New Song: Build My Life

Worship is both vertical and horizontal.  What I mean is that it should start with praise for who God is, but also call us to be the church in the world, on the mission of God.

Worship is both transcendent and imminent.  What I mean is that it should remind us that God is the awesome creator of the universe and our Dad.

Worship is all of that and more.

The song, “Build My Life”, has aspects of all these things.  It praises God, who is worthy of every song, all our praise and even our very breath.  He is holy and beyond us and yet we can build our lives upon him and take his love to a lost world.  But it starts with a God who is worthy of praise…

Psalm 96:3

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

Verse 1
Worthy of every song we could ever sing.
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.
And then it moves from the triune God to Jesus himself.  God as a man now stands before us.  He is worthy, as we see at the end of the book…

Revelation 5:12

In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Jude 25

…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Verse 2
Jesus the name above every other name.
Jesus the only one who could save.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.
Oh we live for you.
What I love about the chorus that comes next is the statement that God is holy.  It defines what holy means, but then acknowledges that we live with our eyes closed to it.  (God, please open our eyes to the wonder of your love that we see in Jesus.  Send us out to share that message of love.)  Check out the progression through the scriptures…

Isaiah 40:25

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Psalm 17:7

Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

2 Thessalonians 3:5

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Chorus
Holy there is no one like you
There is none beside you
Open up my eyes in wonder
Show me who you are and fill me
With your heart and lead me
In your love to those around me.
Lastly, we come to the bridge that gives the song its title.  I think it’s important to clarify that, according to the scriptures, we build our lives on Jesus and the testimony of who he is.  We also see that the church, when it lives out God’s commands, is also a foundation.  The song is a little more general in that it says, “I will build my life upon your love…”.  However, as you can see from the scripture below, that there is a direct connection between Jesus and the love of God.

1 Corinthians 3:11

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:15-17

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

Bridge
And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation.
And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken.
Passion Music has a devotional based on this song and it ends with a prayer.  May this song become a prayer for us to the God who is worthy of all praise, came to save us and now asks us to share His love…

Father, show me who you are today. Fill me with your heart—all the things you love and want me to love—and empty me of the things which don’t build up your kingdom. Then lead me in your love to, in turn, love those around me with the love of Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…

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Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…

THEN THE SAYING THAT IS WRITTEN WILL COME TRUE:                        “DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.”

“WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY?
WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?”

As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.

DAVID Is Coming to ECC

It’s been a full week of final adjustments, rehearsals and meetings as we get ready for the next step for DAVID: the one-man-musical.

All that to say that we are getting closer to being ready for the services this weekend.  As I continue through this creative process, some decisions are calculated, some are prompted by feedback and some are based purely on instinct.  However, each time I dig into this story I learn more about David and his God.  Here are three thoughts…

 

  •  The spirit of God is powerful.  It empowered David for most of his life.  When it left Saul, he was consumed by fear, hate and dark moods that took control of him.  The spirit of God, or the absence of him, is powerful.
  • The psalms have incredible emotional depth.  David cries out for help.  He cries out in pain and suffering.  He cries out for God to right wrongs.  He also sings and dances to the point that some people think he is in danger of losing his reputation.  Too many times, we are uncomfortable with dark or intense emotions.  David, however, was not one of those people.
  • David was a man of faith and trust.  You might say that David was a man after God’s own heart!  No matter the situation or emotion, David always comes back to a faith in this God he loves.

It all goes down this weekend at Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, IN.  July 8th at 6:30PM and July 9th at 9:30 and 11:00AM.  Come see this man of God who sang,

When my spirit grows faint within me,

It is you who know my way…

 

New Tech Intern: Sam Delagrange

This Summer, Sam Delagrange is going to intern with us again!  He’s a high-school student and we recently interviewed him…and before you write him off for just being a “high school student”, read some of his questions.  I think he might surprise you.  Who knows, you might even find that he has something to teach you!

Ok Sam, first question…how did God lead you to tech ministry?

God led me to tech ministry starting in 4th or 5th grade. We weren’t attending ECC yet and the children’s ministry at the church we were attending was low on volunteers so I stepped in and did tech on Sundays.  Once I started 6th grade at ECC, I immediately began attending the Sunday and Wednesday night youth meetings. Sometime throughout that year, there was an announcement that they were looking for band and tech members. I signed up for tech on Wednesday nights and from there my interest in technology and the way it is always changing took off, along with my journey as a student leader and love for serving God.

How about role models? Who have been the most influential people in your life?

My mom is a huge role model to me. She has been an example to me that with God, anything is possible. She has taught me to always trust in God’s plan and to never give up. In that same way, my dad has been a huge influence to me. He has helped me become who I am and never let anyone take my love of God away from me. Another influential person in my life was Paul Landhuis (ECC Student Ministry Intern). He showed me that it is possible to serve God using the gifts He has provided. And lastly, my Aunt Angie, who taught me to never complain and always persevere and work harder.

So who would you say is your favorite “Christian” artist or songwriter right now?

My favorite Christian artist right now is Colton Dixon. I really enjoy the variety of music he has written. I also relate to some of his songs, such as “The Other Side” where he sings “It isn’t easy to say goodbye But I know it’s only for a little while.” In 2015 and 2016 I lost two influential people in my life. One to a brain aneurysm (Angie) and the other to a collision with a semi (Paul). This song helps me remember that I will see them again and they are in a better place now.

Just for fun…favorite flashback song from when you were growing up?

When I was younger, my dad had an iPod full of music. I remember one song that he had bought the video version of also. The song was “A New Hallelujah” by Michael W. Smith. I can remember sitting on our backyard on the swing listening to this song over and over again.

Without thinking…favorite book of the Bible or favorite verse?

Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God as you ask Him for what you need.  The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. This peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippines 4:6-7

That’s a great one.  Why don’t you describe your devotions with God.

I like to do different YouVersion Bible plans on the YouVersion Bible app.  My current plan is about identifying God’s word (truth) from opinions or incorrect views (trash).

So I’m curious…what are you presently reading?

Right now I’m reading a book about being a student leader and growing in my walk with God as I lead my peers to God. The book is “Help! I’m a Student Leader!: practical ideas and guidance on leadership” by Doug Fields.

What books are you currently reading or watching for fun?

I’m currently reading different research articles about emerging tech innovations. Like I said, I find the way technology is always changing and evolving very intriguing.

Deep stuff.  What’s the best book you’ve read that has helped you grow as a believer?

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I hope it still counts. The book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman has been an eye opener for me. It has taught me that I need to be a follower of Jesus, and not just a fan. If Jesus came tomorrow and told me to follow Him, without saying goodbye to anyone or grabbing anything, I should be able to do that; be a follower, and not a fan.

And what single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your life?

My mom always tells me to try my best and as long as I try my best, there is nothing more I can do. This has helped me mentally and spiritually. It reminds me that no matter how hard we try, nobody is perfect and therefore we have nothing to offer God.  But still, if we praise God and repent our sins, He forgives our sins and wipes the slate clean!

That’s truth.  What else do you do for fun when you’re not at ECC?

When I’m not at ECC, I enjoy hanging out with my family and playing with my two dogs at home, or hanging out with friends. My family and I also go camping during the summer and fall which has been a really cool experience. Going camping is one of my favorite things we do together during the summer.

Anything else on your mind you want to share?

I’m excited to learn more and serve more this summer at ECC. I hope to learn some new things this summer and possibly teach the rest of the team some new things along the way. Thank you for this opportunity!

We are excited to have you!  Let’s make sure to welcome Sam as he joins us for this summer internship!

DAVID: the one-man musical

It was a small stage with 60-70 people in the audience.  all-for-One’s artistic director introduced the show and the people clapped as I walked onstage to begin a 30 min preview of DAVID.  I was a little nervous, but I was prepared and felt called to share this story.

It’s the story of a man who is known as a singer/songwriter, warrior and king.  It’s the story of a man who was known for his pure heart and yet committed terrible sin against Uriah, Bathsheeba and others.  But mostly, it’s a story of a powerful God and the man who tried to express his love for God in song.

As I start to prepare all the songs and characters again for July 8/9, when I present the same preview at Emmanuel Community Church, I wanted to share some scenes from the first preview.  Here is a small sneak peak into DAVID…

At the top of the show, the prophet Samuel anoints David.  The Spirit of God enters David and empowers him for the rest of his life…

The Philistines gather their troops and attack Israel…

The Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, steps out from the frontlines and issues his challenge, “Give me a man and let us fight it out together!”

David hits the giant hard in the head and Goliath falls, facedown in the dirt!

As the Israelite army heads home, the women come out from the villages to welcome King Saul.  For fun they sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”

Filled with jealousy, Saul tries to kill David.  David sings a song of justice to God.  “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you / Save me and deliver me, from all who would pursue…”

Saul discovers that Michal, his daughter, is in love with David.  Thinking the Philistines will get rid of David for him, Saul challenges David to kill 100 Philistines to get Michal as his wife.  David does it and Saul gives his daughter, Michal, to David in marriage…

Then God sends a dark mood to afflict Saul.  It takes control of him.  He is at home with his spear while David is (again!) playing music.  Saul tries to pin him to the wall…

David escapes and sings to God.  “Deliver me from my enemies, O God / Protect me from those who rise up against me…”

David runs to Nob and talks to Ahimelech the priest.  Ahimelech gives him the holy bread, taken from the presence of God, and also Goliath’s sword.  David escapes to Gath…

David is recognized by the Philistines.  Afraid for his life, David pretends to be insane.  When he escapes he sings his thanks to God, “In God, whose Word I praise / In God I trust, I will not be afraid / What can mortal man do to me?”

This is just the beginning of David’s life and only the first 30 min of the show.  I’m excited to present these characters, these songs and THIS STORY on July 8/9 because I think it will help all of us see a man who was flawed, but who loved the Lord with his whole heart.

Dear Worship Leader:

“Dear Worship Leader:  You have an extraordinary job with high stakes and grand opportunities.  You aren’t just a song leader.  You aren’t just a…musician…You aren’t merely on stage, and those people out there aren’t merely the audience…They are disciples, followers…Each and every week, you are helping people answer the question, How do I approach God?”

-The Worship Pastor by Zack Hicks

This is true for you no matter your role.  You might be behind the sound board.  You might be behind the light board.  You might be a set builder.  Whatever your role, you are helping people approach God.

I’ve realized this more as I’ve watched our Tech Director, Michala Halstead, learn and model this.  She didn’t start out wanting to serve in a church.  She just knew that she loved music, technology and Jesus, but here she is.  As she takes her role seriously, she realizes that learning about her brothers and sisters at ECC, praying with them and living out her faith before her family and friends is part of her role.  She is helping people approach God.

And you are the same.

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a christian then you have opportunities each week to minister to people.  The question for me this week was simply this:

“Am I going to step up and lead people to God or not?”

It’s not easy.  It takes work and effort.  I have to step out of my comfort zone at times.  But that is my calling.  And so when someone told me about a struggle they were having, I asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you right now?”  And together we approached God, the only one who has all the answers to our daily and eternal problems.

And that is your calling too.

Dear Worship Leader, this week may you not only sing or tech or design or act for the Lord.  May you live for him as you help people approach God.

DAVID: musical update

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The last three Wednesday nights have been filled with workshops for DAVID with the amazing actors of the Emmanuel Theatre Co. here at the church.  I’ve presented the first 30 minutes of the piece and gotten amazing feedback that is still shaping this one-man-musical.  I’ve also been in the studio with a couple musicians laying down tracks to develop the sound of the various songs in the show.

All that to say that we are getting closer to being ready for the first preview performance a week from today on March 10th at the Philmore-on-Broadway for the all-for-One Productions fundraiser.  As I go through this creative process, some decisions are calculated, some are prompted by feedback and some are based purely on instinct.  However, each time I dig into this story I learn more about David and his God.  Here are three thoughts…

  1.  The spirit of God is powerful.  It empowered David for most of his life.  When it left Saul, he was consumed by fear, hate and dark moods that took control of him.  The spirit of God, or the absence of him, is powerful.
  2. The psalms have incredible emotional depth.  David cries out for help.  He cries out in pain and suffering.  He cries out for God to right wrongs.  He also sings and dances to the point that some people think he is in danger of losing his reputation.  Too many times, we are uncomfortable with dark or intense emotions.  David, however, was not one of those people.
  3. David was a man of faith and trust.  You might say that David was a man after God’s own heart!  No matter the situation or emotion, David always comes back to a faith in this God he loves.

Lastly, here is the third song of the show…each one has a different musical flavor so this is just a taste.  I create the individual loops using my voice and a Looping Station.  Enjoy!

How to Run Rehearsals & Build Teamwork

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This past week, 13 artists from ECC attended the Worship Connect conference at Sweetwater Sound.  While there, we attended main sessions with Chris Tomlin’s band, Christy Nockels and Todd Fields.  We also had the chance to go to breakouts on topics like “How to Create a In-Ear Monitor Mix”.

Let me share a few thoughts from our Tech Director, Michala…she says…

“It Starts with You!”  What…?

  • Yes.  Be prepared
  • Know your stuff.  Rehearsal is a place to put the pieces together, NOT for you to learn your part.
  • Part of that is having the attitude that “You’ll never be waiting on me”.  If we are all prepared, we won’t end up sitting around waiting for each other.

What are the Three Phases of a Productive Rehearsal?

 656817285c058dd0ab9512f3c00c60d81.  Line check (Before 3:00PM on Sat or 7:30AM on Sun)

  • Band: get plugged in properly
  • Vocalists: check mic batteries
  • Tech: as everyone sets up, cancel out any buzz or hum

2.  Sound check (At 3:00PM on Sat or 7:30AM on Sun)

  • Band: play a groove everyone is comfortable with as a band before rehearsing Tech team: get signal and rough mix
  • Vocalist: warming up during the band’s sound check
  • Tech team: get signal and rough mix

3.  Rehearsal (3:30PM on Sat or 8:00AM on Sun)matthew-glider-300x182

  • Band and Vocals: get final mix in P16s
  • All: this is the time to improve, not to learn the song

What is Our Bullseye as a Team?

First, we exist to give glory to God and to help others worship

How do we know when we have helped others worship?  One of the ways we know is when the vocalists pull off the mics and we all hear the people sing!

How Do We Create a Great Team?

By continuing our goal of unity…let’s build a bridge between the booth and the stage and remember we are all one team.

When you come in to serve next, say hello to a singer, band member, and tech team and help one another to prepare our hearts to encounter God.
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Thanks and credit goes to Sweetwater Online for the pictures!

Everything that the church is and does flows out of God’s narrative.  There is an urgent need to restore this connection between the narrative, the church and its ministries. . .

-Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals