Midweek Music 08.05.15

“By Our Love” Christy Nockels

This song has been stuck in my head for quite some time now. With the recent political climate, both in the last few months and beyond, Christians have become known for what they are against and what they dislike.

It’s easy to be on the defense. It’s easy to sit back and wait for someone to say anything you don’t like and then make sure everyone knows you don’t like it. But imagine a world where Christians proactively worked towards being on the offensive side of love.

What if Christians, instead of being known for what we don’t like, were known for showing love and kindness. What if Christians were known for feeding the hungry, helping the poor and the homeless, healing the sick. What is Christians were known by their love.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 07.15.15

 

“Tear Down the Walls” Hillsong United

This song is directly tied to what God has constantly placed on my heart as of late. The vast majority of the church has become egocentric. In our outreach, in our corporate and personal worship, in our message…we hide behind a false persona of who we want Christ to be rather than who he actually is.

Rather than let Christ reflect on us so that we can be more like Him, we reflect ourselves onto this false persona of Christ we create…in essence we create a Christ that is simply a model of ourselves and worse yet, we worship it.

We have actively built up walls to shut out the noise of anyone who disagrees with our perception of Christ. We use these walls to protect these perceptions. The thing is, Christ isn’t yours to protect. More so, Christ isn’t yours. Christ doesn’t belong to you, you belong to Christ.

It’s time to tear down the walls, open our eyes, reach out, and love. Lord, let love tear down these walls.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.


Midweek Music is a new series published on Wednesdays that will be replacing Music Monday.

 

Music Monday 07.06.15

“People of God” Gungor

There is too much division in this country and even more division in the church. It’s disheartening, frustrating, and exhausting. Let’s stop fighting and let’s work together.

Tear down the walls that divide us
Let love rebuild and unite us
All we need is
All we need is love

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Child of God

I’m fortunate enough to live in a nice house in a nice surrounding area. Throughout the week, I go running along maintained sidewalks towards a nature preserve located about a mile from my house where I get to experience God’s awesome wildlife creation, both plants and animals.

Sometimes though (for example: the entire Month of May), it rains and I have to drive to my gym to get any sort of workout. I enjoy my gym, it’s inexpensive while still being a great facility and it’s only about 2 miles from my house. While the immediate area surrounding my house is nice with a low crime rate, my gym sits just on the outside of that area where the income level drops and the crime rate rises. As I get close to the gym, I see less cars and more walkers. I see less houses and more homeless.

I’m not going to lie, there are times when I’m leaving my gym a little later at night that I’ll see someone walking by and get a little nervous. If they’re in gym clothes, I don’t have much of a reaction. If they’re in street clothes, I become suspicious of why they’re walking around a parking lot so late at night. (This is the moment where my mom stops reading my blog and calls to tell me to stop going to the gym at night). It’s not always at night though, I see more homeless people out walking around in the day than I ever do at night.

The other afternoon, I was driving home from my gym when I was stopped by the only traffic light I encounter. There was a homeless man walking toward the corner where I was waiting on the light. From the opposite direction, a father and son were walking hand-in-hand towards the same corner. I’m fairly certain they were not homeless but I’m equally certain they weren’t walking just because their Mercedes was in the shop.

The homeless man and the father-son duo arrived at the intersection at the same time. My windows were down and I briefly considered rolling them up so as to avoid any awkward money requests. As I was contemplating my window situation, the boy suddenly yanked his hand out of his fathers and walked up to the man.

The homeless man kept his eyes down and didn’t react. The boy looked up at him and without missing a beat held his hand up while saying, “You look thirsty. I don’t like it when I’m thirsty. My daddy gave me $2 to spend at the gas station but I’m going to give you one of my dollars. Then I can still get a drink and you can too.” It was at this time that the light turned green…or at least it was at this time that the car behind my honked and I noticed the light was green. As I pulled away, I saw the homeless man smile and take the crumpled $1 bill from the young boy.

I drove away thinking about the innocence of the moment. A child saw someone in need and did what he could to respond to that need…even when he didn’t have much himself. The father and I both shifted our eyes away from the unwanted opportunity to awkwardly decline giving the man money. We didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience of recognizing a need. The boy though, it was almost as if he couldn’t ignore the need.

Mark Miller wrote a song, “Child of God”. The lyrics are simple but an important reminder:

No matter what people say
Say or think about me
I am a child
I am a child of God

No matter what people say
Say or think about you
You are a child
You are a child of God

I think this is the mindset the little boy had as he handed the homeless man that $1 bill. I think this is the mindset I should have had as I contemplated rolling up my windows. I think this is the mindset I should have as I drive through the part of town in which my gym is located. I think this is the mindset I should have when I don’t want to recognize someone’s need over my convenience.

The next time someone or something makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with the problem, I pray that I remember that I am unbelievably fortunate to be a child of God. I hope and pray that no matter what I say or think, no matter what anyone else says or thinks, I remember that everyone I encounter is a child of God. Everyone I encounter is worth my time and my love. I hope and pray that I remember this boy’s innocence and his willingness to help another child of God.

Music Monday 05.18.15

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Stuart Townsend

Yesterday in church, our worship set was centered around the constant theme of love in Scripture. I spoke about the idea that God doesn’t simply love us unconditionally, God is love. It’s not just an emotion displayed, it’s not mere affection, God is the essence of love, the very being of it. Love exists because God exists.

Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are ransomed. We don’t deserve it. We’ve done nothing, nor can we do anything, to earn it. But because God is love, and because love is so deep, so wide, so vast beyond all measure, we are allowed to gain from His reward. To God alone be the glory.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 04.27.15

“Simplicity” Rend Collective

I recently wrote about the church’s habit of containing worship to a certain style. There is a well known struggle between traditionalists and modernists as to what is the appropriate kind of worship to use in services. I am very vocal about my middle-ground stance. I try to pull both ends of the spectrum to a place where we can appreciate the idea that worship isn’t about us, its about our desire (and responsibility) to glorify God with our talents. That brings me to this week’s Music Monday song.

I’ve used Rend Collective in this series before. They’re a great band who combines excellent music with a great depth of theologically complex and challenging subject matter. One of the lines from their song Simplicity actually serves as the namesake for this entire blog. I’ve written about the song before (not in this series) and it’s humble plea to be overtaken by Christ. It’s a plea from the singer that they would be stripped completely of themselves until the only thing left inhabiting their spirit is Christ.

Lord strip it all away, ’til only You remain

The song encapsulates everything I think worship should be. We need to step back from our pride, strip ourselves bare of ambition and insecurities, and lift up a broken song to the only One worthy of our worship. Our first and foremost love.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Containing Worship

I’m not going to lie to you. Sometimes, it’s really frustrating being a worship leader. I love worshiping God, I love seeing others worship God, and I love music. When all three of those come together in a single moment, it’s absolutely glorious. It gives me goosebumps to feel God’s presence and worship alongside other people. Then there are those moments when the goosebumps fade and I get frustrated. You know the moments I’m talking about. Fast vs. Slow. Soft vs. Loud. Older Hymns vs. Newer Songs. Band vs. Choir. Lighting. Audio. Visual. Effects. Atmosphere. Quality. Acoustic. Electric. Presentation. “Traditional is more reverent.” “Contemporary is more relevant.”

I’ve been around ministry and music long enough that I’ve been involved in more discussions, read more articles, and heard more debates than I can hardly stand anymore. I have the background and have had unique opportunities to be heavily involved in both traditional settings and contemporary settings. Through my experiences, I’ve met a slew of people with a variety of opinions on the subject. The vast majority of them have the best of intentions in their heart. They don’t necessarily believe that one is wrong per se, they just truly believe that one or the other is on a greater spiritual level. They engage in passionate conversations about the depth of which their preferred style reaches beyond the other.

When did worship stop becoming about worshiping? What moment in time did people start having the mindset that “worship” could even be stylized? I think it was around the same time we started treating “worship” as only a noun instead of both a noun and a verb. Worship is supposed to be an expression. It is supposed to be a deep and emotional expression of reverence for something of which the worshiper has great adoration. If we are to believe that is the case (and I very much do believe it), how can we define what style is appropriate for worship? Why would we limit our own ability to worship by placing unnecessary parameters around something that is supposed to be beautiful and intimate?

Now beyond that, and far more importantly, at what moment did we decide worship had anything to do with us in the first place? “The worship just didn’t speak to me.” “The songs just didn’t move me.” “I couldn’t get into the music.” “I didn’t really like the worship leader’s voice.” I’ve heard all of these and have been guilty of saying a few of them. What do they all have in common? The focus is always the worshiper. But the problem is that worship isn’t supposed to be about the worshiper, it’s supposed to be about whatever is being worshiped. When we come together for our church services and the music starts, our thought process shouldn’t be “OMG IT’S THE NEW ONE FROM HILLSONG”. Our thought process should be focused on the one who gives us a reason to worship.

I once had the most incredible privilege of taking a church youth choir I directed into an inner-city church in Chicago. The overwhelming majority of the choir was made up of white, middle to upper-class, suburban high school kids from a United Methodist church in Texas. The independent gospel church we were visiting was in the center of a predominantly black and economically downtrodden neighborhood on the western side of Chicago. From the demographic and regional differences alone, you know that the stereotypical worship styles of the two groups are on vast opposite ends of the spectrum. That night we worshiped together and it was electric. We sang hymns, we sang contemporary songs, we sang gospel songs, there was spoken word, there were scriptures, and there was dancing. There was a cultural and spiritual exchange between these two groups and it transcended stylized worship. Our worship transcended our preferences and became what it should always be, a deep and emotional expression of reverence for God.

On that evening in Chicago, worship was a verb. What might it look like if worship became a verb in our every week worship? What might we be able to accomplish if we get over our preferences and allow worship to take over our hearts. We must stop containing worship as a simple noun, inserting our preferential adjectives and limiting it’s true purpose. Go and express emotional reverence for God. Go and worship.

Music Monday 03.02.15

“My Lighthouse” Rend Collective

There’s something special to me about the imagery of God as a lighthouse. I’ve had my share of shortcomings, grief, and dark times throughout my life but my faith in God has always been very important to me. He has yet to fail me.

This song, by one of my favorite worship bands, perfectly encapsulates that idea. No matter where we are, no what we are experiencing, no matter who is involved, there is a “lighthouse” that will lead us safely to shore. He doesn’t give up on us and He doesn’t fail. It might not always be the way we hope or imagine but it will always be what is best for us according to His glory.

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 01.26.15

“Sinking Deep” Hillsong Young and Free

Over MLK Day weekend, I took my middle school youth on a ski retreat up to Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. It’s hosted by the UMC camp and conference center up there with a guest speaker, a worship band, games, and, of course, skiing. We closed each day with a corporate worship service for the entire group. The guest band leading worship for the weekend ended the service every night with this song.

When I heard it the first night, I thought it might an original song of theirs as I had never heard it before and I consider myself reasonably knowledgable about worship music. I did a little research care of Google and Spotify and found out that it was actually written and recorded by Hillsong Young and Free a little over a year ago.

I was enamored with the song. I couldn’t stop playing it. I looped it over and over taking in every word and every note. I dwelled on the lyrics.

“Sinking deep in mercy’s seas”

“Your love so deep is washing over me”

I like the allusion that God’s grace/mercy/love is so vast, so overwhelming, that we can’t possibly contain it. It’s such a force that we can do nothing but sink deeply into it, be completely overtaken by it. It’s immovable, it’s immeasurable, it’s incredible, and it’s yours for the taking.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 01.12.15

“Future/Past” John Mark McMillan

I traveled quite a bit during the holidays so I decided to take a break from the Music Monday posts as I focused on visiting with friends and family. The holidays are now over and 2015 is well underway. As I was deciding on which song I felt led to begin the year in this series, I found myself reflecting on another blog I’m working on right now. Thinking about that led me to this song that was introduced to me late last year. I love most of John Mark McMillan’s worship songs (“How He Loves” is my favorite) and this one was no exception. To me, the lyrics are a simple way of praising the beauty of how intertwined God is with our lives. Everything that happened/is happening/will happen to me last year, the year before, this year, next year, etc… it’s all connected to my relationship with Christ. He is my most powerful yet loving and tender relationship. He is my friend, He is my first, He is my last. Here is to a 2015 where I allow Him to be my future and my past.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.