07
May
13

Our Greatest Need and God’s Greatest Gift

John 3:16

Recently, I had the honor of leading worship at a church in California. The guest speaker was Allen Randolph. He spoke about John 3:16. He made the statement that we are all too familiar with this passage of scripture and sometimes we can overlook all that God is telling us in this simple verse that we’ve all memorized. He summarized his message with this powerful statement…

 
“Our greatest need is the desire to be loved unconditionally…God’s greatest gift is His love for us”.

 
It makes perfect sense that this need that we have can only be met by God’s love. It also became very clear to me that I struggle quite a bit in this area. God loves me and that is the only approval that I need. He approves, accepts, affirms, appreciates me! When man does not, God still does. When I don’t feel like I am loved, God still does. His greatest gift meets my greatest need. God spoke to me very clearly and I felt him say…I have called you and loved you, I have brought you to this place and will keep you. The other thing that Allen said that really stood out for me is this…If someone gave you a thousand dollars, what would be the greater gift? A thousand dollars or the fact that this person loved you enough to give you the thousand dollars? The truth is God loves us and that is the entire motivation for what He brings our way. So two things I need to learn to do…1. Walk knowing that God loves me. This makes me unshakeable by anything that man does.  2. Trust that everything I go through is working in God’s plan for my life and his love is working everything out.
Today and everyday…you are loved, accepted, affirmed, appreciated, approved by God!

josh

15
May
12

Drummers and Tempo Issues

Drummers and tempo issues…welcome to my soapbox…

The FIRST thing that you have to get him to do is to “buy into” the fact that you’re doing this for HIS good as a drummer and a developing ENSEMBLE musician.  In a pop instrumental ensemble – be it church orchestra, pit orchestra (those two ensembles function VERY similarly…sometimes but not always under the baton of a conductor) or rock ‘n’ roll band – the drummer IS the timepiece who holds it all together.  Especially if there’s not always a directed time pattern in front of him.  Here’s why:

The drummer needs to understand that the ensemble follows him as he follows the conductor.  The rest of the musicians may be looking at the conductor, but they are following what they hear coming from the drummer, in much the same way as a choir with only a pianist accompanying them will follow the tempo and style of the pianist (especially one who struggles with tempo) – even if they are watching a conductor.  So that makes the drummer the “assistant” conductor, and as such, the drummer needs to know (in advance) all of the tempi, the locations in the music and the degree of any ritard, a tempo, new tempo, fermato or any other such markings.  The drummer needs to be the FIRST (not the last) to know and express these markings musically as they occur.

Technically, the two most important things that your drummer (any drummer in church for that matter) needs to address:

  • When accompanying a singer or choir, there is a natural tendency for instrumentalists (particularly pianists, and they are usually the lead sound of a church instrumental group) to rush the accompaniment when the singers are holding a long note, or even between phrases while the singers are resting and getting ready for the next phrase.  The next time you attend a college vocal soloist or choral ensemble recital, listen and see if that is not the case.  It is sort of built into accompanists from the very beginning.  In a an ensemble setting, be it choral-instrumental or only instrumental, the drummer MUST avoid those tendencies.
  • Interestingly in rock or pop music, beat 4 (in a 4/4 time setting, obviously) is the place where most of the above offenses occur.  For some reason, there is a natural tendency to anticipate (or just plain RUSH) the downbeat of the next measure.  Again, listen to yourself or someone else play along to a click and check this out.  It happens!  The most important beat of the measure is beat 4…not beat 1.  If you get your drummer to playing beat 4 of every measure on time and not rushing into the downbeat of the next measure, you’re on your way to developing a great drummer-leader in your ensemble.


MAKE your drummer practice and perform to a click…time patterns AS WELL AS FILLS (really good drummers can play anything to a click).  And it would be good if others (either you as conductor, or your MoM/Choir Director, or someone else) hear the click too (it will make the drummer accountable).  Be prepared for the need to CONTINUALLY encourage him…and especially praise him when he gets a song right!  He may not know for sure each time until you tell him.

Years ago, I taught drum students in private lessons.  Of all the students that I remember teaching, only two have gone on to professional/semi-professional drumming careers as adults.  Both of them took the principles that I taught them as ‘The Law” from the very beginning and applied them to everything they played.  Today each one of them is a FINE, solid, and dependable Tempo Machine.  Not because I was their teacher, but because each one actually DID what he was told to do, and eventually experienced the success that I promised him from the very beginning.

07
May
12

Not Afraid

God commanded Joshua to be courageous during a time where he needed to step it up.  It was important for Joshua to realize that in order to reach the Promised Land and lead many to the same place, he needed to be strong and courageous.  God’s promise was simple: “I am with you always.”  Now I command you to be strong and courageous, don’t be afraid or discouraged.

Joshua probably asked himself a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves…am I good enough to do this?  What will they say about me?  What if I fail?  What if this is just me and not God?  What will tomorrow bring?  Why did God choose me?  What if I succeed – what next?

 

All of these questions are based on different fears we deal with.  Whether it was a person that told us these things or a belief system we created based on our personal failures, etc. The deep root is FEAR. The opposite of fear is COURAGE. God wants us to face the great challenges in this life with this confident statement:”I’m NOT AFRAID and I’m ready for what you have for me Lord.”

In that place is where we will find a courage that will change everything.  It’s already in us; it just needs to be awakened.

06
Feb
12

Surrender

Have you ever asked yourself, “why am I still holding on to this and why haven’t I surrendered it to God?” Whether it is the weight of sin, unforgiveness, fear of the unknown, a deep hurt of the past, pride, shame, insecurity, etc., there are lots of things that we hold on to. These things take the joy out of our life and we end up living in mediocrity and not truly experiencing all the amazing things that God has for us.

So how can we truly surrender these things? I am learning that everyday. Here are a few things that I am learning about surrender.

First, I think we have to recognize that we don’t have the power to surrender on our own. It is God’s Spirit at work in us that gives us the power to surrender.
Recognizing this is the first step in surrendering. In our weakness, His strength is made perfect.

Second, we need a revelation of His love. So often times we try to surrender something out of fear and this only leads to still holding on to whatever we are trying to surrender. God loves us so much and when we truly understand His love for us, then we will want to live our lives surrendered to Him because of His goodness. Spending time with Him is key. If you want to get to know anyone, you spend time with them. Whenever my wife and I recognize we need to reconnect in our relationship…we plan a getaway and spend time together. This is the same with God. If you want to know who He is, you have to be intentional about spending time with Him. He wants to reveal His love to us everyday. Our team is doing a 30 day devotional called- “Will You Worship?” by Ray Jones. This book invites you to spend time with God and fresh way. I see God revealing His love to me in a great ways.

I invite you to take this journey with us, you can get the book at http://www.cbcmusicstore.com/products/Will-You-Worship-Book-%26-Study.html

Lastly, I think surrender is saying YES without knowing the outcome. We are so wired to give our yes only if we know the outcome. We play our “yes” safe. True surrender is understanding that God has a plan, it may not always be what we want but it will be the best for our lives. Saying yes to Him without knowing all the outcome is true surrender. If He gave His only son, what good thing would He withhold from us?

Today, you may be holding on to something that you know God is wanting you to surrender. Pray this prayer with me.

Father, help me surrender _____________. I don’t want to hold on to this anymore. I say yes to you and your plan for my life. Help me, by your spirit, to not hold on to it anymore. Give me a revelation of your love today. Help me to love you and know you the way that you want to be loved and known. Help me to live my life surrendered to you. In Jesus name I ask these things. Amen.

12
Jan
12

Jesus, be the Center of my life

Over the Christmas break, I had one of those days. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The day started with great plans to put up our Christmas tree and begin all the great Christmas fun with my family. But then my little boys got strep throat and my wife began feeling under the weather as well. Next, I got some bad news from a family member and it just seemed like it was one thing after another. I got really frustrated and felt overwhelmed. Have you ever had one of those days?

I played this song called “Jesus be the Center.” It really put things in perspective. Even when things are chaotic, you can always find something to be grateful for and on this particular day, Jesus once again showed me that it is all about making Him the center in every situation. One of my favorite lyrics in the song is, “Jesus be the center of my life, from beginning to the end, it will always be, it’s always been You Jesus.” It is true – Jesus is always there, ready to be the center of our life when we let Him. So often, I feel I need to fix things or figure things out on my own. I am so glad that Jesus is always faithful to remind me that I can leave it in His hands and trust Him.

The truth is, when I am the center of my life, everything is out of balance. Nothing can satisfy my soul like truly living for Jesus, putting others first and making Jesus the center. When Jesus is the center of my life, I have indescribable joy and peace. He sustains me with His love even when I have trials and testing.

Christmas is such a wonderful time with family and friends. I love all the time with family, the Puerto Rican food (lol), the giving of gifts, and all of the great memories to be made. But at the end of the day and even beyond Christmas…it’s all about Jesus. He came down from Heaven to demonstrate His love for us so that we would love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Our life has purpose, peace, and joy when we put Him at the center and lead others to do the same.

Will you pray this prayer with me today?….”Jesus be the center of my life, help me love those that You have placed in my life and bring a smile to Your face in everything I do. Show me by Your grace, what it is to truly live with You at the center of everything I do and say”.

05
Jan
12

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!  –Isaiah 26:3, NLT

Everyday, every minute is an opportunity to fix our eyes on Jesus!  Do we struggle with this fixation?  Did we go all day shopping for Christmas and never ask God for help?  Do we go thru the day at work and never talk to God about blessing others, healing others, needing patience to deal with others, needing guidance on a particular task, wanting direction for a need, asking for blessings on those who are angry?

Fix our eyes on Jesus.  An idea that may help with “fixing our eyes” is to focus on a verse for the day or/and a song for the day. Make the words to a song personal – a prayer – just between me and our Savior:

Joy To The World the Lord is come,

Let me receive you as king.

Let my tiny heart

make room for You,

and heav’n and my heart sing,

and heav’n and my heart praise,

and heav’n and heav’n and insert your name sing.

Post by Valerie Johnson, CBC Choral Librarian & Amplify Band Admin.

19
Dec
11

Make Some Noise

With trumpets and the sound of the horn, shout joyfully before the King, the LORD. (Psalm 98:6)

A lifelong dream came true for me in 2010. I was raised in Louisiana and spent a great deal of my ministry in New Orleans. My favorite football team, the New Orleans Saints, won the Super Bowl for the first time in history. You may not be a sports fan or a Saints fan, but the Super Bowl was particularly big for New Orleans. They had been trying to win a Super Bowl since 1966. For all those years they were known as one of biggest sports losers in history. Fans even wore bags over their heads to games because they were so embarrassed about how bad the Saints were. I saw it firsthand.

When they won the 2010 Super Bowl, I shouted. In fact, I shouted so loud that I think the whole neighborhood heard me and I didn’t care. I was traveling the day after the Saints big win and I saw some other New Orleans Saints fans in the airport. We all started shouting again. The Saints deserved my shout and I gladly gave one up for them. I had fun! I was unashamed and uninhibited when it came to giving a victory cheer for my Saints!

We use our voices to communicate both the positive and negative. Our voices express our deepest passions and our most important concerns. My dog, Cooper Jack Jones, once broke into our storeroom and pulled the kitty’s bed out into the yard (among other things). I gave Cooper Jack a lot of my passion that day. I confess I shouted my feelings about the situation. My dog heard my voice and he immediately got the message. With great remorse, he seemed to repent of his evil deeds toward our kitty and me. His deepest desire was to be my friend again. My point here is that my shout showed my passion about the situation and it got a positive response.

We live noisy lives. Most of us are relieved that making noise is not a requirement in order to know and worship God. A familiar Psalm even gives us permission to be quiet as a part of our active worship: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 ESV). At times, God chooses to speak and move in quietness. He is God; He can speak any time and any way He chooses. But to engage God fully in worship, making a joyful noise with our voices is a vital next step.

Worship is loving God. I don’t want to make worship more complicated than necessary. Yet a refusal to engage God on a more passionate level with our voices could be a heart-issue disguised as a preference. You may say that’s just not me as your reason for passion-less, voiceless worship. Make sure your lack of passion is not a stubborn, prideful heart-issue.

Will You Worship?

Psalm 100 describes a passionate expression of worship demonstrated through our voices: make a joyful noise to the Lord. Noise is used in the original Hebrew language to describe using one’s voice as an alarm or a war cry. Our voices are described as instruments of worship we use for God just like a guitar, piano, or violin. You never raise your voice unless you are passionate about something. This verse gives permission and a command (whichever you need) to be passionate about God, and let Him know it with your voice.

 

Notice Psalm 100:1 does not say shout about the Lord but shout to Him. We use the term vertical worship to describe an important principle that will help you grow as a worshiper. In the past, our worship gatherings have mainly focused on singing about the Lord. Some precious and meaningful songs have been written that way. However, the next level is singing and shouting to the Lord, or vertical worship.

 

Vertical worship is our faces looking upward to Him and our songs being presented to Him. He is the audience when we worship and we make our presentations to Him. In the first week of WYW, I told the story about my revolutionary discovery: worship is our ministry to the Lord. We see this principle of scripture repeated again in Psalm 100:1 – as we do throughout the Psalms. The next level in our worship is engaging God directly when we worship. Praise is His and He loves to hear it. Such shouting comes from a heart full of joy.

Why does God seldom move us as deeply as a football team or a mischievous dog? God deserves our loudest cheer and our deepest passion. A victorious war cry given to God is in order! Not only is God winning but God wins! Give your best noise to God with joy and abandonment. Go beyond the token or obligatory offering of praise and singing. Be bold in your expression so that God will know of your passion for Him. One thing I can promise you, God will never grow weary or impatient with you for being too excited about Him.

 

Excerpts from the book “Will You Worship”  by Ray Jones with Dino Senesi

Available at http://www.cbcmusicstore.com




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