Tag Archive | Worship

Some Thoughts on my New Granddaughter

DSC05048I took a break from blogging for a couple of months so I could assist my daughter and be present for the birth of my newest granddaughter! This beautiful little girl makes number six…I have five other adorable grandchildren, three girls and twin boys…but this was my daughter’s first baby and you know how mothers through the centuries have traditionally helped their daughters after they gave birth. So, I spent a lot of time in Texas and had lots of time getting to know my sweet little Margaret Nicole! She was named for my late mother (her great grandmother, who sadly passed away before my daughter ever got to meet her) and our beautiful cousin who was tragically killed in a fall while hiking in the mountains.

Little Margaret (Maggie) actually had a pretty rough start in some ways. After the placenta began deteriorating she lost weight (this is a one in a million occurrence), and when her heartbeat dropped dramatically during labor, the doctors rushed my daughter into the operating room for an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my son-in-law’s family and my husband and I were blissfully unaware of these developments until the doctor came out and told us both daughter and baby were doing fine! That was all we needed to hear! We all shed a few tears of gratitude to God for bringing them both out of the crisis and saving our beautiful granddaughter’s life and realized she was, indeed, our little “miracle baby”!

My daughter is doing just fine now and Margaret is beginning to sleep through the nights. But for many days I stayed and helped by cooking, cleaning, holding and rocking the baby often, especially during the nights, so my daughter and her husband could get some rest. It was during these cherished precious moments alone with her that I realized how tiny and frail she was, and yet how strong she was, as well, with the determination to enter this world even though in some ways the odds were against her. I realized how God is the giver of life, beginning at conception, and these words from the Book of Psalms came to me over and over again:

“Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”   (Psalm 22:9 & 10, NIV)

“Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.”  (Psalm 71:6, ESV)

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”   (Psalm 139:13 & 14a, ESV)

Remembering the amazing sonograms my daughter sent us during her pregnancy, the fact that Margaret was just as much a human being then as after she was born, and the startling realization she might not have made it had God not given her breath, made me that much more grateful for her little life and that much more horrified when I thought about the millions of tiny babies just like her who had been aborted while still in their mother’s wombs for reasons totally foreign to me! How could anyone kill a beautiful, innocent life, totally created by God?

I also thought of how she was entering a very wicked world and without faith in the Lord, she might be unable to withstand the onslaughts of the Enemy against her. I also thought of the fact that she has her whole life ahead of her, a blank slate on which she can write or accomplish anything she wishes. She may be a prolific author; she may discover a cure for cancer; she may be a doctor who cures the sick and starving in Africa; she may be the future president of the United States; she may be a great artist, composer or pianist. Of course, I am a bit swayed towards the pianist idea! With her long, slender fingers I think she will make a great pianist…or flutist like her mother…or French horn player like her father! Oh, well, the important thing is that she be what God wants her to be! I prayed over and over again as I held her in my arms that she would be a handmaiden of the Lord, used to bless many and minister for Him in the way He chooses for her life!

Even though she has not been born into an earthly royal bloodline as a princess, she has Christ’s royal blood flowing through her veins, and is heir to much more through our Lord than any earthly prince or princess could inherit from this world! I prayed that she would always serve the Lord and glorify Him, giving her heart and life completely over to the Master for His use. Yes, little Margaret, God has gifted you with so many talents yet to be discovered and my prayer for you is that you will always use them for Him! Forever love and serve the Lord and you will make your grandma so very proud of you!

(Next week I would like to complete this post by giving some ways in which parents can influence their children to love and serve the Lord by introducing them to worship music, creating musical interest in them and helping them develop their inner God-given talents. Don’t miss Part 2!)

Being “Salt and Light” Where You Are!

She was a delicate, beautiful, slightly built young woman who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent.  After walking into my teaching studio in Tyler, Texas and shyly introducing herself as Sheron,  she told me she was interested in her five year old son, Ali, beginning piano lessons.  She seemed a bit unsure of herself, and I noticed she also had a two-year-old son who appeared to be very hyper-active with disciplinary challenges!  I gladly enrolled her little boy in lessons and decided to take him myself, as I had a few openings.

Ali did fairly well when he practiced, but I don’t think piano was his main interest in life; probably, more than likely, it was his mom’s idea for him to come!  As the weeks passed and he came to his half-hour lesson, I would visit briefly with Sheron and discuss her son’s progress, among other things.  I learned that she was new to our country, having recently moved here from her native country of Iran.  She had a degree in biophysics and after moving to the U.S. had met and married a fellow Iranian who owned several gas station/convenience stores in the area.  She was always very pleasant to talk with and our friendship grew.

One day she confided to me that she was very lonely and did not seem able to make many friends in our country.  I told her I would be her friend and that seemed to please her.  I knew she had her hands full with two very active boys and I just tried to help her feel comfortable.  The next time Sheron brought Ali to his lesson, she said to me, “I want to know about Jesus!  I have been reading some and hearing about Him.  Can you help me?”  I excitedly shared my testimony of receiving Jesus as my personal Savior from sin and asked her if she had a Bible.  She did not, and I told her I would get her one, which I promptly did.  When I presented it to her the following week, she was very excited, telling me she was fluent in English and could easily read an English edition.  She also began reading materials about the Gospel in her native Farsi language.

The next time she came I asked her if she would like to receive Jesus as her Savior.  She eagerly said, “Yes!” and after explaining what conversion was all about, I led her in the sinner’s prayer and Sheron became a Christian!  I asked if she had a church home and invited her to come to our church.  She said she would try, but that her husband was a Muslim and did not like the Christian faith.  She seemed a bit concerned about this fact, and I told her I would be her prayer partner and together we would pray for her husband.  Then she shared with me the fact that she had suffered with severe back pain for some time; I prayed for her healing and she told me the pain left!  The next week she was jubilant when she told me she had not suffered any more pain all week and that she was still rejoicing in her new-found salvation through the blood of Christ!

Not too long after this a young woman in her twenties, with a remarkable voice and to whom I had taught voice lessons when she was in high school, came back to refresh and sing again with me.  During her first vocal lesson, she confided in me that she had recently converted to the “Wicca” faith, a variety of witchcraft, although she had been a Baptist when I had taught her years earlier.  Although I was somewhat aghast and surprised, I simply told her I would pray for her.  She knew how I believed and week after week at our lesson, she would still sing some Christian songs along with Broadway and operatic tunes she was working on.  At times I would have a chance to witness to her of my faith, once again.  One day, she came and told me about some heart-wrenching things in her life, and began to sob in anguish.  As the tears streamed down her face, I said, “Michelle (not her real name), it’s time to come back!  Jesus is waiting for you and you know you will never be happy until you surrender to Him!”  She nodded in agreement, and prayed the sinner’s prayer with me.  Great joy flooded her countenance and the next week when she returned for her lesson, she glowed with a peace that made her look almost like an entirely different person!

Both Sheron and Michelle moved out of my life, Ali discontinuing his lessons and Michelle moving away.  I never saw either of them again, and perhaps I never will, but out of the thousands of people I have taught, I never forgot them!   I know God used me in that little studio to help two young women come to Christ.  Sometimes when I became discouraged about teaching kids who didn’t want to be there, or when it seemed that my work was in vain, I thought about them and others who had come for lessons, many pouring out their hearts and problems to me with tears streaming down their faces, often saying as they sang worship songs, “I don’t know why, but this just brings something out in me that makes the tears flow!”  I would tell them this was the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

When you get discouraged or feel like giving up some days, just remember God can bring people into your life and down your path, even in the workplace!  You don’t have to preach them a sermon; just be their friend and bring Jesus to them as He leads you!  I found out through these experiences that “music really is worship”…being “salt and light” in a dark place!

 

Cold Pea Salad, Part II

In my last post, I detailed some apparent problems in church worship services today, seemingly contributing to many feeling they have no say in the type of music played and sung by worship teams and congregations.  I received so many great comments on this topic by people of all ages, including worship leaders, who let me know they have grappled with these same issues, sometimes in utter frustration.

I think we can all agree that the whole purpose of worship is twofold: First of all, it is not about “me” but about “Him”, or His ” Worth-ship” if you will.  The term worship was derived from these two words originally, as a form of adoration to the King of Kings.  Let us not forget this important point!  The second reason for worship is that it allows us to enter into God’s presence in a special way as we “unclutter” our minds from the mundane and secular aspects of our lives, if even for a few minutes, directing our love, praise and thanksgiving to the One who redeemed us and gives us the blessings we enjoy each day!  It is also something we do voluntarily, which is why our Father derives such pleasure from it.

So let me list a few points on the positive side to take us from “monotony, form and ritual” in music to entering into a new dimension of true meaning and appreciation for this important time!  If you missed Part I of this post, please read it before continuing.  These concepts and ideas are the result of much prayer in this area, as a worship leader myself.  With that in mind, I want to address the worship leaders first:

1.  Take time to pray and seek the mind of God through His Holy Spirit about the songs you are choosing for each service.  Remember, no two services are alike, and many times God wants to move in different ways if we’ll allow the Holy Spirit to do so.  In other words, don’t let any service get into a “rut” of, “Well, it worked fine last time; we’ll do it the same way today and every day!”  Perhaps some services will have more lively songs; some more worshipful and slower in tempo, coinciding with the message the pastor feels led to bring (it is good to find out what God is saying to him about the service, as well) and who is in attendance.  The Holy Spirit knows this ahead of time and as you pray, He will reveal to you which songs are right and which are not!  I have seen this happen many times and know it is vital; lots of prayer is so important!

2. Be open to trying different styles of music, as long as the words are full of praise and adoration to the Lord.  Testimonial songs, primarily about us and our experiences, are good in limited number, but let the majority be full of praise and worship, including scripture and perhaps words from the Psalms.  If you think all the songs sound similar, perhaps they do!  Try bringing in some “older” worship choruses and songs, even from the ’80’s and ’90’s, such as “As the Deer”, “Shout to the Lord”, “He Is Lord”, “We Exalt Thee”, and “Breathe“.  Remember some of those songs?  They are very anointed and seem to always bring the presence of the Lord into a service!  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you see some people with tears in their eyes and hands lifted in worship when you begin to sing some of these older songs.  Don’t forget to incorporate a hymn or two every once in awhile, too!   Many of these were written centuries ago by men and women of God who experienced deep feelings of gratitude to their Lord and it shows in the anointed praise and worship which ensues when they are sung properly.  Remember “Amazing Grace”?  Wow, how can a person improve on that?  Try modulating up a half step on the last verse, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years….” and watch your congregational singing soar and “raise the roof!”  I’ve seen it happen countless times!  Remember to teach unfamiliar songs by using them a few times until everyone has a chance to learn them; it is easier to worship when a song is familiar!

3.  Try utilizing some of your talented singers and musicians in the congregation (who may not be participating on the worship team) for special music!  I was in one church that had an opera singer and a first chair violinist in the congregation, who rarely performed!  I thought this was very sad.  Remember, Paul tells the Church in  I Corinthians 14:26…”when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine…” (KJV) and so on.  It appears that it is scriptural to let the various members of the Body of Christ contribute according to the talents and gifting God has given them.  It’s not wrong to use gifted musicians in special music; it is actually quite scriptural and brings blessing to everyone!

4.  Why not include a brief questionnaire in the bulletin asking your congregation to give feedback on what types of music they would like to see employed in the worship services, what some of their favorite hymns or songs are, and how they feel about various styles of worship?  Let them give feedback (they don’t even need to sign them) and you can prayerfully read their responses to give you a much better idea of what your people want.  You don’t necessarily have to change everything to please each person, but the ideas given may be beneficial in planning future worship services!

Now, to the rest of you who are worshipping from the pew!  Pray for your worship leaders and music directors; pray for the instrumentalists and vocalists.  When you come to church, prepare your heart ahead of time for worship and ask God to give you an understanding heart and right spirit directed towards Him.  Think about the words of the songs as you sing; turn your eyes heavenward and choose to enter into God’s presence in worship, shutting out distractions about you.  (One of my biggest gripes about some worship services is the amount of people coming and going, talking, even texting, in short not caring one bit about the worship.  It is so distracting to me!)  So, just shut your eyes and begin to worship in “spirit and in truth” and trust God to take care of the things that annoy you about certain songs.  You may even find you begin to like some of those you thought were awful at first!  Remember, even the old hymns were once new; many of them were simply words set to well-known “bar tunes” of the day!  I wonder if they got flack for this at the time, too?  In short, Satan will always try to bring division among those who choose to worship, including the musicians leading the worship, so let’s not give him any territory!  We know God inhabits our praises and receives glory from our worship, so let’s make a choice to continue worshipping and entering into His presence.  He loves to hear our praises!

Cold Pea Salad

I’ve received so many comments regarding the lack of variety and inclusion of worshipful hymns and songs that truly glorify God in our churches, that I have decided to include parts of just a few of them so you might see what some readers are thinking.  These have come as a result of several posts pertaining to the monotony, general lack of Biblical content, and “me” centered songs, rather than worshipful, melodious, Christ-centered ones.  Here are a few examples:

 

“This is real frustration felt by so many of us “old-timers”….I for one really loved the old hymns, and they still evoke a myriad of emotions in me…the new worship choruses, not so much.  Even so, the Holy Spirit speaks to hearts through music in spite of how it changes…all it takes is a receptive heart.”

“We have talked about taking ear plugs to church….”

“I struggle every week during worship with resentment at the worship team’s choice of songs.  Almost all are unfamiliar, “unsingable” due to complexity or range, or simply focused on the worshiper instead of the Lord.  And then the congregation applauds at the end of each song, which to me is praise for the singers, not the One being worshiped (it is not ‘clapping to the Lord’)….”

“The single largest problem the church faces today is having its priorities out of whack.  Worship and glorification of the Lord must come first, everything else including evangelism comes after.”

 

OK, so is it just disgruntled old “fogies” who are upset because their hymns have been replaced with contemporary worship songs? Do these people really hate lively songs with a good beat, including bass, guitars and percussion, preferring old, stale, slow, quiet hymns of another era? Or could it just be, perhaps, that they would like something called “variety” in worship?

Recently my husband and I attended a live, on-stage performance of C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters“, in which his famous book is portrayed in monologue form.  The late writer used allegory, symbolism and a hint of sarcasm to portray Satan and his demons at work on earth and especially in the church, among the saints who professed faith in Jesus Christ.  Let me try a little of his brilliant technic (however, probably not quite as brilliantly and cleverly as his was)!

I recently went to a buffet (or smorgasbord, as the Swedes call it) to hopefully try a variety of foods for my palate.  I was starved and looked forward to heaping my plate up with lots of goodies!  To my horror, I discovered that every dish on the serving line was filled with “Cold Pea Salad” as the signs indicated.  Now, I love “Cold Pea Salad” and started to take a heaping spoonful, but then I realized that the next spoonful and the next would be the same….my plate was soon full of “Cold Pea Salad”!  When I asked the manager what this was all about, he smiled and told me very politely that the restaurant had tried serving “Cold Peaches” about ten years ago, but people got weary of them.  So, about five years ago they switched entirely to “fish”; of course, the same thing happened, he said…people got very tired of fish before long!  So, now they were serving what he was sure everyone loved, “Cold Pea Salad”!  When I asked him if there was any chance of getting something else to eat, he promptly told me that a restaurant up the street was serving “Green Bean Salad” to all of its customers and I might like to try that one.  I thanked him and left.  On the way out, he shouted at me, “Oh, by the way, ma am, next Tuesday we’ll have a special menu; it will be ‘Chilled Pea Casserole’.  You might want to come back for that!”  Thankfully, I found a restaurant a few blocks away with a varied menu and enjoyed my meal!

Now, of course, you can see how ridiculous this is, but in many ways, it seems the Church has followed this line of thinking.  When it observed the world coming out with a new style of music, it was not too far behind in following the trend, instead of setting it!  If a survey showed that people of a certain age group (and this is certainly our target audience; who cares about the rest!) enjoy one kind of music, we shall bend over backward to please them, ignoring the cries of, “Can’t we have some variety?  I like this kind of music, and the guy over there likes another.  Can’t we sing both styles occasionally?”

I made a promise to myself and to my blog followers on my first post that I would not write a “negative rant” for a blog.  I have tried to keep this promise!  If I point out a “negative”, or a problem, for example, I would like to follow it up with a “positive”.  That is why I am going to post Part Two of this blog next week with some possible solutions to this situation.  I have prayed and asked the Lord to guide me in what I write and I feel that the Holy Spirit has given me some good ideas that may be a blessing and of some benefit to worship leaders and those in the congregation, as well.  ‘Til next time, be blessed!

What Type of Worship Does God Enjoy?

Rebecca Baker 4        Well, that really is a loaded question, isn’t it? You may say, “how do we know what God likes?” There are so many styles of worship  music to choose from, ranging all the way from classical to rap and everything in between! When it comes to worship, you may feel His presence while listening to a heavy metal song with a driving beat; or you may prefer some classic anthems of praise sung by an anointed choir. Some people like to stomp their feet and tap their toes to Southern Gospel; many people get it on to Black Gospel (one of my personal favorites!) because the sheer energy and rhythm of the song makes it virtually impossible not to clap, dance and move about! Of course, these same styles of music sung at a slower pace can cause a flood of emotions through the sheer beauty of the chords, bringing tears to our eyes and healing to our spirits.

How can this be, you ask?  What is there about music that touches us so deeply?  It’s simply because musical patterns have been scientifically created by the Great Musician, our wonderful God we serve! That is why some chords sound right together and others just don’t work. When you choose to go against the natural patterns He created, you have what is called “dissonance”. I believe Satan is the author of much discord in music, but that is another subject for another day.  There is nothing more intrinsically “spiritual” about one type of musical pattern over another.  Now, of course, putting words to the music can bring out emotions, but  music itself is not “spiritual”.  This is why musicians hundreds of years ago could take the common “bar tunes” of the day and put words of praise and worship magnifying God that we sing today as the “old hymns of the church”!  The question then is: How is God blessed and moved by our worship of Him? What style does He appreciate? The Word says “He inhabits, or lives in, our praises” so it seems to me that music uplifting Him, of any genre, is first and foremost what He enjoys if our hearts are totally directed towards Him in our worship! The Word is replete with examples of worship pleasing to our Lord. If you would like to do a study on which forms of worship God encourages, the following passages will be helpful:

Shouts of praise:Shout for joy to God, all the earth;” (Psalm 66:1, ESV); “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting…” (I Chronicles 15:28, ESV)
Singing:Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” (Psalm 47:6, ESV) Also check out I Chronicles 16:9  “Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (ESV); Psalm 66:4, Psalm 68:32, Psalm 96:1 (“Oh sing to the Lord a new song…”); Colossians 3:16, and on and on! There are literally hundreds of verses about singing in the Word of God.
Tambourines and Lyres: “They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.” (Job 21:12, ESV)
Cymbals and Trumpets: “Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” (Psalm 150:5, ESV); “The singers…were to sound bronze cymbals;” (I Chronicles 15:19 (ESV); “Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song.” (I Chronicles 16:42, ESV); “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet” (Psalm 150:3, KJV).
Making merry; rejoicing in song: “And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs….” (2 Samuel 6:5, ESV); “And David and all Israel were rejoicing before God with all their might, with song…” (I Chronicles 13:8, ESV)
Playing and singing together: “Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings (how many fingers do you have…could this be clapping?). Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” (Psalm 33:2 and 3, KJV)
Clapping unto the Lord:Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1, ESV)
Stringed instruments and organs: “Praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” (Psalm 150:4, KJV)
Dancing: “Praise him with the timbrel and dance:” (Psalm 150:4a, KJV); “Let them praise his name in the dance:” (Psalm 149:3, KJV)
Lifting of hands:Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.” (Psalm 134:2, KJV); “I desire then that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands…” (I Timothy 2:8, ESV)

     There are literally hundreds more verses on this subject of music and worship in both the Old and New Testaments.   To answer the question:  It is obvious that God likes many different styles of music for He created all music!   All through the Word, we are told to worship with joy, loud praises, shouting, and thankfulness. Worship is to be a happy, exuberant experience!  In a day and age where everything is specialized and carved out in little niches to try and please everybody (a literal impossibility!), perhaps we can depend on the Holy Spirit’s guidance to show what the music we employ to worship the King of the Universe in the corporate setting should sound like! I pray we will all worship Him “in spirit and in truth” as Jesus said that “true worshippers” would do in John 4:23,24. It’s time to stop going through the motions and worship from our hearts!

Should Christians Observe the Passover?

Here is a blog I did seven years ago which I would like to “re-post” today as it is extremely relevant to the current worldwide Corona Virus pandemic.  I believe if God’s people will pray and appropriate the Blood of the Lamb (Jesus or Yeshua) today, as done millenniums ago by the Israelites who were released from their bondage that night, we can see an ending to this terrible plague and move into victory through His blood!  Though not able to observe this together, we as believers can virtually or symbolically claim God’s promises and protection from illness over our homes!  Please read on:

]Every Biblical Dinner I am so blessed to see all the happy faces enjoying the message, the fellowship and the food.

I am in Tonopah, Nevada for a few days with my husband, a professional engineer, who is on a consulting job for a gold mine near here. Pretty neat, huh? This picturesque small town nestled amid the mountains in the “high country” between Las Vegas and Reno, near the California border, was the perfect setting to observe the beautiful full “Passover” moon last night. My husband and I read the Passover story from Exodus 12, particularly verse 14, “So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” (NKJV) Should this verse be ignored as it seems to be by  many churches? What does it mean to us as Christians today?

“Passover” was the night described in this chapter where God struck dead the firstborn children and animals of all the Egyptians, but “passed over” the Israelites who had, by God’s decree, slain an unblemished lamb at twilight and put its blood on their doorposts. When the death angel saw the blood, he “passed over” that house and allowed their firstborn to live! This is why the Jewish people to this day observe the anniversary of this mighty miracle wrought by Yahweh to free His people from slavery! I was pleasantly surprised to see on the news this morning that our president and his wife even observed a “seder” (Passover meal) at the Whitehouse last night with a number of guests.

We know that our Lord Jesus Christ, Yeshua, completely fulfilled the Passover by His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood as the final sacrifice needed for our salvation! This is the fundamental core doctrine of all Christians who believe in salvation by grace. But, knowing that Christ fulfilled this event, wouldn’t it be great to use this holy day as a teaching tool for our children, as mentioned in Exodus 12 by God? I remember we used to have a special meal of lamb on this night, as did the Israelite people of old, and we put a little stuffed lamb by each child’s plate signifying that Jesus is the Lamb of God. They remember the event to this day!

Some would argue that we are not Jewish, hence we need not observe any of these ceremonies because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial laws! I quite agree that He did; however, let us remember that the Jewish people are descended from only one of the twelve tribes of Israel (thirteen actually, as the sons of “Joseph” were actually divided into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, by his father Israel, known as Jacob, when he gave them the inheritance before his death).  There are twelve other tribes, known as the “lost tribes” which have been integrated into other societies throughout the world. You may very well be an Israelite! Does that surprise you? Well, without getting into the devisive teaching of whether or not there are two “houses”, the House of Israel and the House of Judah, as mentioned in the Word, let us just say that observing some sort of “Passover” remembrance is certainly not wrong, and a wonderful opportunity to thank and praise our Heavenly Father for His wondeful miracle of letting His people go from the land of Egypt!  Besides, as children of God, born into His family through conversion and the New Birth, we are by adoption the seed of Abraham and may rightfully claim all of the privileges and blessings promised to him so many years ago! I love Isaiah 41:8, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend.” (NKJV) This verse speaks about Jacob (Israel) being “God’s chosen”. It says nothing about only the tribe of Judah being His “chosen”. This blesses me, because I know I am “God’s chosen” and have the right to partake of His blessings!  I believe that as true Christian believers, we partake of “Passover” when we observe the Lord’s Supper, which is what Jesus (Yeshua) did with his disciples the night He was betrayed and then arrested.  He has commanded us to do the same “in remembrance of His death”.

The Apostle Paul states in Romans 11:1, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (NKJV) Any who are physically or spiritually descended from one of the tribes of Israel can claim all the promises God made to His people through Abraham and later Moses. God (Yahweh) sent His Son, Jesus (Yeshua), to be that blood sacrifice and sin offering necessary for our atonement. Thus, He fulfilled Passover and the Day of Atonement when He was crucified on the Cross just before Passover. He then arose at the end of the Sabbath (the Bible speaks about the dawning towards the first day of the week, which would be Sunday, when the women discovered the empty tomb). We are not sure exactly when He arose, but the word “dawning” is also translated “dusking” in the original Greek text, indicating He probably came forth at the end of the Sabbath, around sundown. As you are probably aware, the Jewish days begin and end at sundown. When I think of Jesus fulfilling the atonement required for righteousness, the Passover observances, as well as the Sabbath, I get very excited and want to shout and sing! I know this blog is supposed to be about music, and I see a whole symphony of music played in this story! Happy Passover and Resurrection Sunday, everyone! Be blessed in Yeshua’s Name!

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How God Worked in J.S. Bach’s Life

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Perhaps the greatest musician of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach, widely considered to be the “Father of Modern Music”, had cause to wonder if God was really with him when he went through some severe struggles in his lifetime!

Today is Bach’s 328th birthday! This great composer was born in Eisenach, Germany on March 21, 1685 into a family that had been prominent on the musical scene in Europe for centuries! His father was the director of the town musicians and most likely started young Johann on the violin and basics of music theory. However, as the eighth child in a family of fourteen children, he was no doubt devastated when his mother passed away when he was only nine years old; just eight months later, his father also died. How tragic that the greatest musician of all time was an orphan at the age of ten!

But God, in His sovereignty, had a plan and purpose for young Johann’s life far beyond what he could have imagined! Even though it seemed that life was somehow unfair to this young lad, God showed once again that Romans 8:28 was true! This passage says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (KJV)  Young Johann had been schooled in the scriptures from an early age and had a faith in God that was real. His parents had seen to it that his religious education was sound and as devout followers of Martin Luther, they instilled into their son a Godly heritage.

Johann’s oldest brother, Johann Christopher Bach, invited the boy to come live with him. It just so happened that he was the organist in a large church in the area, and because of this, Johann was able to study, perform and copy music from his brother’s repertory. He received extremely valuable instruction from him on an individual level that he might never have obtained had his parents lived. He was instructed on the clavichord and harpsichord, in addition to the organ, and this early training could well have culminated in one of his crowning achievements, “The Well Tempered Clavier”.  Later he attended music conservatories and studied more extensively with some of the great musicians of his day. But, this early training gleaned from his time living with his brother was the foundation for all that would come later, including his keyboard, organ and chamber music; concertos; cantatas; and other orchestral works that have been revered for centuries! In fact, Beethoven called him “the original father of harmony” and we know that he perfected the musical scale we use today.

Did God have a purpose for his life? The answer is an emphatic yes! We know he was a devout Christian and that sacred music was at the center of his repertory. He regarded his music as “an act of prayer” and stated, “I play my music to the glory of God!” Once when Bach was about 32 years old, he desired to accept a post which would have given him more money and been advantageous to his career. The duke under whom he was currently serving became infuriated, had him arrested and thrown in jail for a month. During this time Bach wrote a cycle of organ chorale preludes for a year which were later published in Germany and are still available! Once again, God used a seemingly negative circumstance to His glory!

When he was just 35 years old, he went on a tour of Europe with the prince by whom he was employed, playing the harpsichord for European aristocracy, along with a musical entourage. When he returned home he found his wife of nearly thirteen years, Maria, dead and buried while he was on tour. She had been completely healthy when he left. Sadly, their four young children were now motherless. Did Bach give up and allow himself to succumb to bitterness and self-pity? Indeed not! Johann turned in an even greater measure to composing and playing the music of God and the church he loved! It was after this time that he composed most of his greatest chorales based on sacred texts, even while he served as cantor, musical director and organist in the church. He spent the majority of his life composing and playing music that glorified God and His Word!  A year later he met and married a young woman named Anna Magdalena and to this day we play many of the works she translated into notebooks for their twelve young children to practice during their daily home schooling!

As we celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach today, let’s remember that he was an ordinary human being such as you and me, and that despite the setbacks and trials of life, he chose to let God work a greater work in him through these events, culminating in music that endures and blesses people to this day!  I feel sure he is enjoying the rewards of his labors in Heaven, singing and making melody with the angels and the saints of God who have gone on before!

The “Dumbing Down” of Music?

OK, so maybe this doesn’t sound like the most “spiritual” topic to you; perhaps you think I am just going to “vent” about some of my pet peeves concerning music today, especially as it relates to the current church scene.  Well, please bear with me.  I think you’ll find some interesting observations here that may even get you thinking about some issues you may not have thought of!

A few weeks ago my husband and I visited a nearby church that featured a very “free” style contemporary praise band.  Although it was loud, it wasn’t any different than countless other churches I had been in which featured the same style of “three chord” simplistic “praise” music, complete with several guitars, drums, keyboards, etc.  You get my drift!  Anyway, about twenty minutes into the worship, the lady seated directly in front of us started to put her hands over her ears as if in intense pain.  I hoped she was OK!  Then, she whispered something to her husband and left the sanctuary.  I assumed she wouldn’t be back until the worship was over; it was quite apparent she found the music too loud for her ears.  Well, to my great surprise, she emerged again in just a couple of minutes with two ear plugs in her hands, which she promptly put in and continued sitting by her husband!  Needless to say, I don’t think she was getting much out of the worship!

In sharp contrast, we recently visited a rehearsal for a world-renowned church choir with a more liturgical or classical slant to their music.  As they sang, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me began wiping tears from her eyes as she pulled a hanky from her purse.  Obviously, she was greatly moved emotionally by the song and the tears followed.

Now, what do these two incidents have in common, you may ask?  To my mind, it seemed as if the first woman, who was obviously there to worship, was not getting a thing out of the musical service.  She was “enduring” it!  In sharp contrast, the second woman was moved to tears by the sheer emotion exuded by a great composer and glorious choir and was obviously touched somewhere down in her soul!

I have read many times Psalm 33:3, “Sing unto Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.”  (NKJV)

I’ve used this verse so many times to encourage people to take piano (or another instrument) lessons, or even learn to sing properly, when I had my teaching studio in Texas for over 28 years.  As a student of classical music myself, I have a deep appreciation for good music, properly performed.  Badly performed music leaves me cold!   When a person has sung or played beautiful, challenging music with intricate and fascinating chord structures and patterns, such as I have, it is extremely difficult not to be bored with the current three chord “pablum” being offered up as the sole choice for any given worship service in many churches.  Any other alternative, such as time-honored hymns written by revered musicians, men and women of God, are sadly viewed as absolutely unacceptable in some churches!  It sometimes appears that the churches who wish to have a “free” worship style and move into “praise and worship” also fail to utilize great music and seasoned, well-trained musicians who can play “skillfully” as the Word mentions in Psalms.  It seems to be the “dumbing down” of music!

Interestingly,  Numbers 8:24-26 speaks of the Levites (the priests) serving in the tabernacle from the age of 25-50.  In I Chronicles   23:3-5  we read that the Levites from the age of 30 and up numbered 38,000 and of that number 24,000 were to carry forward the work of the house of the Lord.  Of this number, we read in verse 5:  “…four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David to praise therewith.” (KJV)  I want to get into this whole concept of trained, paid temple musicians more in future postings, but suffice it to say that by reading about the Levites, many of whom were musicians, we see that they were first of all trained, then spent many years actually performing as musicians before spending the last part of their lives teaching the next generation of musicians coming up!  In II Chronicles 20 we read that the singers and musicians led the  army against the enemy as they sang and praised God!  Verse 28 mentions “stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord.”  (NKJV)

It is obvious (and we will get into this subject more later) that these were skilled musicians,  anointed by God to lead the praise and worship!  Is there room for more than one type of music in our worship today?  I think that the answer is emphatically, yes!  Different styles minister to different people; it has not as much to do with age as with preference.  Does everyone like the same kind of food or pick the same thing at a buffet?  Do we all order the same food off the menu?  The same is true with our musical tastes.  Skilled musicians are going to have a greater appreciation for a deeper type of musical genre than someone who has had no musical training, perhaps.  Should we honor differing musical tastes in our worship times?  I believe we should!  If someone is not worshiping, but using ear plugs to endure, perhaps the whole idea of helping everyone enter into the presence of God has been lost!

Let’s stop picking apart each other’s musical tastes and admit that God loves variety and diversity.  Why not help each other enter into worship by respecting  various musical preferences and allow skilled, trained musicians to help us enter into the presence of God!