaps the most foundational) of Christianity is that of Forgiveness.  When we realize God’s love and forgiveness for our very own life, it produces a well-spring of joy and happiness, an emotion not coming from our own humanity, but one that is empowered by God Himself.

The Apostle Paul echoes again in the New Testament, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” (Rom. 4:7-8)

The word ‘blessed’ means: happiness, bliss.  The word ‘bliss’ means lightness of heart, supreme happiness or delight.

There is a depth of emotion that can be released through a believer’s life, which flows like a mighty river from the inside of his being, when he is connected to the spiritual realities of God’s forgiveness and grace.

This emotion is authentic, founded upon reality.  It’s a kind of emotion that brings fullness and benefit to our lives.  It doesn’t have to be ‘ginned up’, it’s not a show or ‘put on’, but rather it is something that no circumstance, situation, individual or community can take away.  “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)  “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (Jn. 15:11)  “but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.” (Jn. 16:22)

God validated His forgiveness in our lives through Jesus’ resurrection.  "As those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." (Rom. 4:24-25)  Because of God’s power to raise Him from the dead, we now have the assurance that our lives have been cleansed, purified and made whole.

So when we see emotional worship, we must be careful not to be critical, as Simon the Pharisee was, because in our ‘objectivity’, we might be missing out on an opportunity to love God deeply, based upon His love for us.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I Jn. 4:10)

Worship that stems from an attitude that “I love God” is a worship that is emanating from Natural Man, tending towards self-centeredness and even ‘worshiping worship’.  However, worship which comes from an attitude of: “I love God because He first loved me” is a deep river of blessing, which will produce true happiness and contentment.

Whoever drinks from the water of human emotionalism shall indeed thirst again,

“but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14)

My prayer for the worshiping community is that we always know from which source we are drinking.



7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 4

Attribute #4:  We have established the fact that to be a complete contemporary musician one must have a worthy purpose for his life and art (Attribute #1), he must learn from those who have come before him (Attribute #2), and he must be willing to embrace the creativity of other contemporary artists and stay abreast of the times (Attribute #3).  The skilled and successful musician must also be able to function both creatively and responsively in the process of making music, that is, he must be able to improvise as well as read music.

The improviser, to a certain degree, becomes the composer.  He spontaneously creates the music at the moment.  The music reader, however, is responsive to the one who has created the work already, endeavoring to bring the ideas into completion as carefully and accurately as possible.  Both scenarios have merit.  They are ‘two sides of the same coin’. 

Improvisation lends itself to freely expressed emotion-inspired creativity, while reading notation yields a more accurate, carefully constructed and pre-meditated order.

Improvisation many times marks the burgeoning of a new historic style.  As the style continues to work its way through history, however, notation begins to document it so that others can appreciate and participate in its established patterns.

Take, for example, Rag-time music.  It wasn’t until Scott Joplin put the music into notation that its wide-spread influence could happen.  A similar process occurred in 19th Century Europe with the Gypsy musicians who improvised profusely.  Skilled composers brought much of the creativity into notation, historically cementing the music for others to enjoy and play. 

Throughout history, there has always been interplay between improvisation and notation, the creative expressiveness of improvisation together with the careful preparation, pre-meditation and design of notation.  Take Bela Bartok, for example, who took the un-notated Hungarian melodies as themes for his classical compositions.  Another example is George Gershwin, who took jazz motifs and raised them into a sophisticated symphonic structure.  J.S. Bach merged the two worlds of improvisation and composition simultaneously, as he was able to create a multi-part fugue in his mind as he improvised!  (He literally improvised as he composed, and he composed as he improvised.  The process was one and the same to him.)

I once had to arbitrate in a great debate between people in my music ministry team who could only read music while straining to improvise, on one hand; while on the other hand, there were those who could only improvise and had no desire to read notation.

The music readers argued their points about the benefits of reading notation, and chided those who lacked that ability.

The improvisers, however, mocked those who couldn’t ‘play by ear’, citing the benefits to knowing how to ‘flow’ when given only a chord progression, at most.

I pondered how to solve this dilemma, and one day, as I was reading my Bible, a scripture popped out at me that said it all: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.” (Prov. 20:12)  I knew then, as the leader of the group, that I must expect everyone to improvise (or ‘play by ear’), as well as knowing how to read notation.  Once the entire group felt comfortable with both, I knew we would have a winning combination.

One of the main benefits of reading music lies in the fact that it doesn’t exist as sound, but rather as ideas.  It leaves room for interpretation from the participant’s imagination.  It is not subject to the flaws of a human performance, but rather exists on a higher plane of ‘pure ideology’.  (For more on this, see “My Vision- The Technique”)

Another benefit is that it structurally allows more than a few people to participate, giving clear and concise direction to all who join the plan.  When dealing with larger groups of people, a more specific plan becomes necessary.  Take for example traffic in a big city versus a small town.  In one situation there have been multiple engineers who have designed highways and clover-leafs for huge volumes of traffic; whereas, in the other situation you might have a single policeman to direct a few vehicles.

The same hold true with music creativity: more people, more planning; fewer people, less planning (or easier improvisation).

The complete contemporary musician should be able to function proficiently in either situation, able to both read fluidly and improvise freely, to intellectually and accurately follow a chart, as well as participate creatively with others in a small consort.  He must know how to live successfully in high structure, as well as in little or no structure.

Perhaps someday, even as J.S. Bach, the one who is skilled in both areas will experience the simultaneous merging of both worlds!



Emotionalism In Worship

I am not a stranger to passion in music and worship, but I have come to be careful in my understanding of how it is balanced against self-control.  In the 20+ years I have been involved in the Charismatic/Pentecostal worship movement, I have observed a disturbing trend in those who I considered ‘leaders’ of the movement, those who have focused on ‘praise and worship’ and passionate musical expression.  Invariably, they either are, or have become unstable individuals, both morally, as well as emotionally.  In asking myself the question why, I have come to several conclusions.

Predominantly, I believe their failures are due to an imbalance in their zeal to excel in the areas of music and worship, becoming either unaware or uncaring of the fact that they were exalting emotion over reason, worship over Bible teaching, Spirit over the Word.  I have known a number of people through the years, who once were highly passionate and persuasive, but now have a trail of divorces and general emotional instability.  Sadly, though they are still as talented as ever, these people will probably never fully recover the influence and leadership they once had.

I remember my African-American friend John one day teaching me the importance of putting the study of the Bible preeminently above all other Christian activities.  He related to me the story of how he had grown up in a Pentecostal church in an urban American city, in which they had passionate worship on Sunday, and yet, on Monday were in fornicative and adulterous relationships.    

He frequently warned me of the dangers of super-emotionalism and its negative spiritual effects, as he had seen it first-hand growing up in church.

John was a musician’s musician, who could flow with the best of them, but he chose, in his musical and worship leadership to balance passion with discipline, emotion with control.  In music and worship, just as in life, imbalance ultimately leads to breakdown. 

Music and worship are emotional subjects, and they deal with the emotional side of our culture and community. 

As a general statement about humanity: men are predominantly more ‘reason and decision’ oriented, while women are more ‘emotion’ oriented.  (I know this is not always the case, and I’m not trying to be chauvinistic, just looking at a pattern.)

In the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, we have seen many women in leadership, noticeably more than other religious movements.  Music and worship have played a large role in the Charismatic movement, as well.  My point here is that I see a correlation between emotionalism, music, worship and the general historical unfolding of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. 

If a comparison can be drawn between the ‘woman’ side of culture (which is emotional), versus the ‘man’ side of culture (which is reason and decision based), I think we could agree that the Charismatic movement has historically been leaning towards the ‘woman’ or emotional.

Paul instructed Timothy, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” (I Tim. 2:12-14) 

In the metaphor that I’m drawing, the ‘woman’ or emotion side of humanity should not have authority over the ‘man’ side of reason and decision-making.  (I am not arguing against women in ministry leadership, or negating the fact that God uses women powerfully in ministry.)  I am simply showing a pattern of priorities: emotion is second to the renewed mind and will; worship is second to the study of the Word; the Spirit glorifies the Word. (Jn. 16:14)  Anything other than this is imbalance, ultimately producing chaos.

If we’re doing everything right in the worship music of the Charismatic/Pentecostal tradition, why is there so much failure, even in its leaders?  We have exalted talent above character, emotion above reason. 

The Scripture clearly encourages reason in our approach to Christian activity: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

Even Paul’s exhortation, regarding the use of music in worship, was for it to be instructional: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16)  Once the Word was richly established in their lives, then, out of that came teaching through the use of music and worship.  The word was first, then worship.  Reason first, then emotion.  I have no doubt that the church at Corinth had emotionally charged worship, but they were out of control!  Paul had to deal with them “as babes” and not spiritual men. (I Cor. 3:1)

When we were in the midst of the ‘Praise and Worship Movement’ twenty-some years ago, and we had a group of highly passionate, emotionally charged people in the worship team at my church, I was affronted by their little discipline and much dysfunction.  Over the years, I have endeavored to cultivate a group of people who understand the ‘reason and choice’ in music/worship along with the inherent ‘emotional’ side. 

No doubt, we can always grow in our expressiveness and passionate portrayal of worship and music, inspiring others to become involved, but I am aware that this must always be in relationship with emotional soundness. 

I believe in passionate worship and musical production; however, only in the priority of integrity and discipline.  It is only in this proper structure that there is wholeness and strength, both for the individual, as well as for the corporate worshipers.  Anything else has a big WARNING sign on it!

 

(for more on this subject, see "Emotionalism In Worship (part 2)" and "Trinity Concepts 1.06 Christian Activity")

 



7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 1

To be an artist in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive society is a daunting challenge, to say the least.  The artist/musician must have a tenacity and inner strength that can withstand the criticism of his new ideas, the charisma to reach a new audience and the technique to rise above the average.

When considering ‘success’, an artist must grapple with the question as to what ‘success’ really is for his own life.  It’s a little like the Peanuts Cartoon of Charlie Brown shooting an arrow at the fence and subsequently drawing a circle around where the arrow stuck.  When asked by Lucy what he was doing, he replied that this was the way he knew he would always have a Bulls-eye.

As artists, instead of justifying our lives, living in a dream-world of ego-centrism and unrealistic expectations of an audience’s recognition just because we consider ourselves to be ‘great’, there should rather be some concrete and measurable standards to which we hold our lives and our art.

In this series of blogs, I am outlining what I believe are definitive characteristics of a successful contemporary musician/artist, attributes of ‘character’ (if you will) of a complete and mature artist, who will be truly beneficial to society.

 

Attribute #1:  The Complete Contemporary Musician/artist, before anything else, must have a meaningful purpose for his art.

If the artist has a purpose that is anything less than compelling, his art will suffer for it.  The motivation of the art defines the art itself.  The art emanates from within its purpose. 

For example, if the artist’s intention is to simply ‘make lots of money’, then his art will be crassly commercial, artificial and superficial.  This kind of art lasts long enough to titillate an immature and naïve audience, then quickly falls into obscurity and obsolescence.

If the artist’s purpose is to ‘become famous’, then his art will revolve around ‘self’ instead of anything of higher meaning.  Flamboyancy and a wide palette of extreme attention-getting techniques are typical to this kind of motivation.  Unfortunately, the self-made artist is, in the end, a disappointing object of worship.  Once the shock-value of the display wears off, his audience is acutely aware of his ordinary humanity, and even resents the fact that he spent more time on ‘marketing himself’ than on developing something of lasting value. 

Another unfortunate result of this kind of artistic purpose is the fact that men are simply unable to withstand the pressure of being ‘worshipped’.  They self-implode.  The psychology behind all of it is too much to bear when they find themselves living a lie. The subconscious awareness that they are not really able to live up to everyone’s expectations of ‘deity’ drives them to strange and various dissipations, which all end in further emptiness and un-fulfillment.

Having a purpose of ‘societal benefit’ is compelling to many artists.  Some find fulfillment in promoting a ‘Green Earth’, or to help raise funds to ‘Fight AIDS’ or some other societal ill.

Some artists simply like to ‘bring beauty’ into the world, or to ‘make people think’ about politics or societal dilemmas.

Every artist is on a journey to answer the question of meaning in his life and work.  It is not a stagnate, life-long rut that he endures, but rather a constantly evolving paradigm-changing awareness of ‘reality’.   What he was involved in a year ago may seem to be ‘silly’ to him today.  Most artists are adept at raising these questions, and are constantly searching for new answers to meaningful awareness.

In my journey, I have come to believe that the highest expression of music and art are in the worship of God. 

I’m not alone in this belief.  One of the greatest musicians to have ever lived believed that “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” (J.S. Bach) [for more on this, see 10 Lessons J.S. Bach Taught Me]

The Bible is replete with thousands of years of historical records showing the use of music in worship to God. 

In my personal experience, having lived through most of the above-mentioned examples of artistic purpose and motivation, I have come to sense a vastly greater peace and contentment in this pursuit, knowing that I don’t have to ‘measure up’ to society’s varied and ever-changing whims and ‘hoops’ to jump through.  I simply have ‘an audience of One’, and He is already pleased with me by the forgiveness He offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  

Regardless as to where you might be in your pursuit of meaningful artistic creativity, I encourage you to continue to ask the question: “What is the purpose of my life and art?” 

When you ask it sincerely, you will undoubtedly be on course for a life of true meaning and authentic success.

 



The Three Uses of Music and Arts

Music is useful in our society in many ways, but I believe that there are three main functions of music and the arts in our lives: 1) Performance, 2) Worship, and 3) Prophetic.

The most common use of music and the arts in our lives is that of performance, in which the artist gives his art to another person or group of people.  This is certainly beneficial in many ways, especially when the artist and his audience have commonality in their likes, interests and goals.  Much of this kind of artistic endeavor centers around Man: what man can accomplish in skill, what styles man likes to hear or see, how popular the artist becomes, etc.   In essence, it's all about man’s performance and social acceptance.

A higher level of music and artistic involvement is that of worship.  Music and the arts do a wonderful job of ‘pointing’ the audience to a target.  The ‘pointing’ can draw an arrow to the Artist himself, or to a cause (like ‘saving the planet’), or to a consumer product (like Coca-Cola).  Whatever music and the arts point to will be ‘exalted’.  Another way of saying it is: whatever the ‘arrow’ is pointing to is lifted up and amplified, even worshiped.

There are many examples throughout history of how music has been used to ‘exalt’ that which it points towards.  Take for example the biblical story in the Book of Daniel. 

“Nebuchadnezzer the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  (Dan. 3:1)  Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.  But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”  Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (Dan. 3:4-7)

Throughout the ages, all cultures and religions have used music in some form or fashion to convey their worship.  The Bible is replete with the subject of musical expressions of worship in Judaism and Christianity.  As the God of the Bible is a creative God, Who made man in His image, it stands to reason that He put within man the ability to create in like manner.  Part of the response from those who worship God is, of necessity, a creative one.

Music and art that are brought to God in worship exist for a higher purpose than the pleasure of man.  This kind of activity seeks to ‘point the arrow’ towards the Creator of all things, amplifying Who He is, inspired and empowered by His worth.

There is actually a third, and even loftier functioning of music and the arts in which few people are ever involved, and that is the expression of the prophetic. 

This is where the purpose of the creativity is not for man’s pleasure, and not even to exalt God, but rather, it is when God Himself speaks through what is created.  This phenomenon is not initiated by man himself.  To do so would be ‘false-prophesy’.  That doesn’t mean that man is a ‘puppet’, however.  Man cooperates, in this instance, with God-breathed inspiration in the creative process.  Man, by supernatural inspiration, brings form to what is being spiritually conveyed by God Himself.

The message that results may or may not bring pleasure to those who hear it.  It may even run diametrically opposed to the culture’s desires.  But one thing is sure: it will always cut deeper into the audience’s conscience than anything produced for performance or worship.  It is a message that demands a response of action by those who hear it.  It can elicit dramatic cultural change and has the power to move history substantially down a new and different pathway.

Elements of prophetic music and art can be intertwined with performance and worship, but when those moments happen, it is in stark contrast to elements that are not prophetically motivated.  The artist is definitively aware of when ‘God steps into the picture’.  All who have tasted of this creative inspiration are forever marked.  Nothing less will ever suffice.

 

 



Put Your Hand In My Hand

Here's a song I wrote a few years ago that my good friend Trevin Woods gave a beautiful piano rendition of.  We were just finishing up our weekly praise and worship team rehearsal, and I pulled out this song, turned on the recording computer and sang around the piano with friends.  It was a special moment for all of us!

"Put Your Hand In My Hand" is not a worship song, but rather a song in which God is talking to us.  I might call it a 'prophetic song'.  The song's message is God Himself encouraging us to put all our trust in Him.  (Prov. 3:5-6)

Hope you enjoy!

Purchase MP3 or Lead Sheet

What About Fame?

As a Christian musician and artist, what is the right attitude we should have regarding the subject of fame?

Whether we admit it or not, every artist wants to know that their art matters.  We all want to know that we are making (and have made) a difference in the lives of those to whom we have given our gift.

Possibly one of the greatest pressures in the life of an artist is the process of going through the desert of anonymity.  As we continue to develop our craft, preparing for its unveiling to the masses, or even when we have been serving over a number of years without much recognition, the nagging question in the back of our consciousness is “Have I really made a difference, and does anyone really care?”

When a shred of recognition comes along, it’s like an opiate, quenching the thirst for this desperate need.

The danger this poses, however, is sinister.  Once public attention begins to soothe the nagging need for recognition, if the artist isn’t grounded in something greater, he will allow his life (and art) to be driven along by the continued need for this hunger to be quenched by his audience.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the very audience that gives promotion will invariably be the one that crucifies him, because no human being (even the most gifted) has the ability within himself to continually gratify an audience. 

“Sheol (the nether world) and Abaddon (the place of destruction) are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” (Prov. 27:20)

People simply cannot be satisfied with an artist’s gifting perpetually.  Instead, something happens in people’s hearts once they have lifted up a ‘hero’ in ‘hero-worship’.  Initially, they want to get as close as possible to the person.  Then, once they get close enough, they begin to see their flaws.  Once the flaws are seen, the illusion of the ‘hero’ is destroyed and they realize that they have just elevated a lie.  They simultaneously begin to reject their first ‘hero’ while searching for a replacement, and the process starts all over again.  Society continues to search for the ‘messiah’ artist, elevating him to ‘deity’, ultimately ‘crucifying’ him, only to search for the next artist.  (Those who have lived long enough to see this heinous cycle know exactly what I’m talking about!)  

The only problem with this ‘crucifixion’ metaphor is that most artists who have lived through this cycle never see a ‘resurrection’.  They simply live an empty shell of a life trying to figure out what went wrong, endlessly pursuing a way to ‘get back’ what they think they once had.

Hopefully, when they ‘wake up’ to the futility of the above scenario, understanding the frailty of the human condition and the pitfalls of ‘fame’, they then begin a journey of true selfless artistic productivity.

Only when an artist begins to bring forth that which God has placed inside of him, regardless of human acceptance, does he step into the true ‘prophetic’ role of an artist.

Look at the prophets of the Old Testament.  They were all artists.  Many were poets, musicians, actors, bringing forth the Word of God to their community.  They were thrown down wells, stuck in mud and left to die.  They were both ridiculed, while at the same time secretly respected by kings.  They were slapped in the face, publicly humiliated and even murdered.  But their art ‘split’ history wide open.  Their voice is still heard, echoing through the ages.

Look at the life of Jesus, the Son of God.  If anyone had the right motivation and understanding of fame, it would be the creator of all things: God Himself, right?  After all, he wanted everyone to hear the message of truth and Good News.  Did Jesus have a global ministry?  No.  Did He go after every available opportunity to promote Himself?  No.

Here are some examples:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24) 

“Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here, and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may behold Your works which You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be known publicly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”  For not even His brothers were believing in Him.  Jesus therefore said to them, “My time is not yet at hand, but your time is always opportune.  The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.  Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” (Jn. 7:2-8)

“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.  Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “Do you want to go away also?” (Jn. 6:66-67)

“Do you now believe?  Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (Jn. 16:31-32)

He was just as confident with the multitudes following Him (between 5-10,000 people at a time), as He was being by Himself, left alone.  The number of people and what they thought about Him didn’t seem to matter to Him.  What did matter was fulfilling His God-given destiny.  He knew the timing, the circles of influence and the right communication skills to reach those specific circles.  To His disciples, He communicated one way, yet to the multitudes, He presented His message another way.  (for more on this, see: Current and Future Worship Trends: My Vision, the Community)

“And He was saying to them (His disciples), “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, in order that while seeing, they may not see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may not understand lest they return and be forgiven.” (Mk. 4:11-12)

He didn’t travel to the farthest reaches of the known world at that time, but simply stayed around the regions of Judea.  He didn’t ‘modify’ His message to try to gain a greater audience, but rather to ‘prick their consciences’ to move them closer to a certain goal.

When He was ultimately crucified by those who were jealous of His ‘fame’, nobody was with Him except His mother and the youngest, most insignificant of His disciples.  Everyone else ran away, afraid for their lives.  This was the end of the life of The Greatest Artist, the One Who compromised His art none at all.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The resurrection!

God Himself took the sacrifice, the pure sacrifice, and raised it up out of death.  He exalted it even above death.  Every death in Christ, every sacrifice in faith must have a resurrection.

God raised Him from the dead.  “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (Rom. 6:9)

The artist who uncompromisingly follows in these steps will also have a resurrection.  Take the life of Bach, for example.  He died in obscurity, having given his art into the hands of God.  Within a century later, Felix Mendelssohn put on a concert of his works and Bach was ‘reborn’ to influence music for generations to come.  Study the life of Bach: what motivated him?  It was his love of God, and his passion to follow his life’s destiny and purpose.  He knew his audience (who often didn’t accept or understand what he was about), but he gave his best in faith and God gave his work resurrection beyond fame, to the highest level of cultural influence.

The choice is clear: 1) live to please men’s whims and desires, which ultimately ends up empty, or 2) live to please God, which may be painful for a short time, but ultimately ends in resurrected power.

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25)

What are you after: the quick and easy way, or the way of everlasting greatness?

The choice is yours: short-lived fame or eternal prophetic power.



My Philosophy of Creativity

What is it that makes a creative success?  What is it that will touch people's lives in our music and art?  These are good questions that any sincere artist will ask, not just once, but throughout his life of creativity.

Regardless of whether or not one's art reaches the masses or touches just one soul at the right moment, a creator has to know that it was worth the effort to give his time and his talent in bringing forth beauty.

Whether or not his work is seen by others as a success or failure is not really the point, but rather the boldness to 'catch the wind' with the 'sail' of his imagination.  This is what brings meaning to the creative process. 

It doesn't matter if it's good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song...

Sing a Song

 

Did You Know That There's a Symphony in the Bible?

It’s not the New York Philharmonic, but it is filled with beauty and wonder.

It’s the unity of Christian believers in worship.

The Greek word sumphoneo, where we get our modern English word Symphony is used to describe being in agreement, in unison, in one accord, to speak together, to concur with one another.

Jesus said, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt.18:19-20)

Evidently, agreement creates power: the power of answered prayer, the power of the Presence of God.

The Greek word sumphonia, which is directly related to sumphoneo, means “to sound together, accordant, harmonious, Symphony, concert of instruments, music.”  Its synonyms are humnos (a hymn, a religious metrical composition), psallo (to make melody by the twitching and twanging of strings, to sing), and ode (a chant).

There are two Scriptures which use these exact words in sequence, written by the Apostle Paul, as he was encouraging the Church to participate in these activities when they came together.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph. 5:18-21) 

And here’s the second one:

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 5:16)

Coming together with music is not only a spiritual command, but an opportunity to participate in something profound.  When we do this, we apparently tap into an extra dimension, something not at all ordinary, something unusual and powerful.

According to the Scriptures, we are encouraged to do this through the activity of singing and making music through composed and spontaneous songs and the use musical instruments.

“Yet You are holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon (literally, inhabit) the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:3)

God inhabits the praises of His people.

When you put Matthew 18:20 together with Psalm 22:3 you begin to see a pattern.  When God’s people come together in united praise, He says, “There I am in their midst.”  He “inhabits and is enthroned upon” their praises.

As this happens, there is not just earthly human power available.  According to Scripture, there is super-natural (or above natural) power which is present to heal, set free, deliver, fix what is broken, release what is bound, and set straight what is crooked.  Everything you know in your imagination that God can do, in this atmosphere He is present to do it.

It all happens when His people come together in united worship.  He is right there, ready to touch anyone who has faith to draw upon the power of His presence.

The woman with the issue of blood, who touched Jesus’ garment and was instantly healed, was surrounded by a multitude of people who experienced no miracle at all for themselves.  She was the only one who reached out in faith to touch Jesus.  He was physically being touched by people all around Him, but only one touched Him by faith. (Lk. 8:43-48)

When we are in the presence of God through united worship, we need to draw upon His available power to touch our lives, to do the things that natural man can never accomplish, inviting the power of a loving God to give us breakthrough.

It can and will happen in the Symphony of God, His manifested presence through corporate worship, the united gathering of those who draw near to Him by faith.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (Js. 4:8)

It’s a Symphony more powerful than anything this world can create, one that uses song, voices and instruments, but it’s a Symphony that goes much deeper than music, one that taps into the spiritual realm and touches the regenerative power that only God Himself can give.

Will you come to the concert?  The tickets are free.