Monday, June 19, 2017

Just How Big He Is...

Do you ever just sit & wonder... "wow, our God is so big." After VBS this past week, I've been contemplating that quite a bit. We have the most awesome Father who created the galaxies, yet He still thought that there was room for me. For 5'2, all of 110lbs soaking wet, me. Just think about that for a second...

In Psalm 147, it says:

“He determines and counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord and of great power; His understanding is inexhaustible and boundless.”

‭‭This wasn't the memory verse for the week at VBS, but I made sure to teach it to my little ones. So as to remind them, that our God has numbered each and every star, as well as each hair on our heads. To tell them that, His knowledge passes all understanding, yet all He desires is to be close to us--for us to draw near to Him. 

And I think that's what I've been stuck at lately. That it is beyond any comprehension that the Maker of the entire universe asks nothing of me, but to be close to Him. He holds all this power, and all this knowledge, and asks nothing of me, but to walk in love with Him. How awesome is that. 

I hope each & every one of you have a blessed week! 

Savannah

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Your Voice Is Loud, But Your Words Are Empty

When your voice is loud, but your words are empty.  Do you ever feel that way?  If you're human, you do.  Whether in your job, a relationship or any other area of life involving people,  you're going to feel that way at some point.   For Christians, that may be an all-too-familiar feeling that seems to come in seasons.  Do you ever feel like you pray, read and seek Jesus with all your heart and yet....nothing?  You may be seeking Him on how to handle a situation or praying for someone and their health or salvation, or it may just be a normal day and you just don't hear or feel anything.  You're not alone.  But, what if you're a worship leader in your church?  What if it's your week to sing or play and you aren't hearing from God about an issue that you need some help in.  You feel nothing.  You seem to be screaming at Him for an answer and you get complete silence.  What then?

I've been there.  It's a hard place to be in when you feel that God isn't hearing you and you're needing an extra dose of patience and understanding at that point in time.  You sing and play on a platform in your church, knowing that you still aren't hearing from Him.  It's quite a lonely feeling isn't it?  It drains you spiritually, mentally and sometimes even physically.  In my case, the thing that helped was beginning to learn the art of listening.  In some ways I can be terrible at listening.  I can hear, but I don't always listen.  Sometimes it's the fact that I think I'm not hearing from God, but in reality it's that God isn't speaking to me in a way that I feel like He should.  So, my prayer as of late has been for Him to help me be more aware and to do a little more listening and a lot less talking.  


I'm often drawn to think of Elijah.  What a relationship He had with God and what a longing he had to be with Him. God used Elijah to hold rain from the people for over 3 years because of their sin. I can imagine how Elijah was dis-liked.  Yet, he was faithful and preached all this time, but he heard nothing from God.  God just seemed to be inactive.  But, seemingly out of nowhere.....


                                          "After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land."    1 Kings 18:1


That's an encouraging story for me.  The Lord took care of Elijah, giving exactly what he needed, exactly when he needed it.  The "when" can sometimes be the hard part. 


Recently, I was at a worship conference and was listening to Paul Baloche speak.  Someone asked him about continuing in worship while going through somewhat of a drought in your walk with God.  He gave a simple, yet perfect answer.  He said, "You're going to go through this, and sometimes you just have to put on your tool belt and go to work".  What a great answer to a seemingly complicated question.  At that moment, our jobs as worship leaders is about something far bigger than ourselves.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are creating a meeting between God and His congregation.  Seek Him even in the dark and in the silence.  I've also found encouragement in the fact that a teacher is always silent during a test.  God is doing something.


In these times of silence, no matter how painful, no matter the level of anticipation you have, know that you are in God's best interest.  When you read, pray and seek Him; listen.  Do a little less talking and a lot more listening.  Don't ignore the silence. Quiet your voice and lessen your words.  Sometimes God's biggest moves come after periods of silence.  Think about Elijah.  In the fullness of time, you will see His power displayed.


Peace,  


Justin




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Unfailing Everything

I’m going to make a confession… music is an extremely important part of my life. Naturally, I have genres and styles that I prefer, and I have favorite songs.  I love the music we do at MPBC.  It always has a way to move me whether I’m on stage playing it or not.  We just started doing a new song called “King of my Heart” and it’s my absolute favorite!  The musicality is fairly straightforward, and the choruses repeat the same phrase, but the message in the verses is what never fails to inspire.  In my limited experience as a songwriter, I’ve come to the conclusion that lyrics define a song and absolutely determine its power.  Without depth, a song is just sound that doesn’t actually move people.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I crave music that means something!  Words are some of the most influential things in creation. But, there’s a certain paradox in words. They can be used to comfort or wound, to strengthen or discourage, as weapons or as shields.  Worship music uses words in a way that, to me, nothing else ever has or ever will.  In addition to the power of words, I think accompaniment enhances the emotion of certain points in a song.  What I love about the song “King of My Heart” is that it’s not only a balance of so many musical components; it ministers to people. The music never overpowers the lyrics, but it compliments them in such a beautiful way that the resounding message of the song is unmistakable. I think my favorite part of the song is the last bit of the second verse: 

“Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days, oh He is my song”

These lyrics perfectly encase my life prayer. It’s literally my benediction to Jesus. I relate to those words on a spiritual level, and every time those words roll off of my tongue, I feel them with every ounce of my being. I think the reason music is so powerful in general is that it is so very relatable. When people can relate to something in some way, they open up their heart to it, and that’s how God moves. Whenever we play that song on a Sunday morning, I love seeing how people respond to it. It brings my heart inexplicable joy to see that something so dear to me (music) is something that God uses as a vessel to bear witness with hearts in the room. That’s another reason why I love the song so much. It’s approachable to a congregation because of it’s simplistic depth. (How’s that for an oxymoron?)  The words of this song are the heartcry of the body of Christ... the declaration of praise!  Like the song says, He will never ever let us down, because He is good! Every lyric in this song provides me with unspeakable comfort and perfectly describes my desire for Christ in my life. The verses that come to mind when I hear this song are from Psalm 47:5-7: 

“God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.” 

He is our King, our everything and He’ll never let us down. So, may the message of unending love and unchanging grace forever fill our hearts and may Christ be the resounding echo of every single one of our days, because He is our unfailing everything!!

Keep smiling,

Maddie 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Found in You

With this week's post I wanted to introduce you to a song that we'll start teaching the church this upcoming Sunday.  It's called "Found in You" by Vertical Church Band.  It's a wonderful, fun, exciting, energetic, declaration that "All we want and all we need is found in You (Jesus)". Our Children's Choir actually sang this song a few weeks ago on a Wednesday night and had a lot of fun with it.  They had motions worked up for the chorus and bridge sections and really sang out the whole song.  

The video of Vertical Church Band doing the song is below. 

If everyone really likes it, maybe we can get some of the kids from the Children's Choir to teach us the motionsđŸ˜‰.

Worship Big!

Brad


video



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We Are Called "Team" for a Reason

I remember back when we were a small group and how in those days we each played and sang every single Sunday morning. Those are fond memories, but were often tiring times! Times have changed and with all the talent of a large church, there are many singers and musicians that can spread across multiple teams… in the end all being the “Praise Team.” Those early years of the team were when I was very young. But, I look back on the time I was invited to be involved and how the time we spent practicing and playing together meant even more to me BECAUSE I was the youngest person on the team at the time. I was so grateful that no one looked down on me because I was young, but allowed me to participate and help set an example. Each compliment and encouragement made me soar and reminded me that I may not have all the experience of older adults, but that this was just one place I could start getting the tools I needed to succeed. Now I see many young faces across multiple teams in our church and I am thankful that age doesn’t matter. As long as you can do what you are up there to do and do it well, while giving God all the glory, that’s what matters.

So whether you are a veteran at leading worship, or new to the whole experience, I pray that we all remember one word: TEAM. We are each a single piece working to make one large masterpiece. No one is greater than another, because when God looks down, He sees many pieces striving and thinking and focusing on all the parts of the music to make something beautiful all in His name. He doesn’t care about your resume or how many years you have worked. He doesn’t care about gray hairs or fine lines. He doesn’t mind if you are scared out of wits because those ear buds in your ears are so weird and it is all so new. He does care about your heart. Let’s make every effort to always encourage the members of the team and make it stronger as a whole so that our music is even more beautiful and glorifying to the King.  

Katy

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is Jesus the Conductor of Our Worship?

A few years ago I watched a video sermon based off Louie Giglio’s ‘Stars and Whales’ (if you’ve never seen it before, here’s the link https://vimeo.com/54384759.)  I was in complete awe. I had no idea that the stars in the galaxies thousands of light-years away had an actual sound. That the sun or the earth spinning on its axis made a sound—the thought never crossed my mind. Isn’t it amazing to think that God, the creator of the universe, is the Conductor of the most magnanimous worship choir EVER?!? I was so overcome with emotion to hear the stars in the galaxy and whales in the ocean literally singing praises to their Creator.

As I watched and listened, I realized that I don’t always allow Jesus to be the Conductor of my worship and my heart. I want to do the leading, and I always end up feeling lost and frustrated. A conductor’s job is to lead and guide, to keep time, to ensure correct entries by members of the ensemble, and give instruction. Without the conductor, everything is going to go awry—because without their guidance and instruction, we cannot possibly give our best performance. Just like we need a conductor in music, we need to let Jesus be the Conductor of our worship and our hearts. A passage in Called to Worship by Vernon Whaley states: 

“Without a conductor, there is no hope for unified presentation, but rather, dissonance and rhythmic chaos—in short, a musical mess."

But in our worship, we must see Jesus as our Conductor, who came to this world to direct a magnificent symphony that puts us in harmony with God and each other. And if we let Him, Jesus will restore order out of chaos and transform our ugly discord into beautiful music for the glory, honor, and praise of the Most High God.”

That seems so simple, right? Let Jesus conduct and we live in perfect harmony. Obviously, Satan doesn’t like that, and tells us to take Jesus’ baton and lead our own lives…and it NEVER works. We get on our high horses; we become boastful, arrogant, and conceded. We say things we shouldn’t, we think things we shouldn’t, and we lose focus on what truly matters—Jesus. We take our eyes off Him and we stumble, or worse, we cause our brother to stumble.

Maybe today would be a good day to hand the baton back to Jesus. Let Him lead and guide and direct our hearts and our worship. After all, we were never qualified for the job in the first place!

Cheers,

Nicole 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Music Stands on Stage?

Should we allow music stands on stage?  This can definitely be a question with several answers but not necessarily a 100% correct answer.  As in any other decision making process, I'll lay out some pros and cons of music stands and maybe even a helpful alternative. 

First, let's look at the cons of having stands on stage...

1.  They're ugly.  That has to be the biggest complaint of a traditional style music stand.  You can try to put them off to the side, lower them some, but they're still just a black orb taking up space on stage and depending on how many you have, it can almost be distracting.

2.  A/V Teams.  For the same reason as number 1, I can only imagine that camera guys despise them.  They get in the way of desired shots and hide musicians instruments.  Also, lighting crews aren't always thinking about allowing light on the stage for a musician to be able to see their sheet music.  

3.  Musicianship.  This can be a large part of the argument, and a tricky one.  It's debatable that the use of a music stand can injure the musicianship of someone who plays an instrument.  Having the sheet music and/or chord charts can be relied upon too much and can lead to just playing through the songs and never REALLY learning them.

4.  Distraction.  This can go hand in hand with Musicianship.  If you're just playing along and following a chord chart and are focused on it, then are you able to do your part to engage the congregation in worship?  This entails personal practice, which I think our teams are good at and take that responsibility upon themselves.  When relied upon to get you through the song, having a chord chart on a music stand in front of you can be very distracting, especially with trying not to lose your place on the paper.

You may be able to think of more cons, but here are a few pros to having the music in front of you.

1.  Piece of Mind.  Having the music there as a reference and a slight reminder can be comforting.  We have 3 Sunday morning services and do a sound check before 1st service.  During soundcheck, we run through all the songs, just like service.  So on Sundays, the band does the same set 4 times.  Needless to say, things can begin to run together after some time.  As a keyboard player or bass player, knowing that you're such a foundation to the music, having the music readily available can be very comforting because at some point or another, you will blank for a moment.  It's just going to happen.

2.  Perspective.  I think it's really important that we put these things into perspective.  What's the point of what we do?  To lead people into the presence of Jesus.  If having the music can make you feel more relaxed knowing you do have that safety net, that's great!  You're more likely to engage people when you're comfortable.  The point is to worship.

If you're on the fence on whether to ditch music stands, you're not alone.  We stepped away from music stands a couple of years ago, but not completely.  For a long time, we would print off chord charts and make folders for each band position for the songs for that week.  One reason that we moved away from that was just the amount of work involved each Monday or Tuesday.  The other reason, you guessed it, visual.  There's no way around it, music stands are ugly.  Upon doing some research, we discovered something called OnSong.  OnSong is an iPad app that takes chord charts and puts them in an easy to read format that you can follow along with.  We even have ours set to auto-scroll so there's no pesky page turning between songs or the worry of losing our place.  They have a low light setting so there's never a worry of being able to see.  One of my favorite parts is that since it's ran on an iPad, you don't have the sheer bulk of a traditional music stand.  For us, this is the best of both worlds and our team really embraced it.  If you would like to know more about it, check out http://www.onsongapp.com/.

Peace,

Justin