Friday, February 1, 2008

Encounter

This is not the entry I had planned for today. Maybe that one will make it in next week.

Music is a big part of my life, and has been for as long as I can remember. Long before I understood anything about music theory, I recognized that there were certain elements in music that had a strong affect on me emotionally, and sometimes even changed my mood.

I have always listened to the words, too- and I mean really listened. By the time I was ten, I could easily (and accurately) sing along with most of the music that my parents listened to, both in the house and on the radio in the car. Much to their relief, I was still too young to understand what some of the songs insinuated (i.e., I thought Star Land Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" was about a cookout on the 4th of July, since they kept talking about "making sparks ignite," and "skyrockets in flight.")

In my life, God has often used this love for music (with a now increased understanding of lyrics) as a tool to remind me of His presence and get me thinking about His Word. Sometimes it's just one line from a song that digs deep into me. (And it hasn't been exclusively "Christian" music, just in case you're wondering.)

Yesterday however, He used worship music. I had my mp3 player on as I worked on other stuff, and decided to listen to the song "Fuel." You may know the opening lyrics: "You are the fuel our spirits burn; the oil, the light, the flame the fire, we are burning..."

Then it was the song by Hillsong United, called "Look to You": "As I look into the sky above; Wonder how my life has changed; Wonder how Your love, it came to me; As I look into the sky above; All my fears, so far away; All I hear is heaven calling me. So I look to You; So I look to You. No one else will do; No one else will do."

I began to think to myself, "These are songs that declare a total dependence on God- they indicate a life that acknowledges Him as the ultimate source." I then decided to listen to "Look to You" a second time. This time though, a piece of John 1:3 came to mind: "Through him all things were made..." The rest of the verse is, "...without him nothing was made that has been made."

Then it sort of expanded to Colossians 1:13-20 which says, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." I was thinking of the next part specifically:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created:"
(When I looked it up later, the power of the whole verse practically knocked me over.) It continues, "..things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

From there, I thought about a Vineyard music song from the late 90’s, which we've been singing lately at worship gatherings called "You are in Control." It starts out, "You are my shepherd, I have no need; You lead me by peaceful streams; And You refresh my life. You hold my hand and You guide my steps; I can walk through the valley of death and I won't be afraid. Because You, are in, control. You, are in, control. Yes Lord You, are in, control. You are in control..." I probably don't need to mention that my thoughts were turned to Psalm 23.

Sooo... why share that story today? In an effort to be as transparent with you as possible, I'll just lay it out: I think I'm supposed to.

I had something completely different in mind for my entry this week, but by the time this impromptu worship experience was complete, I was left thinking about who God is: the Creator and sustainer of everything that has ever been or will ever be. About all God has given to me: existence; hope; salvation; the very life of His Son. And about how He is totally in control of everything, but won't force himself on anyone, desiring instead that we choose to freely give Him the authority in our lives that He, by all rights, could demand.

I love music. But despite all its good points, music is not the focus of this entry. More accurately, music in this story plays the part of the vehicle which provides transportation to the real focus: An encounter with the Living God.

Has God been trying to remind you of His presence lately? He's not limited to music. God can use anything from medieval literature to muscle car restoration to get someone thinking- if they are willing to pay attention. You see, God's only "limit" is self-imposed: He will not allow Himself to push beyond someone's free will. We must choose to listen.

He still desires that we choose Him.

In Him We Live,

Jeff

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I still find it amazing that I can sing a P/W song time after time, and then all the sudden - the Holy Spirit makes me actually listen. And when I do, my eyes fill will tears either from the sorrow I feel at the distance I've moved, or out of joy for knowing He loves me and actually WANTS to hear from me.
Jeff, thanks for sharing this with us adn allowing God to use you. As always, you have a great way of turning our attention to Him.
Cheryl

Fred said...

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

...but those who hope in the LORD (yahweh) will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

I've been captivated by these modern day psalms that are written by worship lyricists of our day.

Lately, i've been trying to play "Everlasting God" on guitar. I get stuck on the lyrics of the verse: Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord.

I become angry when I have to wait. Yet, I wait for people I love the most. Waiting is ultimately an act of submission. Your schedule to their schedule.

I find God in my waiting.

Amy said...

This is the 3rd time i've written a response to this blog. The first was an epistle, the 2nd more like 1st John and this one, well....

What I wanted to say is that hearing is not always easy. We listen and hear the buzz, but seldom focus on the message. One of our full time men scolded me gently one time for calling something awesome. He said how can you use that word for anything that is not the Lord himself. One He is truly awesome.
This is not the first or 2nd rant. But it is definitely something to think about.

All blessings,
Amy

Kathy said...

Leading worship is the complete opposite of being a lead singer. As a lead singer (or guitarist, etc.), the focus is intentionally on you. That's why you're there. When you lead worship, the focus is on Christ. When you disappear, He is lifted up. I'm a lyrics junkie myself -- for me, it's all about the words. I can't relate to someone who says, "The words aren't that great, but I love the melody!" As a non-musican, I don't know how you can separate the two.

This entry serves as a reminder to me and hopefully others who are given the priveledge to be a part of a praise team or choir that every song matters. Even if I've sung a particular song so much that the words are automatic and rote ("Forever" comes to mind), I must endeavor to sing it as though it is a new experience, because for someone, it is. Words matter. There are some lyrics that get to me no matter how many times a sing a particular song (when my burden keeps me doubting, when my memories take the place of you, Jesus come, and I'll follow you there, to the place where we meet, and I'll lay down my pride as you search me again). Music is just one of many ways we can experience God -- but it's a powerful one for me. On a personal note: we've had some great conversations, some gut-grabbing, pee-in-your-pants laughs shared, but what I miss the most about being with you and Tamara is the shared worship experience -- even if it's just sitting on the couch with your guitar and singing to an audience of One.