21 Jan

Do I Have to Raise My Hands in Worship?

A fantastic article on expressiveness in worship. (click here to read it)

When we understand the greatness of God, the stability of His character, the perfection of His justice, the depth of His grace, the limitless nature of His love, the wonder of His holiness, and the sacrifice of His Son, it should not be difficult for us to be moved greatly in our desire to worship God, and worship Him passionately.

23 Apr

When a Hertz Hurts

Brian here. Yes, I used a pun. Yes, puns hurt. No, I’m trying for another pun.

On Sunday morning, one of our team members *cough* Jeremy */cough* was tuning his guitar to 443Hz, not 440Hz. At first, this doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, right? How big can a couple of Hertz be? I can’t even see.

But boy can you hear it. When the acoustic and the piano were playing together, they clashed. It got me thinking on three spiritual concepts.

  1. As a team, as a church, as a Church, we must make certain that the Bible is at the center of our teaching. If we try to line up ourselves to any other truth, no matter how convincing it may be at first, we’ll be off. Even if we’re off by a little, it still makes a difference. If you and a friend stand side by side and one of you rotates just a degree, once you start walking you’ll be miles apart given enough time.
  2. If you’re not tuned to the same frequency as others, you will clash. Musicians get this, especially those with a good ear for tones. The same applies to relationships. If your personal relationship to Jesus is not in tune, you will clash with others.
  3. A piano and a guitar clashing sound ominous. Okay, so maybe that’s not a deep spiritual truth.
15 Jan

Family Here and There

Brian here. I’ve been thinking about worshipping alongside the TOAG conference attendees this weekend. In summary, it was great. (That’s it. You don’t have to read more of the post, right?)

But why was it great?

The Holy Spirit united us as a body of believers with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. It goes beyond just singing songs.

Another aspect of God’s active involvement this morning is how a huge chunk of the congregation is so passionate about Jesus that they are willing to give their whole life for Him. Singing With Everything this morning took on a fuller definition. Everything – as in, like, everything.

It’s not a passion for emotion’s sake; it’s passion inseparable from biblical truth. On Friday, Carl Medearis talked about the parables of Jesus and challenged people to consider why they love Jesus. This morning he talked about Luke 4:16-30 and 2 Kings 6. The crowd in the synagogue in Luke 4 is really fickle. “Wow! Such authority. We speak well of you. Wait a minute! Wrath! Wrath!” (My summary, not Carl’s.) You tell a story in Israel about God blessing a Syrian guy and a Lebanese guy and some people will get mad. Not much has changed over the centuries.

And have you thought about what it means to love your enemies? Sure, it’s simple to say, but could we do that as foreign policy? Could you have tea with Hezbollah?

So how is this different than the other Sunday mornings out of the year? Answer: it’s not, really. Yes, we had a ton of people from different parts of the country in our congregation this morning, but I would be willing to bet that not everyone who regularly attends FCOV was born in Chandler, Arizona. We also have a number of religious traditions show up each week, much like this morning.

I think the passion was more noticeable to me this weekend for two reasons:

  1. Most people are not in TOAG because it’s just a part of their weekly routine.
  2. We’re familiar with each other.

If you’re going to church simply because that’s what you’ve always done, I hope that God is sparking a reviving fire in your heart. I hope that I can come by your side and encourage you towards life.

By being familiar with each other, we can sometimes let interpersonal issues distract us from admiring God’s handiwork in His masterpieces around us. Who are we to give an art critique on what God has created? He makes even my best efforts look like cracked macaroni glued to construction paper. (No offense to the Macaroni School of Art.)

Here’s the beauty of it, though. Our familiarity should give us the freedom to take risks with God, to trust that Jesus knows what He’s talking about when He says that we are all a part of the same vine and that true life comes from abiding in Him. We take risks with God’s people. We don’t have comfort for comfort’s sake. We have life to live for Jesus and His Church.

We’re in it for the long haul with the regular attenders. Much like any relationship worth maintaining over an extended period of time, it takes work. It takes faith, hope, and love.

Encourage each other towards loving enemies. And remember: we’re called to the same hope.

Rejoice in being connected to believers around the world. You are a part of the most powerful kingdom ever to set foot on Earth (or anywhere else) and the kingdom is ruled by the most righteous king ever. Now we know in part; then we will know fully, even as we are fully known.

Rejoice in being connected to believers locally. You need them to fulfill God’s design for His people.

Rejoice in being a part of God’s family here and there.

17 Jun

Flawed Wisdom

So much has been going on since the last time I really posted anything.  So much life has happened I’m not quite sure where to begin.  I’ll start with the last week.  I had two of my wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday.  Ouch!!  Now this wouldn’t be so bad except I am taking a summer session of music theory so I really can’t miss any classes and I already missed one because of my back being out.  I’m sure it was enjoyable for everyone else in the class since I was on vicodin for the pain.  Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty foggy days for me.

I’m going to be more intentional about blogging, I have a lot to talk about.  I’m working on overdubs and mix down of the live worship album we recorded back in May.  I’m working on my own personal renewal, and working towards seeing that implemented for everyone in the church.  I’m also hoping to expand the worship team at the church and looking for some new/different ways to press in to God during worship and help my church really experience God’s manifest presence.  I’ll try to start sharing my thoughts on all of those things.  In the meantime, if you didn’t see what I did on Easter Sunday afternoon, enjoy.

If you are wondering the picture above was from my hike up the tallest mountain in Arizona with my brothers.

[youtube id=”qmxO8Jz4Jjw” w=”560″ h=”349″]

25 Feb

Free Worship (The First Attempt)

A few weeks ago we took our first crack at free worship at a church.  What is free worship?  I’m calling it this but I’ve heard it called ad lib, Hillsong titles them Selah on their CD’s.  Whatever you want to call it, I love it.  Basically what it is, is a instrumental section where the congregation (and worship team) sings, prays, shouts unplanned words.  The idea here is that the congregation express their hearts to God.  The songs that we are singing on any given sunday may not be what is in someone’s heart.  We might be singing the chorus to Trading My Sorrows (Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord) but someone may not be there.  Their heart may be screaming NO!  God may be sifting them (pruning, a popular term at FCOV)  they may need to cry out to God that they don’t like what he is doing and it may be through that expression that God show them His will and comfort them.

I want to give our congregation the opportunity to express their heart to God.  Not just Matt Redman’s, Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin’s, or Darlene Zschech’s heart.

Now that I’ve explained what we are trying to do this is how it went.

We chose to play the instrumental after Hosanna on Hillsong United’s All of the Above CD.  I chose to sing the part Brooke Fraser sings because I am not too comfortable leading this kind of thing yet.  I ask our sound man to pump a lot of the congregation into my monitor so I could hear how they were responding.  During Hosanna they were singing strong but (expectedly) it kind of petered out when we got into the instrumental but I did hear a few singing I heard someone praying out loud.  It definitely felt a little awkward but whenever you try something and you’re trying to figure it out there is bound to be an awkward stage.  I think this is important enough of a thing to do that we will continue, even if a little awkward right now.

10 Dec

Worshiping the Triune God

Scripture tells us that the one true God exists in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are equally and eternally the one God. He is Three in One, or triune. We see something of the centrality of the Trinity in worship from Ephesians 2:18, which says: “For through [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This passage implies that Christian worship is defined and enabled by the triune God. John 4:24 implies something similar. God the Father brings us into relationship with himself through the redeeming work of his Son, and applies that work to our hearts and lives by his Spirit.

“Father” isn’t a term we invented to describe God’s relationship to us. God has been the Father of Jesus for all eternity. And we don’t interpret God’s fatherhood through experiences we’ve had with our own father, whether good, bad, or non-existent. We derive our understanding of what fatherhood is from God himself ( Ephesians 3:14-15). God’s Word makes it clear that the Father is worthy of our worship ( Philippians 4:20).

We come to the Father through the Son because he is the one mediator between us and God ( 1 Timothy 2:5). He came to live a perfect life, to receive the judgment against our sins that we deserved, and and to rise victoriously from the dead. Jesus is the perfect mediator because only he is both fully God and fully Man. As God, he can completely bear God’s wrath against our sin. As one of us, he is able to serve as our substitute both in his perfect obedience and in atoning sacrifice. Because he is God he is worthy of our worship, and the Father is glorified as we honor the Son ( Philippians 2:9-11).

We come to the Father in the Spirit because the Spirit draws our hearts to Christ, to the Father, and to one another ( 1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:22). The Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, enables us to participate truly in the relationships of the Trinity, for our good and the glory of God. While the Holy Spirit is worthy of worship as God, his primary role is to magnify the Son for the glory of the Father, and to reveal God’s presence to us.

I’m hoping to buy one or more of Bruce Ware’s books on the Trinity.  I find it interesting that there are really no worship songs that help us understand the Trinity.  So if you are a lyric writer I would encourage we begin to find a poetic/lyrical way of communicating a sound theology of the Trinity.

03 Dec

The Holy Spirit of the Trinity

I’ve been listening to a workshop taught by Bruce Ware titled, “Worshiping the Triune God.”  Basically it first gives a foundation of the trinity, the specific roles each part of the trinity plays.  Then he goes into how it affects our worship.  I was talking with Mark Koglmeier, one of our pastors, about some of the things I was learning and he pointed something out that I have never noticed.

He says, “have you ever noticed people refer to the Holy Spirit as an it?”  They rarely if ever refer to the Holy Spirit as Him.  This is new age thinking that has crept it’s way into the christian church.  Referring to the Holy Spirit as “it” relegates Him to a mysterious, mystical force.  The Holy Spirit is just as much a “Him” as the Father or the son,  the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons that make up the trinity.  Here is a example

The Holy Spirit reveals a new truth.  When you go a share about your experience with a friend what would you normally say…

“The Holy Spirit spoke to me during the service.  It said…”

or

“The Holy Spirit spoke to me during the service.  He said…”

Now if you’re like me you never thought about it.  But how many times do we unknowingly say things or do things that are incorrect.  Some may be big things, some little but the fact is if we do not continue in our growth and understanding of God/Bible how can we be sure we are not grieving God.
26 Nov

Righteousness with out the Holy Spirit

In staff meeting yesterday we were discussing the Mormon church and how their under investigation as it pertains to their tax exempt status.  Normally I’d be cool with it except that we (the christian church) will probably be next.

We then got onto the subject of the overuse of prescription medication (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety) in the state of Utah. (Burks used to work for a pharmaceutical company)  Then my mom chimed in “well of course they are stressed, can you imagine trying to live a righteous life with out the Holy spirit?”  Then someone else said “I have enough trouble WITH the help of the holy spirit.”

That is so true.  Our flesh is so strong that even with the holy spirit living inside us we still struggle.  We still sin.  Thank you God for the blood of the lamb.  Without that we would be up a creek.  That being said, how should it affect the way we worship.

Two things:

1-We ought to come to worship with such an attitude of gratitude that thanksgiving pours from our hearts as we reflect on the price Jesus paid so that we might stand before the Father, holy.

2-We ought to be on the lookout for God and how he wants to work in our lives.  Nobodies perfect we simply strive towards a more Christlike life and with open hearts listen to what work God wants to do in our hearts.  He always wants you to grow so pay attention:)

20 Nov

How big is your worship?

I found this in some of my notes I have on my computer.  Not sure who originally wrote it but I’ve benefitted from it, I think you will too.

I once heard someone say that “the size of your worship is determined by the size of your God.” In other words, if my view of God is teeny-tiny, my response in worship to Him will correspondingly be teeny-tiny. On the other hand, if my view of God is HUGE – as it should be – then my worship response will naturally be huge as well! I’ve thought about this concept a lot, and have determined that I far too often live as if I have a very small God – my life-response, not just what I sing, but how I live, often reflects that I don’t have an accurate picture of the BIGness – the absolute greatness of God.

There are many scriptural passages that talk about the greatness of God, but I think our psalmist worship leader, David, was onto something when he wrote Psalm 8. In verses 3-4, he says “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, the son of man that You care for him?” David had a lot of time to consider the “bigness” of God. Think about it – he was a shepherd. What do shepherds do? Well…they feed sheep, lead sheep, protect sheep, move sheep, carry sheep, sheer sheep… Twenty-four/seven, David is catering to all-things-sheep. But in his off-time when the sheep are either out of trouble or sleeping, what is David doing? I picture him kicking back on a hillside outside Jerusalem at night (keep in mind, there are no big city lights to distract) looking up into the dark midnight sky “considering” the stars and the moon – but more importantly, considering the God who hung them in the sky!

I’ve found a place in the middle of nowhere – away from the lights of the city and noise of cars – where I can look up into the sky and consider God. And honestly, as I look up into the sky and think about what is out there beyond the stars that my little eyes can see, it hurts my brain to think about how big God is. I thought the earth was big, but did you know that you could fit over a million earths in our sun? And I thought the sun was big, but did you know that the sun is just an average sized star in the Milky Way galaxy which holds over a BILLION stars?!? I recently did a little reading and found out that the galaxy nearest to ours (the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy for those astronomy buffs out there) is about 80,000 light years away. Can you imagine how far even the nearest galaxy is? Its even harder to fathom when you realize that a single light year equals about 6 TRILLION miles. That means that the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way is about 480,000,000,000,000,000 miles from earth!! Now…think about how big the universe is when scientists have estimated that there may be over 100 BILLION galaxies in the universe. Is your brain experiencing that sensation that occurs when you drink a Slurpie too fast like mine is right now?

Well, all of this astronomy trivia is great, but our point is that we’re trying to fathom the size of God, which will in turn enlarge our response to Him, which will in turn completely transform our lives. Isaiah helps us put everything into perspective with what he writes about God in chapter 40. In verse 12 he asks about God “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?” Do you remember how big the universe is? (We were just trying to comprehend that, remember?) Well, this is how big God is – He is able to hold out His hand, spread His fingers, and mark off the distance from one side of the universe to the other from the tip of His pinky finger to the tip of His thumb. Of course Isaiah writes in poetic language and certainly God is much bigger than this, but do you see what I’m getting at? God is HUGE! And far more often than I’d like to admit, I act as if this incredible universe revolves around ME!

Obviously, its impossible to quantify “the size of God” – God is limitless and infinite… but, if our response to God should correspond with how big and mighty and transcendent and awesome and loving and merciful and powerful He truly is, shouldn’t our worship be MUCH bigger than it is? My prayer is that as we open our eyes and our hearts to see more of who God is, our lives will be radically transformed to express a life-response that matches His size.