Friday, April 29, 2005

God Got Rhythm

As a drummer in a worship team, my basic role is to keep time for the song at hand. Percussion is not a melodic instrument. We who like to make noise by striking things are not there to lead, but to support the lead instruments. Of course, there is a time and place for drum solos (Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"), but most of the time, it's counting four.
Sometimes, the task of keeping a nice, even pace is easier than at others. Some days, my rhythmic sense doesn't seem to jive with the rest of the musicians. Even though I'm doing my best to faithfully lay down the beat the way we've rehearsed it, I'm off.
This is one of the reasons our worship teams pray before we lead worship. Our MAIN prayer is to ask that God use us to glorify himself, and to get our musical egos out of the way. Our worship is an offering to God, not a celebration of the gifts he has bestowed upon us. We firmly believe that God is happy with our praise, regardless of our levels of proficiency on our instruments. On the other hand, none of us want to botch the music to the point that our imperfections are so glaring, it distracts the congregation from smooth, spontaneous worship.
Just before we open our first song of the day, I silently hold out my drumsticks, hands-up, praying that the Holy Spirit guide my hands, feet and soul through the songs. My basis for this is Romans 8:26:
"The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
Once I've prayed like this, my mind can get out of the way. I've practiced, we've rehearsed as a team, and now it's all up to the Holy Spirit himself to help us worship the way it should be done. Only God knows what tempo best glorifies him. Only God knows what musical 'feel' is going to touch the congregation's collective heart, and in turn, bring Him glory. Only God knows how best He should be glorified and praised.
This prayer never seems to go unanswered. As a matter of fact, the worship team leaders taught me to EXPECT supernatural assistance. Sure enough, on the Sundays when our sound check reveals that our sound is "off the mark," those are the days when the congregation later comments that "you guys were really FEELING IT up there!" Guess who guided the musical arrow to the bull's eye that day? Hint - it rhymes with "Hear it."
I've got much more to share regarding the relationship between musical worship and matters of the Spirit, but those insights will have to wait for further posts. In the meantime, this post is my own reminder to take this lesson, and apply it to ALL areas of my life. If the Holy Spirit can help me and my fellow worshippers play music, surely, he can assist us with other areas of life.
Wow, even as I write this piece, God is confirming for me the truth of this issue. I wanted to close this entry with a line of scripture, so I googled the phrase "You can do nothing without God's help." What results did Google bring?
John 15:5 - "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
At this point, it shouldn't surprise me that the Spirit would lead me to a passage that I've already encountered this week. John, chapter 15 is the EXACT chapter that we examined this past Tuesday at a weekly men's Bible study. I'm laughing as I type this. God's timing, indeed! Praise God!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ragged Edges: A Humble Dogma

Lord, is this post (see link below) good, or what? Readers of this blog, PLEASE, if I ever come across as anything other than the humble "pointer" to Christ, please feel free to slam me. Wasn't it Ghandi who said: "Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ." Full Story here. The point of my blog is to share the joy I've found in Christ, with the hope that non-Christian readers might want that same joy, and fellow Christians might read something that sounds a note of recognition. Of course, this matter of Christ is no slight matter to believers, as we believe the issue has serious eternal repercussions, (to say the least)! That may be why it's so easy to fall in to one of two categories when sharing the Faith:
  1. Coming across so forcefully, you turn away those who would otherwise be willing to engage in thoughtful conversation, or
  2. Being so overly respectful to the non-believer, you become like those Jesus warned us to turn away from in the last days - those "having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:5)

Once again, I turn to my maker for guidance in striking this balance. Enjoy the read...

Ragged Edges: A Humble Dogma

Friday, April 22, 2005

Wisteria Wisdom

One of the most typical difficulties posed by those challenging the existence of God concerns the lack of "proof." "Show me the evidence," challenges the unconvinced seeker, "and then I'll believe."
Of course, rock solid "proof" of the Almighty's being would make faith unnecessary. If God did offer such indisputable evidence, stating your belief in God would be equivalent to making the statement: "I am making a statement."
Thankfully, God has not hidden himself completely. Romans 1:20 states:

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."

This scripture has given me a whole new sense of wonder on my half-hour drive to work through the countryside. Over the last two weeks, the abundance of green here in North Carolina has been punctuated with a seasonal dash of heavenly purple in the form of wisteria (see photo above). Trees that were all green, seemingly overnight, suddenly burst forth with these beautiful flowers, drooping from every branch. Since purple's always been my favorite colour, I see these floral feasts as an extra special revealing of God's handiwork to me, the artist formerly known as Prince, and lovers of lavender worldwide.
These natural beauties will not be here for long, however. A call to my local botanical garden reveals that they will stop blooming in a short week or so. Already, their colours have started to fade. This knowledge of their ephemeral visibility only makes the appreciation more fervent however. I will admire the beauty, but be mindful of certain reminders:

1) Beauty fades, so don't make it your focus. Like a supermodel in the world of flora, the wisteria has unquestionable beauty, but Proverbs 31:30 (Amplified version) keeps it in perspective:
"Charm {and} grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently {and} worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!"

2) Life itself passes quickly, so get on with the business of God while you're here. I wonder if the writer of Psalm 39:4 had wisteria in view when he asked the Lord to: "remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away." For more on this topic, this is an excellent site.

3) Remember that God is the ultimate provider, who knows all our needs. While we may not always feel our desires are being met, HE alone knows what is good for us. Therefore, I will strive to remember that He provides, and not knock myself out following the fashions (clothing or otherwise) of this world. God will adorn me as he sees fit. Matthew 6:28 - "Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes."

Man, all these observations from a simple flower. There's power in them petals! Thank you, Lord, for showing us your glory in nature. Thanks you Lord, for your reminder of WHO made it all. Help me Lord, when I stop to smell the flowers, to remember to worship You - the Creator, not the creation.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Whose Blog Cabin?

Whose blog Cabin?
Let me be the first to comment on the title of my blog, lest someone think it's intended as any kind of insensitive slur.The name was suggested to me by my brother-in-law, and it had such a good ring to it, I couldn't resist. However, this being a Christian blog, I decided I'd better research the term before using it in a God-fearing context.
I knew (in a general way) that the "Uncle Tom" term was not typically used in flattery. To my embarrassment, that's about all I really knew.A quick search got me up to speed on Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, whose main character is a Christ-like sufferer. However, the term itself came to be used, not as an acknowledgement of someone's righteous willingness to suffer nobly, but to describe a person playing the servile role to whites for lesser motivations than Christ-likeness.

This revealing website explains the difference between the character in the original book, and the less flattering versions of the Uncle Tom character portrayed in theatrical productions.
According to Patricia Turner, author of Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies:
Further marked inconsistencies are discernible between the values and principles of the reconstructed Uncle Tom and Stowe's original hero. Both are devout, stalwart Christians. Both are unflinching in their loyalty. But the reconstructed Uncle Toms are passive, docile, unthinking Christians. Loyal and faithful to white employers, they are duplicitous in their dealings with fellow blacks. Stowe's Tom is a proactive Christian warrior. He does more than accept God's will, he endeavors to fulfill it in all of his words and deeds. He is loyal to each of his white masters, even the cruel Simon Legree. Yet his allegiance to his fellow slaves is equally strong.

Other entries in Wikipedia give excellent descriptions of both the Uncle Tom's Cabin book, and the term Uncle Tom.
So why all this info just to justify a blog name? Well, I wasn't even going to use the name, until I did the research and found the strong Christian theme. Since I hope to provoke Christians and non-Christians alike with this blog, the title should work just fine.
Oh, and just for the record, this Uncle Tom really is:
A) named Tom
B) an Uncle (of three nephews)
C) the writer of a blog. I'd like to say I write it from a cozy log cabin, but that would be a lie
D) a growing Christian. I've got a long way to go before anyone would ever describe me like the Uncle Tom of Harriet Beecher Stowe's book - "a proactive Christian warrior. He does more than accept God's will, he endeavors to fulfill it in all of his words and deeds." My only hope to ever become such an individual is rooted in one of my favorite scriptures, Philippians 1:6:
"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Uncle Tom's Initial Blog

My first three blog entries were hosted over here. There are three personal reflections on A) Jesus the eternal bassist, B) When your Birthday coincides with the day Christ died, and C) Being a Fool for Christ.
I plan to enter all future entries on this site (the one you're surfing), but thought I'd provide more content for those who have stumbled across this site. Peace to y'all.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Chess with Satan

I first heard about this painting on a David Jeremiah broadcast. A search on the internet brought various stories surrounding it - none quite the same. Apparently, the painting is called "Checkmate." I plan on making my own comments on the piece in time, but as it's late, and I just want to get the first blog entry done, I'll borrow some text from a Reverend Dr. Gary Nicolosi:
One of the things a lot of people don’t know about Bobby Fischer is that his favorite hobby is visiting art galleries and museums. Once while on vacation in Europe, he became captivated by one particular painting called Checkmate. It was the picture of a chess game. On one side of the board was Satan with a smug and sinister smile on his face. On the other side of the board was a young man with tears running down his face and sweat pouring down his forehead. He was biting his fingernails. Satan was reaching out to make the last move. The young man looked terrified. Apparently, he thought he had lost the game to Satan.
Again, the painting is called Checkmate. Satan smiled. The young man was panicked. And as Satan reached out to make the last move, things seemed hopeless for the young man.
After six hours of staring at the painting, Bobby Fischer said, “Bring me a chess board.” He set up the board exactly as it was depicted in the painting. After a few moments, he began to smile. “Young man,” he said, “I wish you could hear me because I have some good news for you. Things aren’t as dark as they seem to be. I have studied this game for more than six hours, and I have discovered that it’s all right to allow the devil to make his move. Because after he makes his move, I’ve found that there is one more move on the board! Let him make his move. You’ll be the one who says, ‘Checkmate!’ There is one more move on board.”
Do you see what this means for you on this Easter Sunday? You can live with the confidence that your life is never checkmate. With Jesus there is always one more move. So you can have the courage to face tomorrow, no matter what happens today. For with Jesus the darkness never overwhelms the light, evil never defeats goodness, and death never overcomes life. Christ is risen, and so shall we. Rise out of the depths of despair. Rise out of the depths of the grave. Rise out of the depths of whatever holds us back from lasting intimacy with God.