Being Ministers of Reconciliation Wherever We Are: VLOG

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 22 in The Bible, we can read what I believe is one of the most important things that Jesus teaches: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Did you get that? Every other law that God would give us hangs from these two: Love God and love people. It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that!

I strongly believe that when believers gather together and sing songs – songs that praise Him, songs that are honest prayers, songs that declare truths about God, songs that encourage each other to live lives that are worshipful to God – it can help us connect with God and with one other: Especially if we sing with sincerity, conviction and even some abandon. Music can help us to fulfill the Matthew 22 challenge. But there’s more!

I like to relate the Matthew 22  passage to what we read in 2 Corinthians 5:18 from The Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” It seems to me that this ministry – the ministry of reconciliation, or, reuniting God and people – is a full-time ministry for all believers. It’s not just the people who have titles (like pastor, missionary, college minister and “worship leader”) or who get paid to do Church stuff who are in ministry. Ministry is for all of us! And this full-time pursuit is to love God and to love people. Connection and good relationships – both vertically and horizontally – are key.

So really, our job as music leaders is to be ministers of reconciliation: To use music to help people enter into, maintain and deepen right relationships with God and with one other.

But what happens when we step off the platform? Does our ‘ministry’ stop there?

“When I’m in the plane, on the way back to Nashville, I’m still in the ministry of reconciliation.”

“I tell you what, there is no more fun way to live than when you walk into any situation – whether it’s 20,000 people to hear you sing or just a room with my wife and my kids…, an airport, a restaurant, wherever I find myself…[I say to myself] “Love God, love people … How do I do that? How can I be a minister of reconciliation now?”

Watch my (1 min 38 sec) vlog here.

This video excerpt is from a recent interview with legendary Nashville artist manager Mike Smith, that was recorded as part of Mike’s online artist management course.

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Worship where the (proverbial) rubber-hit-the-road: VLOG

With the worship of God – where does the rubber really hit the road? What does worship really look like? Singing songs to God on a Sunday morning? Making music to God about His love for us? Declaring our love for Him?

In a recent interview with legendary Nashville artist manager Mike Smith, we explored what it means to worship God, as part of Mike’s online artists management course.

“While I was with SONICFLOOd, one night, during an intimate moment of singing ‘I Could Sing of Your Love Forever’ with the audience, I heard these words:
‘I never asked you to sing OF my love, Grant. I asked you to BE my love.'”

“Let’s recognize this: Nowhere in the recorded words of Jesus – the one we claim to follow – does he ever ask us to sing to him. But over and over, he asks us to actually BE his love – to one another, to our neighbors, to our enemies – and to the least of these.”

“The real ‘rubber-hits-the-road’ of worship is how we treat the least of these – the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the lonely, and the imprisoned.”

Watch my (3 min 01 sec) vlog here.

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“Using Music to Connect” VLOG

For thousands of years, followers of Jesus have gathered and sung songs together. It’s a sacred tradition that I am honored to be able to continue. But why do we sing? And when we gather, what songs are chosen for us to sing? What motivates the leader to choose particular songs? Does their song choice ever hinder true connection?

In a recent interview with legendary Nashville artist manager Mike Smith, we talked about this topic as part of Mike’s online artists management course.

“I can see how we can use music to break down barriers.”
“The song is merely the vehicle to help connection happen.”
“When I see how a song connects, it’s more fun than me playing a song that I think is cool.”

Watch my second (2 min 14 sec) vlog here.

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“Redefining Success” VLOG

How would you define success in your life? What makes a person significant? Is there a difference? Do you think that success at work or in your personal life is evidence that you are in the center of God’s will? Should we be shooting for success or finding our significance?

I explored these questions in a recent interview with legendary Nashville artist manager Mike Smith as part of his online artists management course.

“I’m not going to measure my sense of worth on whether I start getting calls to speak at events and gatherings, I’m going to base my sense of self-worth on the Cross of Christ…”

“He must be becoming greater, I must be becoming less…” (John 3:30)

Watch my second (2 min 22 sec) vlog here.

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“My least favorite C.S. Lewis quote” VLOG

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I left my home in Australia to live in the USA in 2002. I was a professional Christian musician and would continue to be for many years. But, as I say in this, my very first video blog (or “vlog”) …

“All the songs that I was involved with were about God … I believed I’d come to the United States to be part of a movement of people towards Jesus, but somewhere hidden in heart was this other objective …”

Watch the 3 min 36 sec vlog here.

This video is taken from a recent interview by legendary Nashville artist manager Mike Smith for his online artists management course.

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The Bible – like a door

open doorsHow strange it would be: To be invited to walk through a door to meet someone, but instead of walking through the door into the room on the other side, and getting to know the person who had made the invitation, I  spent all my time studying the door!

I heard the senior pastor of a large church give a fervent, ten-or-so minute talk to a group of visitors to his Sunday service. His talk was at a post-service lunch he had provided by way of welcome. After the food was eaten, he spoke passionately about the Biblical foundation for his church, he and his staff’s passion for the Bible and how all that happens there found its inspiration in “the infallible word of God – The Bible” … but he did not mention Jesus once.

I hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about the Bible: How it’s the instruction manual for life, how the Christian’s world view must be based on the Bible and how studying the Bible is the most important thing to do for people of the Christian faith. Many Christians go to extraordinary lengths to show that their particular interpretation of some aspect of the Bible’s teaching is the correct interpretation and that the interpretation of others is incorrect. It sometimes seems that, for many people of the Christian faith, being convinced of their correct position on Biblical exegeses is the main goal.

But are we followers of Jesus, or followers of the teachings of The Bible?

Oswald Chambers remind us:

“A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand – ‘Believe this and that’ – a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals.”

Are we submitting our lives to the standard of Jesus the Christ, or only to our interpretation of the God-inspired book that reveals His standard? Chambers continues…

“Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ.”

Are our lives submitted wholly in the sacrificial worship of God, or do we worship our current, faulty and incomplete intellectual understanding of Him? Are we surrendering our own agenda so that we can be the hands and feet of Christ here and now, or are we driven by a personal agenda to prove that we know more correct information about God than others?

“It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view.” Oswald Chambers

Jesus does not ask us to make people align themselves to our own cerebral concepts about God.  If we are ourselves disciples of Christ, in stark contrast to the desire to make converts to our own way of thinking, Jesus asks us to make others His disciples also. Matthew 28:19

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus time on earth in physical form knew the scriptures very well. They read their “Bible” more and studied harder than anyone else! We would do well to remember what Jesus said to them:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

I believe that the Bible was written by people who were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to do so, and exists exactly as God has allowed it. I study scripture because, through it, truth about God can be revealed to me. I encourage everyone I can to read, study and meditate on scripture. But we must see the Bible as a doorway through which Jesus invites us to walk so that we encounter Him. The door is elaborate, amazing, wonderful and can be studied without end for a lifetime. But it is not the Bible that saves. Only Jesus can do that.

(You can read the Oswald Chambers devotional from “My Utmost For His Highest” that inspired this BlogPost here)

God’s Kingdom Come … When?

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More challenge and wisdom from Oswald Chambers this morning in My Utmost For His Highest.

“The mystery of God is not in what is going to be— it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event.”

And he continues with, “Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.”

This makes me think of all the final verses of many of our most celebrated Church hymns. So many of them sing about finally being in heaven with God after we’re dead, or seeing God’s glory finally descending to earth with the “second coming”.

Final verse of “Amazing Grace”. Words by John Newton, 1779:

When we’ve been there 10,000 years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun

Last verse of “Be Thou My Vision” by Eleanor Hull & Mary E. Byrne (1912) possibly reworking Irish lyrics from the 6th to 8th Century by Saint Dallan.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

And it’s a thought that’s started to show up in newer songs too! Here’s the last verse of “Bless The Lord (10,000 Reasons)” with words by Matt Redman & Jonas Myrin © 2011.

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and there forever more

Or re-invented old lyrics in newer songs like “Cornerstone” (2011 from Hillsong) using words from Edward Mote’s 1834 hymn known as “The Solid Rock” or “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”.

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

These are wonderful, poetic verses and worth singing, for sure. There is solid Biblical teaching that there is an eternity with God for true believers to look forward to. But when most of these lyrics were written, life was a lot tougher than we experience today. Pain, suffering and death were much more common and a part of everyday life for people in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. I can imagine how the thought of an end to this earthly existence and being with Heavenly Father in His glory was very attractive. Singing these verses, often with a highly emotive key change, helped inspire people to continue the struggle.

However, I am concerned that the unthinking, unbalanced singing of these verses today may contribute to the ease with which the many “pew-warming” Sunday-Christians are lulled into the false sense that we are waiting around for God’s-Kingdom-Come rather than realizing more fully that we have a role to play: To be conduits for God’s Kingdom to Come here and now!