Posts Tagged ‘worship


Our Eternal Joy

Worship is not a fad but an eternal practice. Worshiping on earth is like practicing for heaven. I’ve talked about heaven a lot over the years. Jokes and stories about seeing loved ones are common parts of every day conversations. We don’t have a lot of word pictures of Heaven in the Bible, so there is some degree of mystery about what Heaven will be like. Heaven is really beyond our imagination and like nothing we have ever experienced. What pictures we have in Scripture include sitting around the throne adoring Jesus – the One who got us there!

John, in the book of Revelation, described the most sensational worship experience in history. The time, date, and place are yet to be determined. Notice the focus was not the method of worship or even the worship leaders. The band, sound, and style are incidental. Worship is focused on the most worthy Lamb of God! And He is the focus of our worship now, too. How much relational tension in churches would be bypassed if the Lamb became the single focus! My friend, Dennis Jernigan, wrote a worship song that captures this sensational worship experience in Revelation.

We Will Worship

We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King of kings We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King

And with our hands lifted high, we will worship and sing. And with our hands lifted high, we come before You rejoicing. With our hands lifted high to the sky, when the world wonders why, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King…oh, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King. Dennis Jernigan

Read through all of Revelation 4-5 if you want to enjoy a great personal worship time. John described the worship this way:

“And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Rev. 4:9-11)

“And every created thing which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:13-14)

What a picture! Can you imagine the scene in Heaven? Worship is the natural response to someone we adore. We cheapen worship when we try to guilt or manipulate people into being excited about Jesus Christ. Worship is so much greater than manufactured experiences. Worship is discovering who Jesus really is face-to-face. Authentic excitement follows that great discovery. God longs for us to worship Him unashamed, unhindered, and unforced. When we are truly with Him (Revelation 4-5), we get to that incredible place.

Christian musician and worship leader, the late Keith Green, once asked the question, “Will we be bored in Heaven?” In his article, he made a powerful and convicting observation:

“The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us.

If you don’t like worship here, you’ll be miserable in Heaven! You will be bored stiff! We will adore the One who loved us first for eternity. Revisit these great passages that reveal who Jesus is. Reconsider where you are in your relationship with Him. He will ignite a new flame of passion for Him when you do.



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

Available at Dec. 17


I’m okay! I’m okay. I’m okay?

About two months ago, I led worship for CBC’s middle school and high school camps. On the second day of the first camp, I decided to ride a mountain bike through the trails on the campground with some of the guys. I stumbled upon every twelve-year-old boy’s dream: a steep hill. How could I resist? A bike, a really steep hill…how could this be anything but a blast?

Well, I was right. It was a blast! There was, however, a minor hiccup in the fun. No big deal or anything, I just hit a bump going 25mph or so and flew over the handlebars, landed on my shoulder, and tumbled 45ft from where the bike stopped.  No biggie.

Once I caught my breath, we all laughed at how amazing that was. It had to have been pretty funny watching 200 pounds of man flying that far through the air. I’m okay! I’m okay. I’m okay?  Suddenly, I realized that something was wrong with my shoulder. It felt funny, like it was drooping a bit. Then I realized I couldn’t really move my arm much.

Uh oh.

Off to the emergency room. You know it’s a good injury when the doctor and the x-ray tech are staring at the display on the x-ray machine with wide eyes and open mouths. It was my collarbone. Snapped it like a twig. The doctor also said I bruised the ribs on the left side of my body, and that all of the muscles on the left side of my torso would be in constant spasm from the trauma. Awesome.

Fast forward.

It’s Saturday, the second to last night of high school camp. The pain has gotten worse each day since the accident.  We finish our first set of songs and I’m in a pretty overwhelming amount of pain. I’ve always felt like I had a pretty high threshold for pain, but at this point I was sure it was too intense to play the final set. We got back up and I made it through the first song and most of the second. The pain was so intense at this point that my body just stopped working. My legs buckled and I hit my knees. Curled up into a ball and weeping from the immense pain, I knew I couldn’t go any further.

The students and band continued to worship. One of our students came and put one hand on my back. The other, he lifted in the air while he continued to worship. A moment later, it happened. The immense pain was replaced by the immense weight of the Spirit of God in the room.  All at once, the students, adults, and band began to hit their knees. There was worship, then quiet reverence. Nobody moved. Nobody left. Over two hundred of us sat there, enjoying the presence of the Spirit, some for the first time.

It was in this quiet reverence that He whispered something to my Spirit: “I don’t need you to be ‘on your game’. I don’t need you to play the right chords or sing the right notes. I don’t need you to pick the right songs. I don’t need your talent. I don’t need your skills. I need you to say ‘yes’ to Me.”

I broke.

Too often, as a worship leader, I’ve tried to create this moment. I’ve tried to create it with the perfect song or the perfect set list. I’ve tried to create it within the confines of my own skills and abilities. Wow, what a small box to ask God to operate in.


I have already forgotten the pain I experienced that night. However, I haven’t forgotten the weakness I felt. I don’t ever want to.  In my most profound weakness He showed me His incredible strength. It is an experience I will never forget.

God, continue to show me my weakness. Continue to teach me to surrender to You. Help me to say yes to You. Help me move out of Your way.


new level, new devil.

One of my favorite preachers says “new level, new devil;” and I suppose that is where I am finding myself right now. Like when you start a new level in a video game and you haven’t figured out all of the traps and tricks yet, and you are getting your tail kicked, and burning through all of your lives in 5 minutes. You know you can figure it out eventually, but it’s a harder level, and at first you are yelling at the screen saying “dude, no fair, there is no way I can beat this level.” But we know what happens. You eventually get it, and you beat it. Sometimes after 100 tries. You have new moves, new skills, and new weapons – which is good, because you will need them more than ever on the next level. Because there is always a next level. And it is always more challenging than the one before. Until the game is completely over.

I know as worship leaders we shouldn’t be surprised when we are attacked, especially on the day of or hours before we lead. You would think I know the drill by now, and I do, but the game has changed a bit and I am in need of a new drill.

Usually the drill is this: the day I am leading, usually a few hours before, I start to feel a certain weight. It’s actually a physical feeling, and at times I can feel it pressing in pretty heavily. And then little things here and there happen that seem to challenge my reactions and emotions. I do my best to stay focused, remind myself my battle is not with flesh and blood (people) but with the enemy, and I just keep moving forward, keeping my mouth shut, only opening it in prayer or to rebuke the enemy when it gets really heavy. I stay fairly quiet during those hours except for those 2 things if at all possible.

And then I get on stage and about halfway through the set I can feel it break off. The heaviness leaves and the enemy gives up. I go home breathing a lot easier and completely peaceful, and a little tired. That’s one level I’ve been playing over and over again, because I feel pretty confident there. But I guess I accidentally cracked some code or moved up some elevator, because I am on a new floor, and I am getting my tail kicked. I am disoriented and losing my weapons, much less learning how to use new ones.

I don’t think it’s any accident that the armor of God is depicted as just that – armor. There are chinks in armor. And I am figuring out that’s why it says in Ephesians that even after you have it all on, after you’ve done everything else, you still have to stand. Almost as if suiting up doesn’t always mean you won’t escape unscathed. Because of those darn chinks.

Lately the weight has been accompanied by personalized arrows aimed directly at those chinks. The enemy knows our weaknesses, and everyone’s chinks are in different places. And honestly, they don’t even feel like arrows. They feel like bullets from a machine gun. They are extreme and they hurt, attacking everything from small worries to huge things, going so far as to question my place in my calling, or in ministry. They incite tears and sometimes panic. Again, this is not coming from flesh and blood, but straight from the enemy. And I also know that I have control over how much I let those things hurt me or worry me. But I haven’t figured out that trick on this level yet. Because the weapons are new. The bullets are different. New level, new devil.

Recently, it was so heavy that for the first time, sitting in the service during the message waiting to go up for the last 2 songs, I thought, “this is too hard. no fair. there is no way I can withstand this.” I’ve never thought that before, and have never been tempted to meditate on it – which I didn’t, I at least figured out that feeling the pressure of that thought was okay, but meditating on it was not. It was no accident that about that time in the sermon, our pastor started to speak scripture directly related to the power of the Holy Spirit, and the counter advances of the enemy.

When he started to speak those verses out loud, I felt a shift inside my Spirit. I knew there was about to be a victory in the room, and went up to do the last songs. And the very moment I sang the first line of the song I was leading, it broke instantly. And the enemy ran. And the power of God was so strong in that room, the enemy knew he didn’t stand a chance. It had nothing to do with me or some awesome song. God needed to do something *through* that song in many different hearts. The spiritual multiplication of what would happen during that song was too big of a number apparently and the enemy was not happy.

So I had the “a-ha” moment. That moment where you go, “oh, that’s why I was attacked all day.” It has nothing to do with me being important or good at leading, and everything to do with me being an open vessel for God to work through. Because honestly, I just open my mouth and put my hands in place on the guitar and assume the stance, and God really does everything else. I wish I could describe what it feels like.

I thought that was a level that I had completed. Nope.

Today was more of the same, if not at a higher velocity and pressure. I am still not good at this level, so I am still letting the bullets rip too deep. I’m human, so I’m learning. But man, these things are firing so fast.

The other thing I’m learning is that more often than not, as the leader I am the only one that is absorbing the weight of the attack. Not because I’m some strong awesome person, but because God has called me and appointed me to do this, and it comes with a price. And most of the time as leaders we have to absorb 90% of the attack because the rest of the group doesn’t have the same grace that we do. And you don’t have to be the leader in charge to feel it – maybe you are leading a certain song that night that the enemy does not want sung. Or maybe you are about to have a conversation with someone that God will use to change a life. It’ll happen. And you will have a grace and strength on you that the others won’t have at that moment. But they will have their moments too.

At least today I figured out that I was in fact on the same level, so I had a little more of a heads up that tonight was going to be amazing. And it was.

We tried “Beautiful Things” in its entirety tonight, and I’m not even sure what happened. I didn’t even sound like myself, my voice was different. The band sounded different, better than ever – powerful yet very delicate at rare moments that we didn’t even rehearse. About halfway through the song, God started unlocking hearts in the room. One by one. I could feel it. And all of a sudden it was worth it. And all of a sudden I realized the difference between today and last Wednesday – the thought of ”I can’t handle this anymore” never entered my mind. Not once.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still bleeding and weary from this day. I haven’t figured out the recovery process yet on this level. It’s a bit messy and lonely. Doing what I know to do, staying close to the Word and close to people, doing the next right thing, putting one foot in front of the other. Watching an episode of Parks and Rec and laughing just like normal. And maybe going to bed early.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this level and I don’t want to fence myself in with my own words in that regard. This is all I know: I’m not the strong one, God is. I accept my weakness in order to receive His strength. I am not enduring this to receive blessings, because truth be told, they don’t always show up soon – I’m enduring this because I love Jesus, and it’s the very least I can do compared to what He endured for me. And no matter how much those bullets hurt, no matter how long it takes for me to learn the discipline of not letting them touch my skin, it is always, ALWAYS worth it. Until the game is completely over.


Contemporary Keyboard in Worship

Playing keys in a contemporary worship band is a paradox.  The more background (private lessons, experience playing a keyboard in a band with at least two more instruments, and playing a keyboard while you and/or someone else is singing) you have in playing acoustic piano or an electronic keyboard the better.  But once you get started playing with a group, you’ll discover that the simpler and more concise you play your part, the better you’ll sound in the group AND the easier it will be for the group to play with you.  Private lessons are a definite plus.  Lessons teach you where you put your fingers on the keyboard and how you go up and down the keys.  Otherwise you’re limited to the “hunt and peck” method, just like typing on a computer with just a couple of fingers on each hand.  If you haven’t had the blessing of private study, but you’ve already begun to experiment with playing on a keyboard, no worries, you can still benefit from some lessons with a qualified teacher.

One of the nicest things about learning any element of music on any instrument or voice is that all music is universal – if you learn the basics of music on a keyboard and then take up the guitar, everything you learned about music on the piano transfers to the guitar, or the clarinet, or voice, or percussion.  And in 4/4 time, a quarter note gets one count…no matter if you’re singing that quarter note, or playing it on the piano or the flute or the snare drum. I started with piano lessons.  Then when I began to take lessons on the snare drum, I discovered that the music fundamentals that I learned for the piano were the same basics that I needed to know for the snare drum…and the rhythmic studies that I learned on the snare drum helped me with my understanding of piano music.  THEN as began to learn how to play those “fun” chords on the guitar, I could go back to the piano, pluck one string on the guitar at a time and discover what the notes (pitches) were in…say, a C7#9#5 chord. It all works together!!

So…if you’ve had some piano lessons and you want to begin to play keys in a worship band…go for it!  Here are just a few of the beginning musical concepts that you’ll need to play contemporary keyboard:

1) When you’re playing a melody (in an introduction, interlude, or solo passage) on the keys, keep your accompaniment (left hand) SIMPLE (play fewer notes) and do NOT overplay the sustain pedal.  An electronic sustain pedal tends to run all of the notes together and, all too often, ruins the clarity of the instrument.  LISTEN with a critical ear to yourself playing with the group.  In a group, the keyboard is not the center of attention…only a part of the total sound.  If your “runny” sound begins to draw attention to itself (BECAUSE it is runny!), then you’re interfering with the total sound of the ensemble.  Go easy on the sustain pedal.  In faster tempos or more rhythmic songs, you might even experiment with playing without using the sustain pedal at all.  Scary, huh?  Then work on your keyboard chops.

2) When the keyboard part you’re playing is part of the rhythmic accompaniment (in other words, you’re playing chords), keep your rhythmic patterns SIMPLE…say, just play quarter notes in the right hand and bass notes (with a simple rhythmic pattern that either doubles or accents the electric bass part) in the left hand.  If there’s a bass player in your group, you hardly need to play your left hand at all…let the bass player cover the bass notes.

3) Learn to voice chords in all of their inversions.  What is an inversion?  The easiest way to remember inversions is this:  To begin with, most chords have 3, 4 or (sometimes) 5 notes.  A C chord is a 3-note chord, called a triad, and is made up of 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones in the scale.  In the key of C for example those notes would be C, E and G .  Those notes are also (not coincidentally) played with your 1st, 3rd, and 5th fingers. In the fundamental position, the thumb of your right hand plays C, E, and G, with the C on the bottom.  That same chord can also be played with the thumb on the E, the 2nd finger on the G, and 5th finger on the C…OR you can play it with the thumb on G, 3rd finger on C, and 5th finger on E.  The left hand plays a C bass note, regardless of the chord position played in the right hand.  There you have it.  That’s how to play a C chord on the keyboard.  Now all you have to do is to learn all of the other chords in the key of C…then move on to the key of G (one sharp) or F (one flat)!

4) Here’s a great thing to know:  you hardly ever need to use more than 3 fingers in each hand to play contemporary keys.  Most chords in the right hand can be voiced with no more than 3 fingers.  And the left hand almost always plays either one bass note, octaves, or (sometimes for power chords at the “big places” in songs) you can add the 5th in between the outer notes of the octave.

Not as hard as it sounds…remember a G chord is a G chord, no matter what key you’re playing in.  The difference lies in learning the SEQUENCES of chords (how each chord leads to the next chord) and voice leading (using the different positions of chords to smoothly flow from each chord to the next, rather than jumping from one chord in its fundamental position to the next chord in its fundamental position).

Wow…what a truckload of information in just those 3 points.  Confused?  When you actually see these points I’ve written above PLAYED on a keyboard, it makes much more sense. It’s really not as hard as it sounds. After you get used to creating chords on the keyboard, learning them in sequence, playing the bass notes in the left hand, then moving to songs in different keys, you can learn it! So many of the elements and concepts of music are just about numbers…the 7 notes in each scale, intevals (the distance – in steps or half-steps – from any lower note to the note immediately above it) and chords (three or more notes played at the same time) built on the interval from the bottom note to each note above it (ex: a triad in the fundamental position is made when you put your right thumb on the name note of the chord (thumb on a C for a C chord) and then your 3rd finger on the third note (an E) and your 5th finger on the fifth note (a G).  Then just shift your fingers and move upward to the next position of the chord (E,G,C) and so on….

Yes, it takes time and PRACTICE.  You need to get used to hearing the different voicings of the chords and feeling the way your fingers fall on the notes.  It’s worth the practice to be able to give your talent back to the Lord in a worthwhile musical setting.  And don’t overlook any opportunity to get alone with some who can teach you how to do it.  A teacher, sometimes yes, but not always:  when you hear someone play anything (a song, a musical style, a time signature-like 3/4 or 6/8 or any other non-conventional groove) ASK THEM ABOUT IT – say, “How did you play that?”  In most cases, people will tell you stuff like that.  You can learn ANYTHING, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME…AND, You’ll have so much more FUN playing music…AND you’ll become a competent contemporary keyboard player – I guarantee it!  Give your talent back to the Lord as your offering of praise.  He will bless you (and bless others through you)!

“Give to the Lord the glory He deserves.  Bring your offering and come into His courts.”  (Ps 96:8).


Heaven’s Greatest Worship Leaders

We all have this idea that a great worship leader is a person who leads others to worship God. Right? Usually the setting is on stage or some type of platform, with a guitar or piano and a choir and the audience is singing songs to God. Now, I love music and it is one of the most powerful and effective tools in reaching people but I think we’ve created this idea that a Worship Leader is the person who only has musical talents and gifts. What if Heaven’s greatest worship leaders had no musical gift at all? What if they never stood on the greatest stages or stood in front of the greatest audiences? What if it was the poor widow that gave all she had and taught us to give everything to God no matter how small and showed us by her example that it was a heart issue. What if it was the Samaritan woman who taught us that Jesus wanted us to worship him in Spirit and in Truth and showed us that by having an encounter with Jesus you wanted to tell the whole world! What if it was the thief on the cross who taught us that you didn’t have to be perfect and you could come to Jesus just as you are? What if it was the woman that broke the alabaster box at Jesus’ feet that represented her hopes and dreams?  She taught us what true surrender meant.
The truth is we inspire people to worship God with our lives and legacy. The songs and music are just an overflow of our relationship and daily devotion.
Lately, I have been challenged to re-think my role as a worship leader and make it more about inspiring people to worship God with my life, not just music and songs. So what will Heaven’s greatest worship leaders look like? Something to think about as we prepare our songs this week…


The Blur Factor

During busy times of ministry, things begin to seem like a constant blur. There is so much detail to attend to that we have a tendency to neglect what can help us the most. Time alone with God is what I need to calm my spirit and get my heart prepared to lead people into His presence. If we rush in and give God a token of our time, He does not have entrance into the secret places of our heart.  Jesus was often leaving the rush of the crowd to be alone with the Father. Jesus, being God himself, seemed to need the time of quiet and peaceful contemplation in order to be prepared for the daily pressures of His ministry.

If Jesus needed it…I’m just sayin’.  “Be still and know that I am God”

This is good daily practice, but it is especially needed during this Passion week. Have a blessed Easter season.


Loving God, Loving People

28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31″The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31

What is the most important actions in a Christian’s life? When Jesus was asked to tell us what the most important commandment was, He gave this reply in Mark 12: Love God and love people. The first one is most important because until you learn to love God, you will never be able to know how to really love people. Loving God is a definition of Worship. Loving people is the definition of Ministry.

As a pastor, I often seem to get things a little confused with all the tasks assigned to me. But if you asked me why I felt that I wanted to be in ministry, I would have told you that I wanted to help people to know God. To sum it up, I have 2 goals in life…knowing Him and helping others.

If the formula worked for Jesus, there is good chance it will work for you.

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