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Music is “Creation” Too

by Ryan Peter

This last Sunday I was commissioned to lead the music and singing for South Side and I arrived somewhat early – which was all fair and well for me as it gave me some time to reflect and enjoy the wonderful Autumn morning. I sat by a tree (pictured above) and enjoyed its yellow-orange leaves shower over me, while the sun warmed me up and the chirping of the many birds all around were my soundtrack.

This is the kind of guy I am. I love nature. Creation. Sunrises and falling leaves and blossoms and mysterious, starlit evenings. It’s moments like this when my heart lights up in gratitude and worship. When my restless body finally gets what it needs to settle down – beautiful views, sounds and smells. When my voice shuts up and a greater voice speaks.

I thought to myself, “Now, if only I could bring this creation – all this beauty – into our morning worship.”

Then it hit me. Well, music is also a part of God’s own creation! I’m doing just that!

It seems to me that I’m often distracted by the sheer business of music. Most of my music ‘career’ has been about cool bands and cool hair. Thankfully I grew out of that several years ago. But even still, getting the music right for a Sunday morning; choosing the right songs; working on the dynamics of those songs; keeping up with trends; making sure I get all the cues right… all this business of music makes me forget the beauty of music in itself, its very nature, the fact that God created this stuff. I didn’t invent this. Playing music is, indeed, God-glorifying – it works toward this end just like all of creation works toward this end.

As the heavens tell of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) so music tells of the glory of God. That’s if we’d let it. If we would get the business of it out of the way – the preferences of style, taste, and skill.

I do believe that sometimes we rely too much on music in church to make ‘things happen’ (whatever that may mean). I do believe that the lyrical content of much of our modern church music is pretty lame and sometimes even damaging to people’s relationship with God. But I have to admit, when sounds and notes go together, the very nature of that… the very nature of music… tells the glory of God. And that makes music joyful for me again, because when eternity comes, we’re really not going to care at all about the business of music. And that’s why we fill our church meeting places with these notes and the sounds of voices that echo the many facets and many stories of a relationship with the same person, Jesus Christ.

Why Lead Worship? – Part 4 – God is Serious About Shepherding

Written by Jonno Warmington

I argued in my previous post that the particular trait David exhibited which was ‘after’ God’s own heart was that he was first and foremost a shepherd. He was commended because he dealt well with God’s most loved possession – His people.

If His people are God’s prized possession then the shepherding and leading of His people is naturally an important thing to God. This is why He places such an emphasis on the care with which the role must be handled. In fact, scripture says that those who would lead His people will be held to account for those they lead (Heb 13:17, Ex 34:10). It is also why scripture doesn’t pull any punches in its harsh treatment of false shepherds. Ezekiel 34 gives us a good picture of a God who sets Himself against false shepherds who would use the flock to their own benefit, requiring a reckoning for their abuse. It also shows us how He will rescue His sheep from these false shepherds. A shepherding role is not something to be taken lightly but when we are motivated by love in obedience to God we are taking on His own heart! We love what He loves.

I believe that this is an important part of what made David a worshipper that pleased God. He loved God and proved it by how he loved and led God’s people.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
– 1 John 4:20-21 ESV

So what does all this have to do with “leading worship”? Well, quite frankly, I believe it points to the role that must be adopted by anyone who would step up to lead a gathering of the local church in any of the things that we gather to do – including worshipping God in song. We must first take on the role of a shepherd.

Why Lead Worship? – Part 3 – Why David? Looking at God’s Heart

Written by Jonno Warmington

In my last post in this series I asked what it was exactly about David that was ‘after’ or ‘according to’ God’s heart. In answering this question we obviously need to look at both God and David and look for some similarities in their character. I believe a clue to at least a portion of the question is tucked away in the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Old Testament.

In the first 11 verses of Jeremiah 3, Israel and Judah are accused of spiritual adultery and prostituting themselves to other gods… then God calls and commissions Jeremiah:

“Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
“Return, faithless Israel…
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
– Jeremiah 3:12-15 ESV.

There is actually quite a lot more in the Old Testament that talks about God as a Shepherd of His people – the most famous probably being Psalm 23.

Over in the New Testament Jesus calls himself “The Good Shepherd” and dedicates a good chunk of John 10 to this teaching about himself. Jesus uses more shepherding language as he approaches Jerusalem in Luke 13:34 saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Now, when we look at David, we know he was a shepherd as a young boy but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that. When it comes to the Bible’s teaching on worship and David’s leadership a commonly used portion of scripture is this one from Psalm 78:

“He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skilful hand.”
– Psalm 78:70-72 ESV

I’ve often heard and, in turn, used this portion of scripture to introduce the concept of two aspects to leadership and service in a local church: the heart and the hands of service. These are important concepts for us to understand (and we’ll come back to these in a later post) but we often get caught up on those points and miss out on something that is actually the main key to this scripture. I believe that this key is also vital to understanding the Biblical heart of “leading worship” and, in fact, to the heart of any kind of leadership and service in the church.

David is saying that from when he was a young boy right through to being the king of Israel his job description didn’t change, just who he was looking after. He went from shepherding sheep to shepherding people.

We always teach about the importance of an upright or integrous heart and skilful hands in service but miss the actual point of this verse. The integrity and skill are the ‘hows’. The ‘what’ of the scripture is shepherding!

So what makes David a man after God’s heart? I don’t believe scripture honours David with this acclaim because he was a great leader or because he was a very talented writer, poet and musician. I don’t even think it was because he had some amazing measure of desire for God. I’d like to argue that it is for this reason: from the hills and sheep pens of his childhood right through to the height of David’s illustrious political career, at heart he was a shepherd. And God likes that because that what He has in His own heart.

Click here for part 4 of this article.

Why Lead Worship? – Part 2 – Looking at David

Written by Jonno Warmington

It’s nearly seven months later and here finally is the long overdue second part of my “Why Lead Worship?” series of posts (read part one here).

As a brief aside, my previous post was followed by some good discussion around the use of the phrase “leading worship”. I’ll continue to use the phrase for now but with this caveat: For various reasons, it’s actually not my favourite common use phrase for what musicians do while serving the church in the area of the musical expression of worship. I would actually like to cover this point properly at some point – but that will be in a different post.

Getting back on-topic, I think it’s fairly obvious that I was referring to David at the end of my previous post. David is a good character to look at with this topic for a couple of reasons, one of which is simply because there’s just so much to see in scripture about this guy. We can learn a lot about and from him in 1 and 2 Samuel, Chronicles and in other parts of the Bible.

Not only can we see his heart as displayed through the story of his life, we can also see it in great detail in the things that he wrote. The Psalms are a big collection of songs and poems that essentially made up Israel’s “worship song file” and David wrote many of them.

What’s also interesting is how scripture doesn’t rose-tint the story of David’s life and yet speaks very highly of him. The Biblical narrative shows a man who was a polygamist, adulterer and ultimately a scheming murderer who ruled over a nation and yet left his own family in a complete mess. Yet despite all this, David is used by the Apostles and New Testament writers Peter, in Acts 2, and Paul, in Acts 13, as a prophetic picture or type of Jesus Christ Himself. The Messiah is often referred to in the Old Testament prophetic books and in the gospels as “the Son of David”.

And then there’s this big one, especially within the scope of this series of posts: In his Acts 13 sermon, Paul talks about David as a person whom God calls “a man after my heart” (v22).

Until fairly recently I had always interpreted this phrase to mean a person who is in pursuit of God’s heart – a worshiper. While this kind of statement may be true of David, it isn’t what this text is actually saying. The word translated “after” is the Greek word kata which means “according to” and not “in pursuit of”. So, it uses “after” as in, “a son takes after his father” and not, “grown men chasing after a ball.” I had always understood the phrase incorrectly as “David… a man who pursues God’s heart” whereas the correct understanding would actually be, “David… a man who has the same characteristics or qualities as God’s heart.”

Coming to understand this, I have to say that this must be one of scripture’s highest commendations of any man – God saying that this man, David, had some of the same characteristics as Himself. As far as I know, David is the only person in the Bible that God directly describes this way. Surely this is something we would love be true about us and so it is this statement that we must investigate further.

Why does scripture make such high commendations of a person who’s life story would make a serious R-rated movie? You could argue that there must be better characters in the Bible to choose for this honour.

This contrast beautifully illustrates the triumph of God’s grace over sinful human messiness in the achievement of His sovereign will. But even with this in mind, we still have to ask what it was that David had or did that caused God to call him a man after His heart in both the Old (through Samuel in 1 Sam 13:14) and New Testaments (through Paul in Acts 13)?

To answer this we have to examine what it was about David that was after or “according to” God’s heart. More on that in part 3 which hopefully won’t take another seven months to post.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? What kind of similarities between David and the heart of God can you see?

Click here for part 3 of this article.

Why Lead Worship? – Part 1 – a.k.a. Cold Hands

Cold Hands

Written by Jonno Warmington

It’s been pretty cold lately – particularly early in the morning – and it’s got me thinking. Church musicians, why do you do what you do? Why practice an ever-changing bunch of songs to play and sing with people in your Life Group, your Youth Group, your church meeting or wherever you do it? Why do you rehearse on a Saturday when friends and family are relaxing? Why do you get up at 6:00am on a Sunday morning in the middle of winter and try to warm up your fingers and voices to a point where they work to some semblance of fluidity before standing in front of a crowd of people to sing and play music. It’s fun? Yeah, I guess it is, but if it’s for some sort of gratification, whether the recognition of people or your own entertainment, it’ll be short-lived – especially when your delicate musician hands are so cold.

We have to be worshippers of God first before we are musicians. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. Now, I’m not entirely convinced that that’s our purpose in it’s entirety during this life but I do believe that it is, at the very least, a very big part of it. God has created us for relationship with Him and our most natural way of relating to Him is in worship.

Ok.. So, if we are to be worshippers and if we try as far as possible to take our lead from the bible then I’d like to look at a biblical character that models a worshipper and attempt to learn a few things from this person. No prizes for guessing who I’m about to look at. Ok, so maybe a small prize: a chocolate to the first person who names the character. I’ll even double the stakes if the answer comes with a good explanation. Ok, go!

Click here for part 2 of this article.