Monday, November 25, 2013

Sing to the Lord!!!

"Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints and give thanks to his holy name." Psalm 30:4

"Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him..." Psalm 68:4

"Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!" Psalm 9:11

We were all born with a voice (at least most of us were). It is a ready-made, God-given instrument. Our voices are as different as our other physical attributes. Some voices can certainly be considered more pleasing than others.There are some with a high pitch and others with a low pitch. Some often have difficulty staying in tune like any "instrument."

One of the primary purposes of the voice is to Praise song. We could have been created without voices and we would have learned other ways of communication as resourceful humans.
Everyone enjoys hearing a skilled singer. Some of the most well-known singers are not trained by voice teachers in breathing, placement, etc. These artists help us understand that singing is not just about "skill" but also message and personality. The wonderful thing about singing is that the beauty is in the "ear" of the beholder. This may be why the Bible does not require that we sing skillfully. It just instructs us to sing. If we are citizens of God's kingdom and want to be obedient to His word we are to SING!

We will not all necessarily sing a solo or be on a stage, but God's word is peppered with commands to sing. It is easy to say that because we are not great singers we will NEVER sing. In corporate worship, everyone can sing, even the "lesser skilled." Volume is not as important as the participation itself.

Singing and music have a special place in all our lives. God designed us that way! We learn better with music. Think of all the songs you learned as a child. Were it not for music, I would not know the fruit of the spirit, books of the Old and New Testaments. I remember learning the months of the year, days of the week, and geography from songs. They have stayed with me many years. I taught all four of my children to read with songs. Anyone can sing anytime or anywhere, sick or healthy, rich or poor. The human song is universal and timeless.

Science reinforces the idea of how amazing God's design for singing is. Singing capabilities are stored in the central, most protected part of the brain. That is why so many stroke victims and Alzheimer's patients, who have impaired speaking ability, can still remember songs they learned to sing when they were young. Singing utilizes both sides of the brain simultaneously, networking the left and right hemispheres. To place this ability deep inside of us shows the prominence of song in God's kingdom. Here is a great example:

Watch Henry here and be amazed...

I guess some might say, "You are a good singer and that is why you enjoy singing, but what about those of us who are not so good?"

My family loves to play basketball. Some of them are pretty good. I am a terrible basketball player and I don't LOVE to play. Sometimes they ask me to play. I am not any good, but because I love them I jump in and even risk some embarassment to do something for those who mean a lot to me. It is that way with singing. You don't have to be the best or even always enjoy it. God's word just says to do it. It is okay if you are not the next contestant on "The Voice."

Our love for God and thankfulness should drive our hearts to sing praises to Him...daily.
In God's Kingdom not optional.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Instruments and Their Role

Hello dear Praise Team Blog readers.  Greetings from cold and snowy Anchorage, Alaska.   Seems that each time I write, it is from somewhere different on this amazing planet.   I would like to discuss the role of Instruments; what they are, their purpose and how we should use them..   Whether a person plays a guitar, piano or their radio, we each utilize instruments for some specific purpose.  By the end of this blog I would like to leave you with a resolve to KNOW your instruments, UNDERSTAND your purpose, and dedicate yourself to USE your instrument (s) in a productive and meaningful manner.

Rather than discuss my musical instrument (the bass guitar)  I want to reference another set of instruments.  In my job as a pilot, I am provided a large array of instruments to safely navigate a large machine around the world.  While takeoffs and landings are probably the most fun, the most difficult part is navigating through some of the most challenging airspaces in the world, at times with many other aircraft in the area and following the instructions of air traffic controllers who may or may not speak very good English.   These instruments in the cockpit provide me with information regarding the condition of the aircraft, the location of the aircraft and also enable us as a crew to communicate with the outside world.  As pilots we have a mantra about how to prioritize our thinking:  Aviate (keep the airplane upright and under control), Navigate (know where you are and where you are going), and Communicate (understand your instructions and communicate your needs and/or intentions).    We are taught from day one that our instruments are tools to be used to help perform the duties at hand.    

KNOW.   In order to adequately do my job, I need to KNOW what my instruments are and how they are used.   This involves practice, study and a focus on the role each instrument plays in the overall big picture.   This is true if we are talking about musical instruments in a band, or maybe instead of a musical instrument God has called you to be an encourager and teacher in the lives of our youth.  Do you know your instruments?  Have you studied their purpose and how you should be using them ?  Maybe your instrument is not musical…perhaps your instruments are books, activities or tools in your shed that you can use to teach a young man how to fix a car.  We need to know our instruments.

UNDERSTAND.   When I receive information for an upcoming trip, I need to ensure I UNDERSTAND exactly what the expectations are for me and for the aircraft.  Another way to put it is that I need to understand my role in the big picture and to ensure that my portion of the puzzle matches exactly with the rest of the puzzle.   Understanding my purpose in the big picture is fundamental to me knowing how to apply my time and energies.

USE.   Lastly, after knowing my instruments and understanding my role, then I need to get down to the nitty gritty of putting those instruments to USE.  I need to “ply my trade”.    In flying, I need to use the instruments to ensure the safe and effective outcome of the flight.  In my life as a Christian I need to use the tools God has given me in a manner that is in keeping with the overall purpose God has given to me. 

So, do you KNOW the Instruments God has given to you to accomplish your assigned role in the body of Christ?   Do you UNDERSTAND your role in the overall big picture that God is painting ?  And are you truly putting your energies and talents to USE the way God has intended?   If we are doing all that, there is tremendous blessing and a true sense of purpose and belonging.

Keith Anderson (bass player)

Monday, November 11, 2013

What's the Goal?

Let me preface this post by saying that I love music.  I really do.  I love playing, singing, and listening to it.  And the fact that I get to "do" music for a living seems like a dream at times.  And because of this, I want our music at MPBC to be the very best that it can be.  That's why I practice so much.  That's why our worship team rehearses so much.  I want us to be the very best worship team that we can be.  I don't want us to make mistakes.  So, we focus on getting things right.  Some of the previous blog posts have been about the skill used to play and sing within the team.  And I agree with them.  We are to play and sing with great skill as Psalm 33:3 says.  We should get all of our musical entrances right.  The singers should strive to blend well and not have intonation problems.  The band members should constantly be striving to improve and learn new techniques.  Because all of these things are good.  And we should constantly be working towards them.  We should give God our absolute best!  But we also must be careful to not get so obsessed with what we are doing that we take for granted why we are doing it and most importantly, whom we are doing it for.

I believe that we have an unbelievable worship team here at MPBC.  And I would put them up against any worship team in the state of North Carolina.  They are supremely talented and extremely dedicated.  They work hard and so there is a part of me that always enjoys hearing how much people enjoy the worship times on Sunday mornings.  When new people come to visit, they almost always talk about how amazed they are by the music.  And that's wonderful, but I have to constantly remind myself of this truth:  I want people to leave Church more amazed by the greatness of our God than by the greatness of our music.  It doesn't matter how wonderful our music is if people don't experience the presence of God.  It doesn't matter how well I played or sang if people don't receive a fresh revelation of Jesus.  And it doesn't matter if our song transitions were smooth if people's souls aren't comforted and their hearts aren't convicted.  Because, ultimately, that's what really matters each and every Sunday that we gather to worship.  People don't need to hear from me or my guitar.  People need to hear from God.  He changes people, not my musicianship. 

So, I hope that this post can serve as a challenge to anyone who participates in leading worship.  Our ultimate goal is not for people to hear our perfect music.  Our ultimate goal is for people to meet and experience our perfect God.

Worship Big!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Made to Praise

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!   Psalm 150:1-6
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing.  Psalm 100:2
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.   John 4:23
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the LordPsalm 150:6
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

All of us are made to “praise”!  Did you know that the word “praise” occurs in the King James Version of the Bible 248 times and in 216 different verses?  It occurs in the New International Version 340 times.  Do you think God wanted to send us a message if He put it in His word (regardless of the translation) that many times?  How you praise is between you and the Lord.  I believe God convicts each of us to praise Him in different ways.  At MPBC we have a congregation that chooses to follow the verses I have included above.  Hallelujah!  We serve a living God and He is worthy of our praise!  

I have been singing with the MPBC praise team for about 6 to 7 years now.  I enjoy it very much and believe that my relationship with the Lord has become much stronger through my participation on our praise and worship team.  You see, God has brought me a long way since I first started singing in the 80s.   I pray that what I am about to share will bless you in some way.   I feel compelled to share because it’s possible that someone has a similar story and may be able to relate or may be struggling in a similar way.   Through my testimony, I hope you will be able to overcome and allow God to work in your life.   

I’ll start with my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11-“For I know the plans I have for you declares to Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”   This is my verse; I like to think God wrote it just for me.  I realize this is selfish and untrue, but I am His daughter, and this verse was meant for me, along with all of his other few billion children.  God’s plan for my life has been one amazing blessing after another.  He’s led me down paths that I would have never taken without His guidance.  My path of praise, worship and song begins with the first time I ever sang alone in public.  It was at my dad’s pastoral ordination service.  I was scared to death, but I wanted to make this a special time for my daddy.  I had long felt God nudging me to sing for Him, but I fought Him pretty hard.  NERVES wracked my body every time I thought about it.  I did it anyway, I had been taught my whole life that when God speaks, we should obey His spirit working within us.  So, there I stood in my blue dress and braids, singing for my earthly father and my heavenly father.  Shaking like a leaf all over, my dress was even shaking.  I prayed and asked God to take over.  I’ll never forget the peace that spread all over me that day.  It was a supernatural peace that God promises in Philippians 4:6.  I’ve experienced it many times since then.  This first solo turned into many more and eventually a musical leadership position in our church.  I sang and worshipped alongside my earthly daddy for many years.   That same earth shattering nervousness never went away; sometimes it plagued me for days before I sang a new song.  I learned to depend on God and sing anyway because I was certain that God had called me to praise Him in song.  It was strengthening my dependence on Him and not my own abilities.  I cannot tell you what it’s like to be literally falling apart one minute, and the very next minute a calmness that can only come from God replaces all fear and trembling.  It can only be God!

Due to many circumstances,  my dad and I ended up in separate churches.  It was a hard time in our lives, but God was always there assuring me of my “plan”.  Soon we were led to Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.  It was about this time that I ended up having surgery on my vocal chords.  So singing was not on my agenda for a while.  I can’t say I wasn’t sad, but I just kept seeking God and praying.  Eventually, I did join the choir and figured that would probably be the most singing I would ever do again.  I was happy, but that desire to lead in worship to our Lord was still there.  I began to think maybe God had a different plan for me.  After church one Sunday, our new worship pastor came to me and asked if I would be willing to fill in for one of the soprano voices on the praise team.   She would be leaving soon to go to China and adopt a little girl.  I was shocked, you see, this dear man hadn’t really even heard me sing.  Readers Beware:  I am not Sandi Patti or Kari Jobe (although I sometimes pretend to be when I am at home)!   I felt inadequate to say the least, but I did not want to give up on an opportunity to sing praise to our Lord.  I had to remember my life verse, was this in my plan?  I said yes, thus beginning a wonderful experience mixed with a huge spiritual battle for me!  Satan was out to get me at my point of weakness.  

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  I wrestled every Sunday!  Satan tried to convince me that I wasn’t good enough.   He filled my head with lies like, “You can’t sing as good as they can.  These people are going to make fun of you.”  One of my weaknesses is the need for approval from others.  I needed to know I was “living” up to people’s expectations.  It was a constant battle!  Satan filled me with lie after lie.  He knows I struggle with feeling inadequate as a singer.  I spent many Saturday nights in prayer asking God to cover me and wrap His comfort and peace around me, to replace my thoughts with His word.  Many times I’ve been singing through a microphone, even leading a song, while in my head quoting Philippians 4:13 or 2 Timothy 1:7.  Fear does not come from God, and we can do all things through Him! There have been times when I’ve walked on stage, taken the microphone shaking so hard that I wasn’t even sure I could stand on my own two feet.  I was literally scared out of my mind. But something amazing and supernatural happens when I totally surrender myself to God.  His calm yet powerful voice drowns out the voice of Satan and replaces it with His own.  It speaks so powerfully to the depths of my soul.   He whispers to me, “You are mine, daughter, this is meant for my glory and not for yours. “  It’s not about me, it’s about HIM!!  It’s hard to let go and give God the control, whether I sing the high note correctly, breath in the wrong place or totally nail the song.  As long as I continue to sing for Him and for His glory and honor, none of that matters.  As long as God can use me to lead others to an experience with Him, it doesn’t matter how I sound. 

A couple of years ago, I faced another vocal chord surgery.  Satan tried to use this against me too.  I even let him convince me to try and quit.  Yes….it was that bad.  I couldn’t seem to drown out the dark voice in my head.  Brad would ask me to lead a song, and I would spend the whole next week arguing with God about how I wasn’t capable.  I struggled with constant fear.  Thank goodness for a Godly worship pastor that refused to let me quit.  You see, he knows about my battle and has been a constant support.  He encouraged me to keep on.    I was singing again just three weeks after surgery.  God is so good!  I can’t promise I don’t still struggle with Satan on some Saturday nights or Sunday mornings.  But God has done a work in me over the past several years.  He’s helped me to see that I can do nothing without Him, yet I can do the impossible with Him.  If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be where I am today, I would have laughed.  But God had a plan for me and I praise Him for it.  Even in the storms, He’s carried me.  You see He’s my King!  I sing and worship for an audience of one!  He helped me to see the source of the lies and doubt came from the evil one.  It’s not about what other people think.  I don’t serve them or Satan….I belong to GOD!  I am a “Child of the King”!  My song is meant for Him. 

So next time God asks you to serve or praise Him in a way that you think is impossible (which is usually the case), don’t listen to the wrong voice.  Search for the voice of our Savior.  He is the God of Truth!  He takes what we think is impossible and makes it real in our lives.  That is what makes our testimony!  Singing in front of 500 people seemed impossible to me; however, God brings me through it Sunday after Sunday.  I don’t know what His plan is for you, but I know it is to serve Him and to praise Him-somehow, someway.  It is probably in a way that is out of your comfort zone.  It will probably stretch you beyond what you believe you can withstand.  I know I wouldn’t change a single circumstance from the past years, because God has deepened my dependence on Him.  He has molded me and shown me that I was certainly “made to praise”!  Everything that has breath should praise him…..are you breathing?  Meet me on Sunday morning and let’s praise and worship Him together.  He is worthy of all our praise!