Tag: Worship

MUSIC IS A LOVE LANGUAGE FROM OUR CREATOR

If you’re a music lover you may have experienced at least one of those sublime moments while listening to a piece of music when you sense the presence of God, and when you’re convinced that the music must have been inspired…

4414231-sound-equalizer-rhythm-music-beats-in-various-colors

(Apologies to my long-term readers: this is a version of a post I wrote a few years ago: I felt it deserved another airing)

Of course, the ultimate purpose of music is the worship of our Creator, but I’ve enjoyed that sensation many times with many different kinds of music-sacred and secular. No-one could persuade me that Beethoven’s hand and mind were not guided to write “Moonlight Sonata”, or that Liszt was not similarly driven to pen “Consolation No. 3”. Could Debussey’s “Claire de Lune” have been the product of chance and time – the emission of a creature evolved from nothing? Ridiculous! I even experience the feeling occasionally in Electronica, Jazz, Surf, or “Classic Rock”. You may get the buzz from something very different, but I know it’s a fairly common phenomenon: I’ve heard people say that they feel close to God when they hear certain music.

I’m not saying that every time someone has this feeling it’s because God is giving it to them, or that the music they’re listening to is necessarily inspired by God: it can be caused by a number of different things. God has made humans creative, and he’s arranged the physical universe so that we can enjoy music. He’s given us the ability to make it, hear it, decipher it and experience pleasure from it. However it’s not always him writing it, and it’s not only believers who get that buzz, because we were all created to be able to enjoy what he’s made.

Scripture suggests that our Enemy is an inspirer, writer, and a shaper of music. You don’t have to hear much modern music to notice that. So how do we tell the difference between what God inspired, what man has contrived through talent alone, and what our enemy is using? The result of our listening experience is one clear indicator. If it leaves us feeling empty, angry, insufficient, incomplete, suicidal, or like doing something we know is against God’s will it’s certainly not from God.

I’m sure that most often the music was contrived by the mind of man, with God-given creativity. However, I’m convinced that sometimes that feeling, that emotion, that buzz is a physical sign the Spirit of God is ministering to us.

I’m a predominantly melancholy sort of character, and people who aren’t made that way may not understand my following ramblings, but I’m attempting to illustrate what I want to convey. I listen to almost all kinds of music, but I usually find that melancholy music is my ticket and my courier to peace, rest, resolution, hope and faith. It connects with my inner being. It unlocks my soul and opens it up to be repaired, cleansed, refreshed and loved.

I was listening to Philip Glass’s “Solo Piano” recently. His music – not his most repetitive material but the more melodic music-moves me to tears sometimes. Glass not only stirs my melancholy emotions and keeps them stirred, but takes my heart down to the depths of my soul and makes it wallow there for some considerable time. Part of what gets to me in his music is the simplicity, the understatement, and the masterful control amidst those perfectly selected minor scale intervals and chord changes: a delicious touch of minimalism. And more than that, there’s the knowledge that in order to write that very piece which touches my soul the composer and musician must also experience very similar feelings to my own.

Perhaps Glass does not have similar beliefs to mine, I don’t know, but no matter, because God can speak through a gentle breeze, a donkey, a storm, or an unbeliever. We drive cars designed and made by unbelievers, we wear clothes designed and made by unbelievers, we watch movies conceived and made by unbelievers, so why not listen to some beautiful music created by unbelievers?

Philip was sending waves of sensations down my back and through my body, making my hair stand up. But beyond the physical, he was connecting with my psyche, my soul. Unwittingly perhaps, he was causing me to think something along these lines:

“There is a God! God is incomprehensibly creative and powerful! He is in ultimate control of this universe, both the physical and spiritual. And since there is such a God, one day all things will be as they should be!”

Now, some people are going to listen to the very same music and after two measures proclaim: “This is boring! This is depressing! This is garbage!”

I wrote once that I wished there were far more real variety in Christian music to reflect God’s creativity. Thankfully, contrary to what some would have us think, he didn’t create one kind of music wishing to force-feed us with it. Instead, we find that we all have differing tastes: music I like may be detestable to you, and although you may find it hard to believe, your kind of music may be detestable to me. But here’s one of my main points: God made us all different intentionally, and it’s okay to have different tastes. It’s not sinful to politely dislike what others think you should like.

Even better, God can speak to us individually in what moves us but what may not move others, because somehow there is a universal “language” behind music-behind our conscious minds-and music is just an interface that translates between us and the spirit world what our very finite human brains cannot process into expressible logic.

In heaven, yes, everyone will sing together. But oh what music! Oh what songs! The Inspirer of “Moonlight Sonata” and “The Alleluia Chorus” has something even better in store for those of us who want to praise Him for ever.

I personally prefer to listen to instrumental music. I find that most lyrics are contrived and dull, unable to really express what needs to be said. So many songs say so little, but music alone can be free to let that language of the spirit do its work for me, unhindered.

Paradoxically, there is a song which brilliantly expresses the conundrum of words being inadequate, backed with musicianship which suitably amplifies the frustration expressed in the lyrics. Andy Partridge with XTC, in his song “No Language in Our Lungs” laments that we humans are unable to adequately put into words our deepest and most profound thoughts and feelings.

It’s unfortunate for Andy and so for us all who could greatly benefit from a genuine song-writing talent like his if he were a believer, that while the spirit language of music is free to work through his talent to minister to others, and even though he may well sense something beyond the music, his agnosticism/ atheism prevents it ministering to him to the extent that it should. Oh the dreadful irony!

Even more ironic is the fact that Andy’s words “There is no language in our lungs to tell the world what’s in our hearts” are actually in agreement with the word of God.

THE SCRIPTURAL CONNECTION

The apostle Paul also observed that there are times when we’re unable to put into words what needs to be said. However, says Paul:

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26, 27).

Linking Paul’s point with mine, it’s my belief that the Spirit does indeed pray for us, not only when we’re on our knees in meditation and supplication, but often when we’re being repaired, cleansed, refreshed, serenaded and loved, through a beautiful piece of music.

DEAR MR. PASTOR

Dear Mr. Pastor,
I think you must get pretty tired of hearing people tell you how to do things in your church. It is your church after all-you should be free to do things your way…

360px-8_-_AmStar_7…but I’m sorry, I can’t restrain myself from sharing one or two things I just have to whine about. Please forgive me while I let off some steam…

Pastor, I do not want to be entertained! I don’t want to watch a bunch of wanna-be pop stars on the stage attempting to impress me with their guitar licks and their expensive hair styles. I don’t want to watch some “cute” guy or gal crooning into the microphone, no matter how “great” his or her voice is: I want to sing with the congregation, all of us praising God at the tops of our voices, while we focus our minds on Him, and not on a show. Please don’t make me endure the sight of rows of people chewing gum while they watch the band perform: that’s not worship, even if you call it worship.
And Pastor, could we please be a little more selective when it comes to the choice of songs? Just because it’s “new” it’s not necessarily worth hearing.
Dear Pastor, the Church is founded on Jesus Christ: can we return to that reality? I don’t want to hear what so-and-so’s view is, or about how some self-proclaimed expert’s paraphrase sheds a new and more palatable light on something: I want to hear the Word of God-unadulterated, undiluted, unabridged, undiminished and unaltered.
The Bible contains so much that we never hear about from the pulpit these days-Creation and the Creator; sin and how we all need to repent of our ways and pursue holiness; doctrine and how important it is to fight the good fight and stay on the narrow path; prophecy and Revelation and how the roaring Lion of Judah is going to return and judge the earth.
And pastor, if you could just break your dependence on the donations of those who determine to influence what you will and will not preach (perhaps you could make tents or deliver packages for a living) you may just find that the real Spirit of God will set your sermon-and your slumbering congregation-on fire for Jesus. If some of them want to leave for a better show down the road-let them.

WHY I DON’T LIKE SERMONS

Once upon a time I was hungry to hear as many sermons as I could hear: that time has gone. If I go to church I drag my feet and dread the “message”Most of the radio preachers (and all the TV preachers) I once paid close attention to, I now avoid. Why?

The answer is simple: words alone are powerless.

Before you accuse me of heresy, I do believe that the word of God is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword”. I do believe that the Word of God spoke the universe into existence. And I do read my Bible knowing it’s food for my soul.

What I mean is that we Christians just talk too much and do very little. What’s the point in hearing or preaching a good sermon, if that’s as far as it goes? How is it that a church building can hold hundreds or even thousands of people, all being preached to every week-and the pastor may have spent many hours preparing his sermon- yet there’s no love, no true fellowship, no witness of love or truth to the outside world?

I’ve heard many sermons, and what makes me sick to my stomach is the fact that neither I, or the great majority of their hearers are changed by them. I live in a community where there are almost as many churches as houses-some very large, lavish and expensive-and yet outside those buildings is very little  sign of love, warmth, charity or fellowship. And if it makes me-one of the guilty-feel sick to my stomach, how does it make a holy, righteous, almighty God feel?

KNOWING GOD (short version)

August 2013 012

What could possibly be better than knowing an infinite being who loves you unconditionally?

Encounters with God have been the greatest experiences in my life. It may seem to the unbeliever and the skeptic that when I say I “know” God I’m making a very arrogant claim. I want to share the reasons I feel confident in saying that I know God…

KNOWING ABOUT GOD

Part of knowing God is knowing about God: God can be known to a great degree by the things he has made, “so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

When we know about God-who he is, what he’s like, what he loves and what he hates, what he’s done and what he does-we can more clearly understand God and so know him. But we can use that understanding as a step to a much deeper knowledge. We evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired message of God to man. As a defense of this view I’ve written posts such as this one:

https://nickyfisher.com/2015/06/14/a-spiritual-defense-strategy-acronym-2/

RELATIONSHIP

Biblical scripture gives clear directions on how to come into an intimate and personal relationship with God. I’ll attempt to summarize them here:

1: We are separated from God from birth because God is holy and perfect, and we are imperfect and sinful. As Paul said,

“…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23);

2: We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God through good works or rituals, or by joining a religious organization;

3: Jesus, God’s only son, came into the world to become our “bridge”, our connection to God. He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin which is death, and he rose from the dead in order to conquer death and give us new life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come;

4: Jesus said “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8).

Being born again involves the Spirit of God, upon our invitation or/and step of faith, entering our being and bringing our spirit alive and into an inseparable and unbreakable union with his. We become acceptable to God because we associate ourselves with his son Jesus.

HEARING FROM GOD

While there are from time to time moments when God seems to speak words into our minds, I think this is by far the exception. A much more realistic way of understanding the concept of God speaking to us is that by His spirit within us he impresses ideas into our minds so that we can conclude what he wants us to think and to do.

However, if we’re not careful, this can be a very subjective method of “hearing” from God. Some Christians are guided by their feelings, when in fact feelings are entirely fallible and untrustworthy. God can “speak” to us without our emotions being stirred, though I confess that in my own experience encounters with God’s spirit do sometimes arouse a range of emotions: the important thing is not to be governed solely by feelings or emotions.

We need to compare the thoughts within us with what we read in scripture. If what we sensed is confirmed by scripture we can confidently conclude that God may have “spoken” to us. In this way we can learn to “know” God.

When we’re sensitive to God in our lives we can notice God’s intervention, guidance and presence, and we can see answers to prayer, even if they aren’t the answers we wanted. It’s these experiences which work with scripture to help us understand more about God, and when we know more about him in our own lives, we know him more.

THAT TINGLY FEELING

While I’m not one to gain spiritual “power” through all kinds of supposed manifestations of God’s spirit, popular in some Christian circles, I believe there are ways to “feel” the presence of God. The surest way of enjoying the presence of God and of sensing his spirit is by spending time giving him genuine and unreserved praise and thanks, acknowledging who he is. The sense of wholeness, peace and joy I’ve felt in times of worship are without equal: they are my number one greatest experiences in life.

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 1: KNOWING GOD

August 2013 010

What could possibly be better than knowing an infinite being who loves you unconditionally?

Encounters with God have been the greatest experiences in my life. It may seem to the unbeliever and the skeptic that when I say I “know” God I’m making a very arrogant claim, or that I am at least partially insane or deluded…

(There’s a short version of this post: this one is long!)

(ASOK, “Hunter”)

Some people think it’s impossible to know God, since they can’t see him in the sky or under the bed, and that’s as far as they’re prepared to look. They haven’t heard him speak, they can’t see God in operation, they can’t see him doing the kind of things they think a god should do, they’ve heard that he’s a boogie man wanting to spoil everyone’s fun, and they’re convinced that “all” the educated people “know” there isn’t a God: magically, the human “expert” has become the all-knowing one!

We evangelical Christians talk of having a “relationship” with God, and unbelievers either mock or just don’t get it. Without going into a lengthy theological study, I want to share the reasons I feel confident in saying that I know God.

KNOWING ABOUT GOD

One part of knowing God is knowing about God. God can be known to a great degree by the things he has made, “so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Nature is itself witness to the fact that there is an incredibly intelligent, powerful creator who knows all about beauty, science, and as many things as you can mention. In fact, since he created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) there’s nothing in all creation that he doesn’t understand and know far more intimately than any evolutionist you can mention.

God is an infinite being, and we are extremely finite: it’s impossible for us to know all about him, or to know him fully. But by studying the world around us we can see that God is endlessly creative. He’s a lover of beauty, order and design, and more powerful and intelligent than we can imagine. We can see that he must be outside of time in order to create time (Genesis 1:1) and that he must be beyond matter in order to create matter. We can see that he must love humanity since he created us, and that he must have incredible patience, since he is also patient with us.

When we know about God-who he is, what he’s like, what he loves and what he hates, what he’s done and what he does-we can more clearly understand God and so know him. But we can take this understanding to a much deeper level. We evangelicals have come to believe that the Bible is the inspired message of God to man. In defense of this view I’ve written posts such as this one:

https://nickyfisher.com/2015/06/14/a-spiritual-defense-strategy-acronym-2/

RELATIONSHIP

Biblical scripture gives clear directions on how to come into an intimate and personal relationship with God, and I’ll attempt to summarize them here. I don’t mean to say that there’s a strict formula to follow, that we have to have all the jargon just right and say a magical incantation before it “works”: some people enter into this relationship naturally without realizing that they are being reborn. It’s the step of faith towards God that’s important:

1: We are separated from God from birth because God is holy and perfect, and we are imperfect and sinful. As Paul said,

“…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23);

2: We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God through good works or rituals, or by joining a religious organization: organizations and their “priests” have no power to influence God (and I say thank the Lord for that);

3: Jesus, God’s son, came into the world to become our “bridge”, our connection to God. He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin which is death, and he rose from the dead in order to conquer death and give us new life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come;

4: Jesus said “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8).

Being born again involves the Spirit of God, upon our invitation or/and step of faith, entering our being and bringing our spirit alive and into an inseparable and unbreakable union with Him. The work of spiritual rebirth is entirely his. We can’t have a relationship with God until we are reborn. We activate this rebirth by realizing that we need and want God, by turning from our old ways which are in opposition to God’s ways, by inviting his intervention, and by entrusting ourselves to God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are acceptable to God because we associate ourselves with his son Jesus. God accepts his son completely, and all who associate with him.

Earth

The “entrusting” I menitoned can (to my mind) be likened to boarding an aircraft. We don’t fully understand the wonders of flight, how the plane is built, how the pilot operates the plane or how he navigates and arrives at our destination hundreds or thousands of miles away, but we still make the decision that we are going with him anyway because we want to, and because we believe he can get us there safely as his airline vouches he will. We commit our lives and our near future to the pilot, the plane and the airline. In a similar way, to be born again we commit ourselves to God through his son Jesus Christ.

Being born again is just the beginning of a new relationship with God. Jesus Christ is our mediator (scripturally, our only mediator). Our prayers and worship are acceptable to God because of Jesus his son. Through this prayer and worship, and in fact through the way we conduct ourselves in all areas of our life, we can build a relationship with our Creator.

Alright, you may say, so far so good, but isn’t the communication stream rather one-sided? How does God communicate with the believer?

HEARING FROM GOD

There are some who are convinced that God speaks audibly to them, and directs them in every area of life, right down to which box of cereal to pick from the supermarket shelf. With respect, my view is that this is very faulty theology. While there are from time to time moments when God does seem to speak words into our minds, I think this is by far the exception rather than the rule. A much more realistic way of understanding the concept of God speaking to us is that by His spirit within us he impresses ideas into our minds so that we can conclude what he wants us to think and to do.

However, if we are not careful, this also can be a very subjective method of “hearing” from God. Too many Christians are guided by their feelings (as are many unbelievers) when in fact feelings are entirely fallible and untrustworthy. God can “speak” to us without our emotions being stirred. I do confess that in my own experience God’s spirit can arouse a range of emotions: the important thing is not to be governed solely by feelings or emotions.

It’s vitally important for us to compare the thoughts within us with what we read in scripture. If what we’ve sensed contradicts what we can know for sure about God our thoughts are wrong, and the idea came from our own minds or from somewhere else. If what we sensed is confirmed by scripture we can confidently conclude that God may have “spoken” to us. In this way we can learn to “know” God.

So a relationship with God comes by having his spirit within us, and by being guided and willingly changed by his word. It comes by being receptive and sensitive to guidance and correction via our conscience. It comes by living out his commandments and his will in our daily lives (such as having love for others). It comes by learning about who God is: what his character is, what he loves and what he detests, by knowing and understanding how he has dealt with people in the past, by knowing his revealed word (his commandments and clear statements), and by knowing and loving his son Jesus Christ.

When we’re sensitive to God in our lives we can sometimes notice God’s intervention, guidance and presence, though sometimes only when we look back in time, and we can see answers to prayer, even if they aren’t the answers we wanted. It’s these experiences which work with scripture to help us understand more about God, and when we know more about him in our own lives, we know him more.

God already knows all about us. David said:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Scripture makes clear that God knows our thoughts, and Jesus said:

“…the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).

THAT TINGLY FEELING

While I’m not one to gain spiritual “power” through all kinds of supposed manifestations of God’s spirit, popular in some Christian circles and which I think are no more than deception, I believe there are ways to “feel” the presence of God. For example, the surest way of enjoying the presence of God and of sensing his spirit is to spend time giving him genuine and unreserved praise and thanks, acknowledging who he is. Such times have, for me, been the most sublime moments of being in my life. The sense of wholeness, peace and joy I’ve felt in times of praise and worship are without equal, and impossible to describe.

The surest way to feel better about a situation in life is via the prayer of faith. As Paul said:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

And the surest way to get intimate with God is to get intimate with him. As scripture says:

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV).