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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

music and worship

It was brought to my attention recently that it's been a month since I wrote a real entry in this. I'd like to be somewhat regular, but haven't made this a priority lately.

A subject I've thought about a lot probably ever since my senior year of college, but much more in the last few months is the role of music in worship. Specifically, I've been quite frustrated with my lack of understanding of what the point is of music worship and my inability to worship through music as I wish I would.

This is brought to the forefront of my mind quite frequently since I lead music worship and help with music worship teams quite often. The problem is that I often realize after leading worship that I extended so much energy into the music that not much of my conscious attention was given to actually worshiping God.

I also never know how to take it when people compliment me, saying something like "that was good worship today." I struggle with wondering what they mean, and whether that's a compliment I should accept. I'm afraid that they mean that the music was good and it provoked emotions in them and that was satisfying to them, or they just really enjoyed the music. I hope it means that somehow God used me and the music I played to make Himself more known to them and to help them to worship Him in spirit and truth. The problem with me believing the latter is that I know myself. If I'm in a worship service and the music is really good, or really bad, it is very distracting to me as a musician. It doesn't (or I don't let it) lead me to worship God. Instead, the music intrigues or disgusts me and I set my mind to trying to analyze the music and what I like or dislike about it. Quite possibly not too many people are like me in this. I'm assuming it might be common among musicians.

I also wonder whether music has become an idol or a hindrance to Christians in our day. I see so often in Christian history that one of Satan's most effective tactics is to get us to hold on to something really close to the truth or closely associated with true worship, enough that most people can be fooled. I do believe that music can be effective in worship. The only good reason I have become convinced of at this time (I hope I'm convinced of more later) is that it is about the only way to get a large group of people to be saying the same thing at the same time (and mostly on the same pitch). It's an amazing experience to be all singing the same thing to the same God and I believe He is glorified by that (especially since there is a lot of singing going on in heaven according to John's revelation). However, I wonder how many Christians in my church and in most churches in the US would consider it a real worship service if the music was taken out of it, or if their talented rock worship team was replaced with a mediocre southern gospel band or some other kind of music that doesn't necessarily move them. I'm really afraid that Satan's slipped in a lie and what we think is true worship is at least partly just getting into some music that we really like. Getting into music we really like isn't a bad thing, but if we say (by our actions) that that's what worshiping God is, He has got to be disgusted by our "worship services".

I'm not sure if I'm making my thoughts clear. But the main struggle I'm facing is this: I do not want to have any part in Satan's schemes to make music into an idol or a crutch needed for worship. I want to point people to the God of the universe, the creator of music, to be worshiped at all times, in all ways. And sometimes I'm afraid that I'm a part of what people are attaching themselves to that's almost worship, but not really. The other struggle is just in my ability to worship while leading worship, but I think that's mainly because of issues of pride and fear of man in myself. I'm slowly learning to surrender that to Jesus and take on His humility.

I may post more on this subject later, because I don't think I got out all of my thoughts on the subject, but I want to go to bed now. Please post comments if you have questions or thoughts on the subject. I'd appreciate hearing some other points of view.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I'm now engaged to the most wonderful woman in the world! If you're interested in reading about our story, check out the blog we started together.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


God revealed some really good things to Jodi and I about persecution today. I started out by realizing that I don't know what it means to be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:14, 2 Thes. 1:5). I don't have much desire to suffer, unless it will bring God more glory, but I don't quite understand what it means to be counted worthy of that.

Anyway, then we realized that Jesus says "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20)". So, why are we not seeing much persecution in America. Jesus was surely persecuted, so we should be seeing some persecution some, right? So why is it that people hate and persecute Christians? I think the next verse gives some explanation: "They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me. (John 15:21)" We will be hated and persecuted because we know the only God and we bow and give our allegience only to Him. Those who have rejected Christ and have given themselves to serve something or someone else (because everyone worships something) cannot stand the fact that we hold nothing dear except the God who they have rejected. Several biblical examples came to our minds pretty quickly. The pharisees hated and persecuted Jesus and the early Christians because they had rejected Christ and Jesus and the Christians would not bow to their idols of legalism and self-righteousness. Shadrach, Meshac and Abednego were persecuted and meant to be killed because they chose to only bow to worship the LORD God, and refused to bow down to the god Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

So, the question came back to us. Why are we not seeing suffering for the name of Christ in America? I can say without a doubt that there are idols being worshiped in America. Materialism, sex, media entertainment, and gaining reputation and recognition are some that come to mind really quickly. Each of these are upheld in our culture (and not only ours) as things to be sought after at all costs, and they are taking away from the worship of the One True God. So, are we not being persecuted because we're not taking a stand against these idols? Is it not clear to those around us that we will never bow to these and our only allegience is to Jesus Christ? I won't claim that that's the only reason, but I think it's a big reason. I don't really think it's clear to people to know me and see me that I'm rejecting each of those things and I'm willing to be tortured and killed rather than bow down to them. Am I that serious about God alone being worshiped?

As we were thinking through these questions, we were also wondering what forms persecution might take on here in America, where it's not illegal to be a Christian and it is illegal to persecute Christians the way they are in some other areas of the world. One thing God showed us is that one of our greatest fears as post-modern Christians is being misunderstood. We often see the post-modern church labeling certain groups as legalistic or haters because they are standing firmly against behaviors or products and refusing to budge. I can't at the moment come up with any good examples. If anyone's actually reading this blog and has an example, please post a comment. But the point that was driven home to Jodi and I was this: Are we willing to be totally misunderstood, labeled as a hater, legalistic, unloving, etc, for Jesus... or are we too concerned about being misunderstood, and about saving our reputation?

It is so incredibly humbling to look at Jesus on the cross and the time leading up to his crucifiction. His physical suffering was great, but maybe just as great was the extent to which He was misunderstood. Here he was, beaten to a pulp, spit on, put in the lowest state of human existance, pouring out His life because He loves His creation, and can't stand to be separated from them. And yet He's accused of blaspheming against God, and He's absolutely hated by the very ones He's showing the purest love to. In an instant, He could have acted in His perfectly righteous anger, and made it clear to everyone exactly Who He was, what He was doing, the agony they were putting Him through, and put them in His place. But instead, He chose humility. He chose to show His love by allowing the greatest misunderstanding of all time, allowing Himself to be fully rejected and so to fully show what love is. I can't comprehend this. I know that in light of Jesus I cannot hold onto my desires to be understood, accepted by men, and have my love reciprocated.

I must choose to worship God alone, and point others to the only God. Oh God, have mercy and grace on me, my brothers and sisters, and this world that hates you. We will bow down to no other god but You, God. Show us where our worship is impure.

Friday, October 26, 2007

unselfish love

It seems it takes rubbing up closely against other people to find out who I really am and the unique strengths and weeknesses You've given me and my life experiences have given me. I'm learning who I am in contrast to who other people are and I'm trying to learn to love other people for who they are instead of being bothered by all of the ways they're not like me.

Unselfish, true love is I think what you're trying to teach me about, and experience these days. I want to love Jodi the way you love her and I'm amazed at how beautiful the love is that you've given us. I want to love the other interns the way you love them, and I'm amazed at the selfishness I see in them and in me. I keep seeing all of their flaws and inconsistencies and wanting to point them out. Is it because I'm insecure and want to assure myself that I'm somehow better than them? That's not anything like the humble love I'm supposed to have because You're living in me. I sometimes experience that love, but much more often, I experience me wanting to get something out of my relationship with everyone else. It's pretty encouraging though to see that You're addressing this in me and You're not content to let me keep thinking I'm alright. I want to learn to love, at any cost... But it scares me.

As we were driving to PA last weekend, Jodi and I were talking and I told her about how I realized that I somehow hope that as I get my issues figured out and I learn how to relate to people correctly, somehow everything will be cool and I won't have to be bothered by other peoples' junk. And You've showed me that that's very flawed thinking and it's full of selfishness and wanting everything to be okay for me no matter what it's like for everyone else. Even if I get to the point of relating to everyone in complete love, if anything, that's going to make the burdens of others even harder for me. Help me, God, to let go of my vain hopes of not having to deal with other peoples' junk. You dealt in the worst way with all of our junk. You let people beat you, spit on you, falsely accuse you, ruin your reputation, waste you time, twist your words, betray you. And you said that if they did it to you, they'll do it to me, if I'm following you. Teach me Your humility in my relationships.

the beginning

I've decided to start a blog. We'll see if I actually end up enjoying it and continuing it. I journal every now and then and I've been encouraged to journal more as God is doing a heck of a lot in my life these days. But I hate writing - the physical act of writing. I'm slow, I write really sloppily, and it hurts my shoulder and hand. But I don't mind typing at all. I also don't like that I can't easily search back through my journal for stuff that I know I wrote about. Thus, I've decided to start a private blog as my journal. And I'd like to also publish publicly some of the things I write in there. If I end up getting an audience on here, maybe some of you will benefit from hearing about what the Lord is teaching me. It probably won't all be like a journal, though. Who knows what I might decide to put on here.