6 March 2003 VOL 3
Back in the 60's when I was a junior in high school, I had an English teacher named Mrs Heller, and part of the curriculum was to read great books and write book reports. I started to read this book called "The Brothers Karamazov" that was written by a Russian guy named Fyodor Dostoyevski, and it was a very fascinating novel. I can't remember precisely how many pages long it was, but it was very, very long-- six or seven hundred pages long. It was about this family of four very different Russian men who have these adventures back in the nineteenth century which is when the author lived.
By the time I finished reading the book, which must have taken the better part of a month, trying to read it as thoroughly as I could, it was Wednesday and my report was due on Friday. That's when my friend Chuck who was a senior gave me a little thirty page pamphlet called "Cliff Notes". This was a booklet that summarized the novel I had just spent the past month reading. I had definitely enjoyed the story, but it was so long, with such a convoluted plot, that I was throughly confused. Now, thanks to my friend, I had a booklet that explained the plot, who the characters were, the important themes, the author's purpose, literary devices, and the historical significance among other things. Using the "Cliff Notes" as a guide, I wrote an excellent book report and received an "A" for my efforts.
A month or so later, when it was time to choose another book and write another report, I chose another novel by Dostoyevski called "Crime and Punishment". Imagine being a junior in high school nowadays, and reading two six hundred page novels in the same year! Well, musicians, it was more than I could handle either. Having already read one SHPN (six hundred page novel) by Fyodor Dostoyevski (Doesn't just saying that name make you tired--imagine saying his full name: Fyodor Mikhaillovich Dostoeyevski), now I had committed myself to reading another.
Well, thanks to my pal Chuck, I latched onto the "Cliff Notes" for "Crime and Punishment" and read all about the chracters, the plot, the themes, the author's purpose, literary techniques. In fact, I never read the novel at all. I just restated "in my own words" what the "Cliff Notes" said about "Crime and Punishment". While I had received an "A" for "The Brothers Karamazov," my report on "Crime and Punishment" "earned" me an "A+". The teacher's comments included "Excellent, an almost clinical analysis."
So, I had progressed from using the guide to help me understand and express what I had read, to using the guide to understand and express what I had NOT read. I had found a short-cut, and it cost less than a dollar.
As believers and worshipers, we are commanded to sing to the LORD a new song (Psalm 96, 98, 149) but we apparently don't have the time or the energy to do this, so we trot out the familiar songs from our hymnbook or our Contemporary Christian Music top 40, and our "Worship Team" cranks out forty minutes worth of popular tunes by Hillsongs, David Ruis, Martin Smith, Darrell Evans, Tim Redmon, and I could roll out twenty other names, not meaning any disrespect to these musicians who are all excellent, but I'm apalled by the idolatry, how we revere the musicians who have "made it", how we depend on them and their songs to start our weekly church experience, while neglecting to develop anything more than a superficial relationship with God. Rather than express our true feelings for Him with words and melody that He gives uniquely to us, we depend on the "Cliff Notes" to save us the possible humiliation of having to struggle with who we are and Who He is, and what He really wants from us. We sing, "Lord I lift your name on high" but we don't. We sing "I'm desperate for You" but we're not.
I Corinthians 14:26 says: How is it then brethren? When you come together, EVERY ONE of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.This is how perverted the truth has become--How is it then Christians? When you come together, a select few of you have sufficient experience, talent, character, and pastoral approval to minister to the vast majority of the people week after week. Let everyone else submit to the program.
Do we wonder why true worship happens infrequently, if at all, at our gatherings?
I was riding home from DuBois on Sunday where I had visited a church and shared a POWERFUL NEW SONG. I had traveled with a dear friend who is an evangelist, and he had introduced me at some point to sing the song. I'm calling it a POWERFUL NEW SONG, not to toot my own horn --(If a man tooteth not his own horn, neither shall his neighbor)-- but to emphasize a point. New songs have POWER. Most of the songs that have caught on with the local church did so because when they were NEW they had POWER. As we've sung them and heard them over and over again, they no longer have that same power. We persist in singing songs that have LOST their power, and we pretend that God is right there feasting on our "worship". God loves us and has infinite patience, but I'm convinced that He wants to hear NEW SONGS, not old, tired, over-used, worn-out songs.
How did we get so far away from worshiping God in Spirit and in truth?
Back to Sunday afternoon's two and a half hour ride back from Dubois with my friend. I told him I would like to visit every church in my area, a different one each Sunday, and simply show up ten minutes before church and ask for permission to sing one song during the service. Now according to scripture, every one that comes to church has a song, and all things should be done to edifying. How many churches do you think would permit me to sing a song that day?
It's mostly an intellectual exercise, as I am able to minister in song wherever the Lord sends me on Sunday and throughout the week, but generally speaking the door is closed for me and any other songwriter to minister at a church-- until they have gone through a very thorough screening process. Only a few churches would encourage this kind of behavior without first scrutinizing the musician to make sure his song will fit in with the general tone of the service.
In my conversation with my friend, I also wondered out loud, what would it be like if we gathered together on a Sunday and didn't have a program. We didn't have the "worship team" play five songs that were posted on the overhead, followed by the youth pastor making announcements, and the senior pastor giving a forty minute message based on the sixth chapter of Ephesians. What if we all showed up and waited on God until something happened?
Really, what the problem is...is...FEAR. What if we had church and God DIDN'T come? We better sing familiar songs and have the pastor preach. That's how it's done, right? Yeah, that's how it's done...
Somewhere along about the middle of our first twenty years as new creations, my wife and I became well-established in whatever church we belonged to. I played a prominent role on every worship team. We were youth leaders, home group leaders, did bible studies, taught Sunday school, tithed, belonged to the church board. Church became a comfortable place to go on a regular basis where our gifts and character were affirmed, while our first love grew less and less intense. But who noticed? We were well-liked and I was moving up in the business world.
Has complacency slipped into your life and the life of your church? I used to bristle whenever asked "What church do you attend?" The person that asked really meant, "Do you go to a solid church like I do, or are you one of those flakes?" Lately, I've been going to a different church just about every week, and I feel much more like I belong to "the church" than I ever did when I mainly frequented a particular church for several years at a time and thought that was "church". The door has opened wide for me, because wherever I go, I bring POWERFUL NEW SONGS.
As surely as my LORD has given me POWERFUL NEW SONGS, He is looking for more musicians who are willing to receive new songs, who desire unique expressions of Who He is, and of His love for each of us and all of us. Read Matthew 7:7-11. Do you think for one minute that if you ask God for a new song, he WON'T give it to you?
For most, I'm afraid the answer is YES, you actually doubt your own ability to write (receive) new songs. You think only a few very remarkable people can write new songs. Maybe you will get one or two every now and then, but that's about it. And what you're dealing with here is a false belief. Because the bible tells us to sing a new song to the LORD, and that when we ask for things according to His will, we receive.
Whether we're asking for wisdom, new songs, provision, healing, our belief about God and ourself impacts whether or not we receive. In many cases, the bible says, we have not because we ask not. I think we don't ask, because we fear we'll be turned down. Satan lies to us, and we don't catch him at it, so we miss out on a torrential downpouring of blessings.
I have to go pick up my wife. Or rather, I get to go pick up my wife now (and she is so wonderful--Thank you precious LORD). I'll close with this song:
I want to give you tears of joy my LORD
I want to give you tears of joy my LORD
I want to give You all of my heart
All of my mind and all of my strength
My LORD I want to know You in all Your holiness
I want to lay my life down at Your feet
At Your feet I want to lay my life down at Your feet
Give You my hopes and give You all of my dreams
All of my dreams I want to give You tears of joy my LORD
I want to give You tears of joy my LORD
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Next time, I'll be sharing how I broke free from complacency and began to receive powerful new songs, hundreds of them, that transformed my life and make every day an exciting adventure.
Remember, God loves you, and there is no limit to His love. I pray that you will be enabled by Him to receive more and more and more and more and...
Jo and I love you also. If you ever need a hug, we've got lots of them for you!
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