Hungry for God

Be Filled and Pour it Out

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On the Road Again 

Here are a few highlights of worship events from this fall in India, Langley, BC, Penticton, BC and St Louis, Missouri. 

A conference in Dehradun, India at the Vineyard church pastored by Sunny and Vika Gilbert.   This Vineyard was planted 20 years ago and is a fruitful sending church.  Lots of wonderful people and a great time with folks from many different churches in the region. 

Meetings in Delhi, India’s capitol city, hosted by Aradhna Vineyard.  This church is pastored by Emmanuel and Joyce Qureshi, a wonderful couple who were born and raised in India, moved to the U.S. for around 3 decades, and then moved back to Delhi to plant a Vineyard church when they were 60 years old.  It is a fruitful Vineyard with a wonderful 2nd congregation in a low-income neighborhood.  Lots of children from Hindu backgrounds are attending their services and equipping center. 

A worship weekend at Penticton Vineyard in B.C.  This 31-year old Vineyard is full of great people.  Really enjoyed hanging out with their worship teams.  God visited us in a special way in those meetings.  Always great to see Hart and Louise Loewen. 

A worship conference at Hope Vineyard in St. Louis, Missouri.  What fun to be back together with many of the band members from my Anaheim Vineyard days.  John and Audra Wyrosdick, David and Laurie Klein and Leo Song and I had a great time worshiping together and hanging out.  Some people were healed of physical ailments on Friday night.  I enjoyed staying with Robert and Kim Stovall, the pastors. 

In the 2nd half of November I’ll be in Denmark and Sweden for more worship events…Vineyards in Copenhagen and Gothenburg, a worship school in Umeå and a Nordic Vineyard worship leaders retreat.  Looking forward to it!

Numb Fingers 

Our fingers were numb before the set started.  The temperature was 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). Last night, our band set up the PA and our instruments outdoors at Nightshift (nightshiftministries.org).  We played for an hour while people ate. This is a nightly dinner served for people in need.  The volunteers mingled with the crowd, and prayed for some. 

We’ve been playing at Nightshift a couple times per month since last summer.  In the winter, it’s kind of crazy but it’s always fun.  We bundle up in several layers and my guitar goes way out of tune because it’s so cold.  Why is it fun?  Because we love to play good music together and see people touched by God—mostly people who wouldn’t go inside a regular church.  This is the closest thing to church they have.  Most of them are too broken and wounded to have the courage to walk into a traditional church (even if it’s a church that would welcome them). 

Another reason it’s fun is that we can play whatever we want to, and turn it up.  It’s not the regular “church rules.”  When you play outdoors during a meal, the boundaries of what’s appropriate are much larger.  Outdoors, the sound disperses and you don’t have people complaining that it’s too loud. 

Last night was typical – a handful of guys approached us to express their gratitude for our music, and our willingness to serve.  They always tell us what a huge difference it makes that we’re there.  It creates an entirely different atmosphere to have worship music (along with a few secular/Christian tunes) playing during the meal.  We welcome the Holy Spirit to speak and heal and he does it. 

This is where the action is.  “The meat is in the streets,” as John Wimber used to say.  It’s in giving that we receive.  We started playing at Nightshift because it was an obvious opportunity to bless the poor with our gifts of music and worship. 

God healed my arms in 2014 to show his love for me and to enable me to worship in places like Nightshift.  Freely you’ve received, freely give.

Out of the Mud and Up on a Rock 

In March 2015 I was in Hong Kong to do a 12-day songwriting workshop with a dozen worship leaders there.  One morning while I was there, I read Psalm 40 in my daily Bible reading.   God spoke to me powerfully through that Psalm, which begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”  I had been waiting a long time for a breakthrough.  Finally, God was bringing it to me. 
  
"He brought me up out of the mud and dirt...he gave me a new song to sing (Psalm 40:2,3)." 
  
For me, "the mud and dirt" was a combination of things.  I was feeling like I was going nowhere, I wasn't moving forward in ministry.  There was a lull in my worship-leading ministry.  I was leading worship in various churches, but I didn't have an overall plan or vision for what I should be doing. 
  
Four months before this, God began "lifting me out of the mud."  Within one week in November of 2014, heaven opened up and God initiated a whole new chapter in my life. 
  
The first breakthrough was a physical healing.  For 13 years I had suffered from a severe case of tendonitis in my hands and forearms.  I was “trudging through the mud.”  Playing the guitar for only 20 minutes was painful.  Doing any household chore with my hands was painful.  It was very discouraging.  I played through the pain but it was hard to write songs and really enjoy worshiping. 
  
Then God healed me!  The Holy Spirit came on me powerfully as a few family members prayed for me in church.  Since this healing, I can play guitar and work with my hands for hours.  I am not 100% free of pain, but my life is radically different because of this healing. 
  
The gushing of God's blessings continued with an outpouring of his presence, and an increase in hearing his voice.  In two months I received dozens of powerful prophetic words from many people.  Many people independently confirmed the same message:  God was going to give me a fruitful season of creativity, songwriting, and imparting his kingdom and healing to many people. 
  
Since that time, I have written over 50 songs (some of them still in process), and have recorded about ten, including “I Waited Patiently,” an adaptation of Psalm 40 that I began to write in Hong Kong.  Like the Psalm says, God gave me a new song to sing. 

In my next blog post I will share the climax of this story:  God continued to bless me as I freely gave what God had given me.  It’s in giving that we receive.

Back to Basics    

Around a month ago, I led worship at a small Vineyard church in Vancouver, about a 30-minute drive from my home in Surrey.   Before leaving for church, and while driving, I asked God to help me joyfully serve him and his people for one more Sunday morning. 

Pulling up to the humble community center, it was raining and cold. While looking for a parking place I thought, "here we go again…time to put on my boots and start work.”  No polished backing band, no sound technicians, and no stage monitors…just a bunch of humble people trying to love God and love one another. 

And I’m there to do my part with music and prayer, maintaining an attitude of gratitude while I serve.  This is what I signed up for over 40 years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  I use my gifts to serve because the humble King chose to serve me first.  I don’t intend to quit anytime soon. 

As I entered the lobby with my daughter, Jessica, I saw a well-dressed middle-aged man sharing with an older woman, sitting on the bench.  They were both Chinese.  Later, I was told by Dawn, the pastor of this church, that she led this granny to Jesus that morning before the church service.  I’m happy to serve in small churches where people are coming to Christ. 

The room was packed with a multi-ethnic group:  First Nations, Asian, Indian and white, from newborns to elderly.  These folks were mostly low-income folks.  Re-united for their weekly gathering, they joyfully greeted one another.  I thought to myself, “this is the kind of place Jesus likes to hang out.” 

I was the guest worship leader, and as I have done hundreds of times, I helped set up a low-quality PA system.  While I set up the PA, others were setting up large tables for a meal. This group of around 50 sat down for a communal breakfast.

The Joy of Playing Music  

Wouldn’t it be great if the daily life of a worship leader included several hours per day of playing music?  I wish it were true!  Life is full of so many tasks and chores, from the musical side—organizing set lists and charts, to the family side—doing the dishes, driving kids to school and sports events, to maintaining a home and a car, etc.  There are lots of barriers to carving out time to play, but it’s worth finding that little window of time even if we don’t feel like doing it. 

I’ve been playing guitar for close well over four decades and piano for almost as long.  I love playing music.  It inspires me to make beautiful sounds, to get lost in the tactile experience of using my hands and voice to play and sing.  It’s like a mini-vacation from the administrivia of daily life.  On cold, rainy Vancouver days, playing music makes room for a shaft of heavenly light. 

The other night, I was lying in bed, thinking, “How am I going to make it through this dreary winter weather?”  Right there I made a decision that the next morning I would get my butt out into the “shed,” a small practice room in my backyard.  It didn’t take long to get lost in the glory of God’s gift of music.  I played for over two hours and it seemed like only 30 minutes.  Yet, how many times have Iignored those windows of opportunity when they’ve appeared?  I guess I’m a slow learner. 

God made us to be sensory beings. God-breathed art ignites our love for him.  Wefeel the power and mystery of music in the deepest place of our souls.  “Let all that is within me praise the Lord!” 

Aside from the obvious spiritual benefits of playing music as worship, here arefour benefits of playing music for any human being. (From an article called 18 Benefits of Playing an Instrument, by Michael Matthews, at Effectivemusicteaching.com).

Playing a musical instrument: 

Fosters your self-expression and relieves stress.  Playing whatever you want on your instrument is a great form of therapy. 
Creates a sense of achievement.  Making beautiful music that you and others enjoy brings a great sense of satisfaction. 
Enhances your respiratory system. 
Promotes happiness in your life and those around you. 

If we count singing as "playing music," (and we should) then making music is accessible to everyone. Everyone can sing. In God's wisdom, he created music, a vehicle for touching heaven that’s accessible for everyone.  The best way to experience something is to participate, not just spectate.  Sing and play, wherever you can, whenever you can!  “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.”  Psalm 33:2

SPONTANEOUS SINGING DURING WORSHIP?  

Should worship leaders sing parts that aren’t the written words and melody?        

That’s a good question.  I remember when I was very critical of worship leaders who sang words, phrases and melodies that weren’t part of the written melody. Or, they sang their own artistic version of the written words and melody. It distracted me from worshiping.  It seemed like the worship leader was “showing off.”  I thought the leader’s job was to make worship easier, not harder.  So, is there a place for extemporaneous singing? 

Ed Stetzer, in his letter to his worship leader, requests that the melody of the song always be prominent to make it easy for the people to follow.  He makes very good points in his article.  Importantly, Stetzer is careful to state that the guidelines he is suggesting are for their specific local church.  That’s a crucial distinction because every church has their own specific “worship culture.” 

On one hand, many churches always stick to the melody, and have been “trained” through years of practice to follow only the melody.  Most people in these churches would have a reaction similar to my early response to ad lib singing—“what’s that guy doing?” 

Many other churches have a very different “normal” in worship singing.  Through years of practice, the worship leaders, back up singers and congregation have all learned to sing melody, harmonies, and words that aren’t on the lyric screen.  For them, the definition of freedom in worship is, “sing whatever you want.” 
So, context is everything. I visit all kinds of different churches in my worship leading travels.  Part of my job is to figure out, “what is the musical culture of this church?” before I lead.  My job is to facilitate worship, so I don’t want to stretch people farther than they can go with new expressions of worship, or bore them with an overly pedestrian approach.  The worldwide church is a big, beautiful, many-splendored thing.  I try respect all parts of Jesus’ bride.