Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crazy Organist!

Thoughts from ROOTS

My wife and I have been watching the ROOTS series the past week or so and its really been causing me to think quite a bit. For those of you who don't know what ROOTS is, it is a show that follows the lineage of an African- American from the present time all the way back to his great-great-(add a couple more)-grandfather being captured and brought over on a slave trip. We've only watched two episodes so far, the first being about his capture and trip on the slave trip and the second showing him bought as a slave and being brought into submission on the farm. It's been a hard 2 episodes to watch. The hardest part was the way these slave traders and owners were self-proclaimed Christians. They were constantly talking about being Christian, although you got the feeling that they were Christian because they were American. But there was a scene last night that really bothered me. One of the slaves had tried to run, but been quickly captured. And they show the slave owner sitting in his study reading the Scriptures as the "chief slave" pleads on behalf of the runaway. The owner will hear nothing of it. And they show the owner sitting there reading his Bible as you hear the sound of the whip cracking over the runaways back followed by horrifying screams.

How does this happen?

Towards the beginning of the movie they show a sea captain who is on his first voyage of a slave trip, and you see the suprise and how bothered he gets when he finds out that his ship will be hauling slaves. And they contrast that with these other men who have become calloused to the fact and see absolutely no problem with it. Both groups tout Scripture as backing their beliefs.

If you've read my blog before you know how critical I am of the mixture of Patriotism and Christianity in our country. This is why. This is why I'm slow to say our nation was founded on Christian principles. If you begin to associate any nation with Christianity, you have to include all of this junk. I'm not saying that all of our history was like this, but if you begin to call your nation a Christian nation you quickly begin to talk like the slave owners and act like the slave owners. I'm telling you the way these guys talked about how unintelligent the slaves were and how superior the white man was, mixed right in with talk of the Scripture absolutely disgusted me.

But not only did it disgust me, it made me begin to question myself. What am I missing? What is going on outside my window as I have my nose in Scripture that is contradictory to what I'm reading and proclaiming. How have we as 21st century Christians who also happen to live in America lost sight of what the Scriptures are saying?

Monday, June 29, 2009

NPR on Gov. Sanford

I haven't followed this story at all and don't know the details. Somehow, despite all my blog reading I missed this the day the story came out and caught wind of it a couple days later. However, as I was listening to my Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me podcast (an NPR game show of sorts) I found this quote by the host quite telling:

“Governor Sanford of South Carolina joins the growing army of social conservatives who decided to get a jump on destroying their own marriage before same-sex couples could do it for them.”

Peter Sagel NPR Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me

There's many things I could say, but I don't have time right now to think them through. But this is an excellent point. And a reason why I don't think the church should spend time trying to legislate morality. Not that I'm comparing Sanford to the church, but the way to bring about a revival of Christian morals in our country is not by making laws. We try that and all they have to do is point to the statistics within the church that show how prevalent abortion and divorce and such are within our walls. Our focus should be on purifying ourselves and allowing the image of Christ to flow out of us and effect the world. If not, we're just going to have people making jokes like this about us.

Sunday Setlist-June 28th

Happy Monday everybody!

Yesterday was a great, busy Sunday in the Yoder household. Left the house at 8 am, came home for an hour nap around 3 pm and then it was back to church until around 9pm. Now mixed in there was some tim spent with extended family that was in town for the weekend, so it wasn't all church related, but it made for a long day. A good day, but long.

The mornings set, was much more low-key then I had planned. Much to the disappointment of my drummer, but sometimes thats just how it goes.

Beautiful One - Probably shouldn't have done this one at this point of the service. A little bit different then the normal walk-in song, but it went well either way. There's certain songs I always associate with certain leaders/singers, and this is definitely a Matt song.

Nothing But the Blood- This was the traditional hymn, not the Redman version, but we did it really upbeat with instruments. Started out with heavy toms on the drums and gave it a nice rythmic feel.

Mighty to Save- Wish I would have done a different song at this point, one a little more upbeat, but everyone seemed to sing out really well and got involved with the song. I read Psalm 95 before singing this and really brought a focus to the chorus of this song.

In Christ Alone- Got the feeling that this song might have run its course at our church, might need to put it on the back shelf for a little while. Though someone came up to me afterwards and mentioned how much they like the song, so maybe not.

My Beloved- This was a song we had worked on a couple months ago but didn't get to use it in the service. So we had been looking for a chance to use it. This song is a bonus track that is on Tomlins "Hello Love" album, but I think it's only on the itunes version of the album. Its really basic, but the words and the movement of ideas through the song is incredible. I wasn't sure if it would be a song that people would really be able to sing along with, but I think it might actually catch on. The only problem is the melody range, it has a wide one, but I think that most of the guys can just drop an octave. Either way I thought this song went excellent for the first time doing it.

My Jesus I Love Thee- Done as a traditional hymn, except with instruments.

I Surrender All- We did this as our altar/ministry song. Should have worked more on it practice, felt like we were all just kind of following each other.

I seemed to mess up more then the usual amount this morning. I don't know whether I was distracted more then normal or what was going on. But about halfway through I was able to get it together musically and focus more on actually worshipping. My Beloved was kind of the center song for me, I love how it starts out with simply the statement. "My Beloved mine, I his" then moves to what my Beloved has done for me: "his precious blood was spilled," "he raised my life up from the dead." Then you get to the best part: "When my eyes shall see his face," and there at His throne we will declare "Mighty God, Faithful One. My Beloved, My Beloved. You're the Lamb of God, You're the holy One, My Beloved, My Beloved, my Beloved." I love that. I love songs that focus on what Christ has done for us and then we declare what it will be like to worship at His feet in heaven. So many hymns do that. There last verse is about heaven. I think we need more modern worship songs that do that.

Last evening we had another service of worship and prayer. I really love those. They're usually laid back and very comfortable to lead worship in. It's easier to feel like I'm simply there as one of the worshippers. We always want to have that attitude, but sometimes it's more difficult to do that on Sunday mornings. It was a great Sunday!

Check out Fred McKinnon's site for more worship leaders set lists!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jon Stewart & Mike Huckabee on Abortion

I'm really starting to like Jon Stewartand The Daily Show. By that I mean I don't agree with all of his stances, but I appreciate his ability to facilitate a good conversation with the other side. And Huckabee was excellent with the way he carried himself and argued the pro-life perspective. It was really good to hear Stewart, someone who is in the Hollywood spotlight, to come out and say that this is a tough issue. These types of discussions are what actually help us to begin to make some headway as opposed to one side blasting their point of view on their talk show and the other side doing the same on theirs. Like a previous post, this is conversations is divided into 3 parts, its the full version as opposed the edited TV version. Each part is only about 5 minutes long so it won't take much time. For some reason I can't embed the videos on my blog so you'll have to click on the links and go to The Daily Show's site

Dan Kimball on the Emerging Church

I've been doing more then my usual amount of blog reading today. By that I mean I'm actually reading more blogs rather then reading the titles and moving on like normal. I came across this one by Dan Kimball and thought that it connected with my previous post well. Especially some of the comments.

His Love Can Never Fail

Apparently I am blog-happy today.

I've been listening to Indelible Grace almost non-stop for the past week or two. Listening to those kind of lyrics all day long will really have an effect on you. I was creating a CD to give to one of my worship leaders with some songs we might do at church in the near future and the words to this one really stuck out to me. This is a hymn written by E.S. Hall in 1897 and its words still ring true today.

His Love Can Never Fail

1. I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.

His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.

2. And if my feet would go astray,
They cannot, for I know
That Jesus guides my falt'ring steps,
As joyfully I go.
And tho' I may not see His face,
My faith is strong and clear,
That in each hour of sore distress
My Savior will be near.

3. I will not fear, tho' darkness come
Abroad o'er all the land,
If I may only feel the touch
Of His own loving hand.
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.

Advance 09

Here's the video's from the Advance 09 conference. Speakers were Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Ed Stetzer, as well as several others.

Am I Becoming Reformed?

For those of you who know me well, or if you've simply followed my random bloggings over the years may have noticed a slight shift in the people a reference or the types of blog. Or maybe not, maybe I just notice it. In the past the majority of my reading came from guys like Brian McLaren, Don Miller, Rob Bell, etc. and those were also the types of prechers I would spend my day at work listening too. But lately I've noticed a shift towards a different crowd of people, especially in who I am listening too. That crowd would be Greg Boyd, John Piper and Mark Driscoll. I did not change to the exclusion of the others, I still listen to Bell, keep up with McLaren's blog, and will read anything that Don Miller puts out as soon as I can get my hands on it. And actually Miller doesn't really fit into the catagory with the other two when it comes to this issue.

I love what Rob Bell and Brian McLaren bring to the discussion when it comes to issues of faith. Bell especially has had a huge impact on my life through 3+ years of listening to his sermons every week. McLaren started me on a journey to really ask how I was going to take the religion that was handed down to me through my parents, grandparents, community, school etc, and make it my faith. And more importantly, how I was going to take it beyond doctrine and right belief (which is essential) and put it into action and right practice. I appreciated, and still do appreciate, the movement that these men are a part of. It is doing great things to cross generational lines that many others were failing to cross.

And this post is in no way a shot at them.

This shift has been brought about by several factors. Two of them are the fact that Tim begin to point me towards Driscoll and Piper and the other was trying to find a group of pastors and authors that we can both listen to and read. But another main factor is when I begin to listen to Piper and Driscoll I smelled something I had been missing; but didn't even realize I had been missing it. That was the Gospel. Now I'm not saying that the Gospel is not preached by Bell and those others, and I believe that there movement was started on a desire to return to the Gospel, or to speak the Gospel into a different group of people. But somewhere along the line it got lost in the mix. Or at least lost as the core or it all.

Piper said something the other day about the Good News of the Gospel, is not simply Good advice. We don't simply offer people a better way to live: "if you do this I think you'll find it more satisfying." We don't simply offer people a way to make the world a better place. We offer them Good News that God, the creator of the universe became flesh, became a baby. And not only did he live on this earth and show us how to live, he suffered on our behalf, took our sins upon his shoulders, became our substitute. And died. And 3 days later rose from the dead. And we, though wretched and sinful as we are, can take that atonement and cover ourselves with Christ so that we may be blameless on the Day of Judgement. No amount of good advice can beat that. It's true that Christ is our example of how to live. It's true that he calls us to be a people of peace, and it's true that if we truly get what God's kingdom is about this world will be a better place because of us. But none of that is a substitute for preaching the Good News. That must be at the center of everything. The center of every sermon that is preached. The center of every book that we write. The center of the very way we live our lives. Don't let that get lost in the mix.

And thats why I've started to lean back towards these other guys. Suddenly I find myself reading blogs that frequently use terms like Reformed Theology, Calvinism, Southern Baptist Convention, etc. It suprises me more then anyone. But I love it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Setlist June 21st

I guess I'll simply start with our lineup:

I Will Boast - Didn't nail this one quite like we wanted, but it's the walk-in song so it wasnt a big deal.

Come, Ye Sinners- If you've read my previous post you know that I've recently discovered the group Indelible Grace, and all week I've been listening to their CD's so I knew I had to do at least one of their songs this Sunday (and we actually did two). This version of the hymn is completely different from the original, at least musically. The congregation had a hard time catching on and singing along, but it was done during the offering and the words to this song are just so good that it didn't really bother me. Some songs it's good for people to just sit back and listen and let the words soak in. It's a pretty basic song and Clay really nailed it with the lead and it was just a fun song to do.

Hosanna - If there was one song from this Sunday that if I would take out if I had to do it all over again it would be this one. I knew alot of our songs were either going to be new, new renditions, or songs we hadn't in a long time, so I wanted to throw in one that the church really responds well with. The song itself went good, I think it's just time to retire the song for awhile. When we first started doing this song we majorly over did it and it's hit the burnout point.

The Solid Rock- We basically did this like the traditional hymn, we just changed the rhythm slightly to add a little "spice" to it. We started with just the djembe and the lead vocal on the first verse, then we kept building as the verses progressed. For the last verse we changed keys from D to E and ended the song with just vocals and djembe. I thought it went well and the congregation really blasted the tune out.

Jesus Paid It All- We kept Vince on the djembe so that added a little bit of a change to the song. Once we had built on the bridge we cut everything except the djembe and vocals and blasted out "O Praise the One..." I loved it! Really brought a focus to what we were singing.

Jesus, Lover of My Soul - Suprisingly, and maybe sadly, we have never done this song at our church. (This is the Hillsongs song, not the hymn). It went fairly well, we didn't do quite as much instrumentally as I'd have liked but we didn't have much time to practice so we just followed each other.

I Need Thee Every Hour- This is the other Indelible Grace song we did. Check both of the songs as well as all of Indelible Grace's stuff here. This is an awesome rendition of the classic hymn, and Sonya knocked it out of the park. It was a fitting ministry song to go with the rest of our lineup.

During the prayer at our altar time Bruce mentioned that the theme of our worship seemed to be that Christ alone is the Rock on which we stand, that He alone is what we need and He alone can satisfy. It's funny, because that wasn't necessarily the reasoning behind picking these songs, these were just the songs that had been on my heart this week. I think alot of the reason is because most of this week I've been listening to alot of hymns via Indelible Grace and Sojourn Music. And as I've listened I've been trying to read the lyrics to allow the words to sink in. And I don't know if you've noticed or not, but a lot of hymns really hit home the fact that we bring absolutely nothing to the table, that Christ alone is all we can cling too. And that has really been on my mind this week. It's often easy to forget that, especially those of us who grew up in church and never really had our "wild days." Greg Boyd said something the other day that made me think though, he was talking about viewing ourselves through the cross and he said something along the lines of "you can tell how devastating the disease is by the intensity of the cure." And as you look to the cross and realize that that was what was needed to cure my disease, you begin to realize just how lost you really are. So this week has been a reminder of that for me, and it naturally came out in the songs we did.

The team was great this morning, as always, but most importantly they were flexible and easy to work with. I threw a lot of new stuff at them, but they handled my stretching them with grace and really grasped what I was trying to do. Another great Sunday at Cannon, can't wait til the next one!

To check out other worship leaders blogs and setlists check out the blog carnival going on at Fred McKinnons site.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indelible Grace Music

If you love the depth and rich truths of the hymns and also love the folksy, indie type music of Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken (compare to The Weepies, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco) and similar artists then you need to check out Indelible Grace Music. I don't think that this is a new group but I just recently discovered it through NoiseTrade (which is a great resource). On their homepage they put this as a description of themselves: "Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace. This site is designed to nurture this movement by offering resources and a place to interact with others about hymns and worship."
As a worship leader I've always struggled with knowing how to handle the hymns/"contemporary worship" debate. For one thing, I hate the terms and the implications that go with them. I love the hymns, and that love has grown even stronger recently. The depth of their words, the poetry that is found in them, the way they cause you to think about what you are singing. But I've always struggled knowing how to use them. To insert them as an acapella piece in the middle of your set seems to interrupt the flow of the set, at least in my point of view. And if you try to do an acapella hymn every Sunday it causes it to feel like it is a token hymn that you have to do and you need to do it the beginning which limits the types of hymns you do. It's also hard to introduce new hymns, by new I mean ones that the congregation, or at least a majority of the congregation, might not know. Teaching with nothing but vocals can be difficult and awkward. Plus I am a musician, I don't sing (at least into a mic), so when I am leading I am doing it through the means of my piano. And I have so many great musicians on my team I want to use their gifts to lead in worship. So I've always had this dilemma of how to incorporate hymns into our Sunday morning sets. So when I found this group I was estatic! Not that all of these arrangements lend themselves to a coorporate setting, some might be better suited as an offeratory, but it at least gives me ideas on how to put some of these songs to music. Plus I love listening to these albums, so it puts these hymns into my memory so I can pull them out as I'm thinking towards Sundays.

Finally, one of the best parts of this is that they have a free online songbook where you can get the chord sheets, lead sheets and even find out the history of some of the hymns. Check it out! Whether you are a worship leader looking for some new material, a lover of hymns who is looking for a new rendition, or even simply a music lover who always has their eyes searching for new material, this is some great stuff!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday Setlist-June 14th

Yesterday was one of those Sundays where I didn't feel a strong leading towards any particular theme or song. Perhaps that was because the week was so busy- working 7-5 everyday then our church had vacation bible school and I had to lead the singing for the kids every night. But sometimes I think, for me at least, planning out a worship set becomes way to cerebral and I put so much effort into having "just the right songs." Some sundays as I'm starting my planning process I just feel like we just need to have fun. Come before God in worship and enjoy it, and thats enough of a theme. So that's kind of what this Sunday was, though once I picked 1-2 of the songs I still built the rest of the songs around those. Here's our lineup:

Rock of Ages - Opening song. A song I always love to play, great to use as an opening song while people are coming into the sanctuary.

Rising (Baloche & Redman) - A new one for our church. People didn't pick up on it quite as much as I was hoping but I think it will catch on once we play it a couple times.

Your Name
Everlasting God
Blessed Be Your Name
It is Well
You are Still Holy

There were a couple spots that we didn't do things quite the way we practiced but no one but us noticed. I really enjoyed bringing back some newer old ones that we haven't done in awhile. It's always refreshing to do ones that the congregation blasts away on.

As always check out other worship leaders blogs at Fred McKinnon's blog.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

John Piper on Finding Meaning In Your Life

I thought that this video related well to the Don Miller book, at least the part of the Don Miller book that stuck out to me. How do we make our life meaningful. Of course the questions that are wrestled with in Miller's book are still relevant, however I think when you look at them through the light that Piper puts on them you get a better understandinng of how to tackle them. I also thought the video they put with the sermon clip was really cool.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keeping With the Don Miller Theme...

Don Miller just posted to his blog a response to an article that was written in The Weekly Standard about him. You can read his response here and if you really want to you can read The Weekly Standard article here. But after reading Millers blog I think you'll realize there's not much point in reading it. First off, this is just fun reading for all of those who appreciate Miller's writing style and particularly his humor. But I also really appreciated the way that he handled the criticism. In speaking of criticism in the past Don said "Some of the comments were mean. But I know they weren't talking about me. They were talking about somebody they thought was me." Thats an easy thing to say, but much more difficult to actually carry out. Throughout this blog I was impressed with Don's response to the criticism that he encountered. I know that if I read something that someone published about me that was not only totally biased against me but also full of inaccurate statements I would immediately want to lash back. Anyway, you can read the article for yourself and post what you think.

By the way, if you are reading this through facebook I don't think that the links, pictures or videos show up. Click on the link that says something about going to the original source and it will take you to my blog and you can see the full post there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Million Miles In a Thousand Years

I just got done reading the first three chapters of Don Miller's upcoming book A Millio Miles In a Thousand Years and was reminded again just how much I love Don Miller's writing style. I realize that he's not always right on with his theology, and perhaps sometimes he's unapologetically honest about his past, and perhaps some Christians think he does some things that they don't think Christians should do and they're upset that he puts it into writing. But I find that refreshing. And so often I can relate to the issues that he's wrestling with. And that fact proves true again with this book, at least in the three chapters that are available online to read. Take the Author's note at the beginning of the book:
"If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you probably wouldn't cry at the end of the movie when he drove off the lot testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn't tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on and sit in a chair to think about what you'd seen. The truth is you wouldn't even remember that movie a week later... Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who got a Volvo.

But we spend years living those kinds of stories and expect life to feel meaningful. Maybe that's why we go to so many movies, because our real lives don't feel meaningful anymore."

And then later on he tells of a conversation he had with his friend Barak:

"Barak said he hopes a casting director will hire him for what he calls 'the right part,' a character he can play that will make him feel like he's not really acting. He said when he's playing the right role he comes alive."

I think we can all relate to Barak's feelings. I know that I at least I can. So many of us spend the majority of our time finding that right job, the right girl/guy, the right location, the right you-name-it that will fulfill us and then all will be right in the world. That seems to be a constant irritation of mine lately especially.

If you like Don Miller I don't think that you'll be disappointed with his upcoming release. Make sure and check out the first three chapters here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday Setlist: June 7th

I'm posting this as part of the "Sunday Setlists" blog carnival which has been a fabulous resource for me as a worship leader. 

This was a Sunday that I've been excited about for awhile, Trinity Sunday.  As I've mentioned before, this is the first year that I've tried to be pretty consistent with sticking to the Church Calender and I've really enjoyed and appreciated it.  And Trinity Sunday seemed like such a fitting end after focusing on different aspects of the Trinity over the course of the past 6 months.  I always enjoy trying to bring out each member of the Trinity throughout our worship sets, even better to build a whole service around that theme.  I tried to also add some teaching aspects into the worship set.  I think it's always important to make sure we know what and why we are singing the words/doctrines/declarations that we're singing.  This Sunday I added more scriptures and readings then usual, which in retrospect made the morning feel a little more chopped up then I wanted it to.  I also rambled a little at the beginning of the set and our entire set took a little longer then I wanted it to.  I thought I had my intro to the morning thought through a little more clearly but apparently not.

So here's our set list:

Opening Song:
Let Everything That Has Breath
I love this song as an opening.  Even though its fairly old and fairly basic theres something about it that makes you just want to just shout the chorus.  The pre-chorus always gets me excited too - If we could see how much your worth / Your power Your might Your endless love / Then surely we would never cease to praise You! And if we hit the harmonies strong on Praise You it's awesome!

Main Set:
Responsive reading of the Nicene Creed
We don't do too many responsive readings in our church so I was a little concerned how this would go, but everyone really seemed to like it and read it full and strong.  I broke it up quite a bit so that the congregation was only reading short phrases to keep us in rhythm and made sure that the whole worship team read along with them.  This is a beautiful declaration of our faith and I was really glad I used it as a start to our service.

Come, Thou Almighty King
This a hymn but rather then just singing it out of our hymnal I found a version by Mark Miller on Itunes that I really liked.  It kept the melody the same and added a nice, simple chorus.  This worked great coming out of the Nicene Creed because it was welcoming each part of the Trinity to come and reign in our service.

You Are
This is becoming a favorite of mine.  Just a simple song working through descriptions of who God is.  It's by Mark Roach and I just happened to see the title on a banner on CCLI.com and decided to check it out.

Reading of Genesis 1 combined with John 1
This is a reading I found at this website while searching for Trinity Sunday liturgy.  We did the shortened version.  It worked really well I thought.

He is Yahweh
My all-time favorite Trinity song.  This is an old vineyard song i heard while attending Vineyard Columbus back in 2002 and have used it ever since.  I had our drummer switch over to the djembe for the rest of our set at this point.

Trinity Prayer

Holy, Holy, Holy
Just sang the last verse, came perfectly out of the prayer that we used.

Shout to the Lord
I noticed that alot of people had been revisiting this song lately and it fit really well with our lineup, so I used it.  This was one of the songs that got majorly overused when we first started using it and haven't used it much since.  But it's been sitting on the shelf long enough now that it was safe to bring it out for a Sunday.  Still has the same power it did when it first came out.

You are the One
This was our ministry song, thought the lyrics were a perfect fit for this Sunday.

All in all a great Sunday.  Like I said there were a few things I would have changed in retrospect but thats pretty much always the case.  The team was great and really flexible with all of my tweeks on the songs that I wanted for this Sunday and I really enjoyed playing and worshipping with them.