Archive for category music

Ring it out!

Last week, Maribeth and I had the opportunity to attend an orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall that we enjoyed very much. During one piece, I noticed one of stan_head_1the performers in particular. He sat on a stool in the corner of the back row along with the other percussionists. However, for most of the song he did nothing. Finally, his moment came and he picked up his triangle and struck it several times in rhythm. It lasted for but a few measures of the lengthy song, and just as soon as he had started – the piece was finished.

In contrast, the percussionist in the center of that top row had five timpani before him. His part began in the first measures and lasted throughout the song until its thunderous conclusion. He was responsible for producing the percussive foundation for every other instrument that was being played. You could not help but notice him as his arms rose high above his head and the mallets came crashing down rapidly. At some points, his arms appeared as just a blur, and the sound of the drums hit you in the chest (even in the balcony). Others in that back row had bells, snares, cymbals, and even a gong.

And on the end was the tiny triangle. “Ting, ting, ting…”

One of the things you’ll discover is that percussionists interchange instruments for different pieces. The performer who begins on the bells may smoothly transition to drums or cymbals on the next song. So, our overlooked triangle ringer was fully capable of performing skillfully on any of the other instruments, and did so throughout the night. But for that one piece he had what was arguably the least important job of the entire orchestra. (I apologize to anyone who only played triangle in your school’s orchestra.) Perhaps overlooked and underappreciated.

But not by the composer.

As he crafted the music, a concept was in his mind. He labored expertly to transfer mood to melody, convey ideas through tempo and rhythm, and voice emotions in instrumentation. For the composer (and later, the conductor) each part for each instrument is important. If it is missing (or performed thoughtlessly or with little effort) the entire piece suffers. The music does not accomplish what the composer intended.

And so it is in our Christian walk and ministry for the Lord. He is the one who calls us and assigns our parts. He equips us and instructs us. He is the One with a plan to accomplish His purposes. He adds us to His church and orchestrates our service.

Sometimes, that includes work that is full of flourish and fanfare. It is recognized by almost everyone, and we receive heavy doses of appreciation and thanks. Other times, it is a job that is noticed by only a handful of people, and esteemed by even fewer. We feel like an overlooked and underappreciated triangle player in an orchestra.

A few biblical thoughts should help us with this. First, in everything we do, our service is ultimately done toward God. Second, He never misses even the least aspects of ministry done for His sake. Third, He is the great rewarder. Finally, although the job may seem insignificant, it can be a part of His masterplan for our lives, His church, and its work on this earth.

Colossians 3:23–24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

So, if all you have to offer is a cup of water, share it with someone in the name of Christ. If your audience is just one person or a full stadium, give them the Gospel with prayerful enthusiasm. If you serve “behind the scenes” while others labor in the spotlight, do it for the Savior’s sake, and know that He is pleased.

If all you find to play is a triangle…Ring it with all your heart!

A Song for Today

Music possesses the mighty power to leave a lasting impact on our spiritual lives. Recently, I read about the background of the well-loved hymn, How Great Thou Art. Like many, this song is a special favorite because of its message and majesty.daldorch valley a

Whenever I see this picture, I feel an emotional stirring in my soul and sometimes tears come to my eyes. Certainly, it is not because of the dramatic visual impact of this photograph! After all, this is a digital scan of a Kodak slide taken almost 35 years ago by a young boy with a 25 year-old Ansco camera. The color and quality is poor, at best, even after being retouched. (Slides don’t hold up as well as you might think). Yet, the strong feelings have more to do with the occasion associated with  this slide.

I remember as a 13 year-old boy spending my summer in Scotland working on a construction project with Teen Missions International. After several weeks of separation from home and family, long hours of laying bricks and digging trenches, and cold, drizzly weather, I was feeling low physical and emotionally. I took a walk late one afternoon to explore and was talking out loud to God about what I was feeling.

About that time I discovered this wonderful vista of the River Ayr winding between the rolling hills. Having been raised in Florida (elevation 15 ft.), hills and mountains of any size seem especially majestic. Combined with the emotion of the moment and the spiritual impact of sincere prayer, I felt an overwhelming impulse to sing. The only song that seemed right was How Great Thou Art. It has always captured for me the goodness and greatness of our God and still reminds me of the wonder of those moments alone with Him.

The psalmist sang that the Lord had “put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

No one was around to see or hear me out on that hillside in 1980. But our day-to-day purpose as God’s children should be that others are seeing the evidence of His presence in our lives. They should be hearing our mouths filled with praise and thanksgiving for what He has done. It is not always accomplished by singing a hymn, although that is a wonderful privilege of our personal relationship and a vital component of our corporate worship. Rather, every word that comes out of our mouth should reflect our Savior. Even the countenance of our face can reflect Him.

What will your song be today?

Where Rock Stars Go to Die

I don’t repost or link very often.  However, I found Ted Kruck’s article thought-provoking and believe others would appreciate it also.  Check it out here.

I am convinced that too many believers are confused about the nature of worship and many churches, musicians, and ministries are simply blurring the line even more.


The Spirit in this Place

Just before last night’s church service, a friend commented, “The spirit in this morning’s service was awesome.”  I quickly agreed and added that I noticed it from the first song through the final conversation at the door.  I am sure that we were talking about the same thing – the environment or atmosphere as God’s people met together.  Because it is hard to define completely, perhaps it must be experienced firsthand to understand it fully.  Although we refer to an earthly environment, I am convinced that it is a sense of God’s presence in our midst that we feel. 
Certainly, we can experience God’s presence in a personal way, but there is something wonderful and unique about the atmosphere in a gathering of God’s children.  I am convinced that preachers are acutely aware of the congregation’s spirit every week. We often talk of the “liberty” sensed in preaching to a group where “the Spirit of the Lord is” (2 Cor. 3:17).  Without His presence, we cannot duplicate or manufacture that environment.  We can have an enjoyable or exciting time, but not a spiritually meaningful one. 
How do we experience that spirit in a worship service?  Music certainly can play a part in tuning our spirit to meet with God.  Yesterday, we were blessed with a great brass trio, a choir rejoicing in God’s great mercy and love, and a congregation singing energetically about the victory we have in Jesus.  I especially appreciated how the songs directed our minds and hearts toward the message about our possessions in Christ and how that enables us to overcome the world. 
More than just music, the hearts of those gathering must be in tune with God’s Spirit.  We must find ourselves walking in the Spirit in the days before we meet together.  Obedient living aligns our spirit with His will and allows for genuine worship. 
Finally, earnest prayer is a vital component to invite God’s presence in our midst.  Can you imagine the impact of hundreds of God’s children seeking His face in the days and hours before they gather?  “Lord, renew a right spirit in me and meet with us as we worship you this week.”  He has promised to answer. 

Psalm 145:18-19  The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. [19] He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
If you are a part of New Testament Baptist Church, I hope you were there yesterday to experience it for yourself.  If not, I invite you to come next week with a heart prepared to meet with God. 
If you read this from somewhere else in the world, I pray that you find the opportunity to worship with a Bible-believing church that is filled with God’s presence. 

Sing to the Lord

I like leading congregational music.

This is not so much a statement of revelation, as it is a personal reminder. For years, I have enjoyed being a part of an awesome choir that genuinely loves to sing as a ministry. I occasionally sing with a quartet, an ensemble, or my family (which I especially treasure). However, at various times I have the opportunity to stand in front of our church and lead the singing. There is nothing quite like encouraging a congregation to sing with passion, especially when the song is actually in my vocal range. While our hearts and songs are focused on heaven, the sea of voices directed toward the front of the auditorium make the congregation sound like one magnificent choir. Corporate worship is a wonderful sound that is difficult to replicate elsewhere. God is exalted and we are heartened through corporate praise from a grateful church.

While I am on the subject, I love great hymns. Songs of testimony like “It Is Well With My Soul” give this redeemed soul the opportunity to “say so.” The great hymn of praise “How Great Thou Art”directs my attention to the only One who truly deserves it. “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” is a musical treat (especially for basses) that proclaims the good news of salvation to anyone who will listen. A recent addition to my favorites, “In Christ Alone” is a song of assurance that traces the Gospel from death to resurrection. It even reminds us of the blessed hope of Christ’s return. What more could we ask of a hymn?

Hymns are not the sole musical form in my spiritual catalog. In fact, I am listening to Sons of Korah sing Psalm 121 as I write this. However, hymns are uniquely designed to fulfill a spiritual need in our Christian walk. I cannot imagine leaving them out of my musical world or ever wanting to.

Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.