Posts from the ‘ICEWS bd 2008’ Category

Heaven and Earth

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Romans tells us that the hope for which we have been saved is to see all of creation set free and redeemed. We experience salvation when ever we trust in Jesus as savior. Our lives are being transformed and redeemed as we walk out our faith, and we experience varying degrees of freedom and healing. And one day, the scripture tells us, we will die only to go be with Jesus in heaven. But that is only a layover, because get get resurrected into physical bodies just like Jesus, the first born from the dead, the first among many brothers.

As we come back to earth with Jesus all of creation gets renewed/recreated. The prophet Isaiah talks about this time as a world of such absolute peace that Lions eat grass, and wolves lay down and snuggle up with sheep. This is a message that a fallen world needs to hear. Jesus is savior of our souls, of our lives, and we do get a ticket out out of hell. And as wonderful as those are, they are just the beginning of what God has in store for us.

We have the liberty and the joy of experiencing some of that now. The beauty of creation reminds us of how awesome God is. The complexity of the cosmos, as unfathomable as it is, is still just a canvas that God painted on. As we are humbled and brought to a sense of wonder and awe at what God has done, we offer up our praises. We bring along creation with us, setting it free to praise, in the form of art, music, song, technology, and life in general.

This is my first attempt at songwriting.  I recorded it with a Boss Micro BR, so it’s all digital.  The drums and the guitar effects are all presets.

Heaven and Earth (song)

Heaven and Earth/electro (song)

Heaven and Earth (chord chart pdf)

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Harmonic Dissonance

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

This world is amazing. Everywhere we turn we see images and reflections of God. An excursion to some of the magnificent natural wonders of the natural world testify to Gods artistic genius. Mountain ranges, tropical rain forests, the frozen Antarctic, and gigantic waterfalls all testify to Gods love of designing and creating. But it doesn’t stop there, he has designed galaxies, star clusters, nebulas, black holes and many, many things we haven’t even seen yet.

My idea of art is to paint a picture, make a sketch, write a song or music. How quaint that seems in light of Gods idea of art. Yet as subcreators made in his image, we don’t seem to be able to contain it. From our earliest history we have art in the form of cave paintings. Some of the first civilizations (Sumer and Babylon) wrote long epic stories about heroes, gods and goddesses, and they were very creative about it, especially considering there were no predecessors to learn from. How would Tolkien or George Lucas do without any forerunners in their field. The ancients may have not had as much knowledge as us but they may have been far more inventive and imaginative than we could ever dream of.

Yet we continue to create and invent. Romans chapter 1 says that man is forever inventing new ways to sin. What if we took that idea and turned it on it’s head? What if we were forever inventing new ways to worship, and express our worship to God? If we have the unlimited potential to invent new ways to sin (worship ourselves, or false gods), then it stands to reason that we have the unlimited potential to invent new ways to worship God.

In spite of thousands of years of human history, there was never the sound of music like today. Before there was any type of structured musical system there were no Mozart’s and no Bach’s. Before electricity and modern technology the world never heard the sounds that Jimi Hendrix made on his guitar, or Bob Moog with his synths. As history marches on we continue to discover that sound and waves (music) is a far deeper mystery than we ever dreamed of.

What was once considered a noise, is now music. Distortion and dissonant sound waves that were once offensive and undesirable find place in many of our songs today. Sometimes it’s the paradoxical school of thought, the contrasting voice, that makes the song interesting and enjoyable.

When you translate this idea of harmonic dissonance into biblical language, it speaks of the Trinity (perichoresis); three individuals all unique and separate, yet in perfect harmony. Our song about who God is suddenly has depth and mystery. It has, on the surface, contradictory ideas; but when you delve deeper you see that there is no other way to describe God in human terms other than paradox’s. This makes ours song interesting and textured. It turns peoples heads… just like the distortion of a well played guitar.

It also speaks of the beauty of diversity in community and relationships. Our song becomes interesting when we embrace and celebrate the distinct cultures and worship expressions. It adds intensity when we learn to love each other in spite of our obvious differences… just like oscillations of a Moog synth.

A wonderful example of this in worship is the few times I’ve been in a church service where hundreds of people are all simultaneously singing in tongues. Each person is singing in his own unique voice, his own key, and his own meter. It’s (in my opinion) one of the more beautiful sounds in all of creation that I’ve ever experienced. Extremely diverse and yet somehow extremely harmonic.

NT Wright said in the video Creation Integration, that it is our job to “gather up everything the creation has been doing and to come and present it before God.” And that while doing so we are giving a “voice to creations praise.” A small part of this thought is the discovery of new sounds, textures, harmonic dissonance, and noise and the related technologies that enable us add their worship to ours.

I look forward to the creativity coming out of worship experiences. I look forward to finding new ways to worship. And I look forward to science and technology discovering new things about the universe that we can lay at the feet of God in worship and praise.

Worship Worldview

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Ultimately the essence of worship is the ascribing of worth and majesty to God(1). It means recognizing both the deeds of God… His creational activity (there is one holistic world, broken yet beautiful; not a dualistic “secular vs sacred” world) , and the redemptive story (how God has, is, and will redeem all of creation)(2).

God created us imagebearers (imagio dei). He created us as subcreators to manipulate and work with creation, with what is, to create art and beauty and expression. This is our way of exploring and and rejoicing in the world for which we are made(3). And we become more fully alive when we embrace who we are and live life in a way that brings God glory. This is worship.

Music cuts right to the heart and bypasses the head(4). This means that we have a great responsibility to not only create and choose songs with good music, but to have knowledge and understanding enough to know what the song is saying doctrinally, and whether or not it is “attuned to the resonances of scripture”(5). When we combine the right message with the right media (song, art, writing, etc) we lead people toward a richer relationship with God, creation, and themselves.

Our worship should encourage acts of justice (6), community (relationships) building(7), and acts of beauty (8). As we respond in this way we give the world a glimpse into the future, of God’s eternal kingdom, as we become an “intersection between heaven and earth” (9).

We should take on the responsibility to understand the past and present forms of worship in order to both reach people today, as well as provide worship rich enough to add to history. “We should begin to think about our emerging future, 10, 20, 50 years, even centuries ahead”, so we can produce ideas that are translatable for the people of the future (9). We should add our voice and melody to the song of history.

All of this provides a greater gravitas (weightiness), “both theologically and artistically” to the creative expression of worship(10). Leading worship is probably one of the most important roles a person can take. Being in charge of what people say to God for 20-30 minutes a service is a pretty heavy responsibility, and we should take it with all sincerity and responsibility. We should devote ourselves to becoming worship artisans, by being knowledgeable in our craft, and knowledgeable in our history (11) and future.

(1) Wright, Rediscovering Biblical Worship (IW Master All, p 95)
(2) Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology: A Theological Synthesis for Worship Leaders (video)
(3) Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology: The Nature of the Human Being, p 3
(4) Wright, Songwriters as Theologians (video)
(5) ibid.
(6) Wright, Simply Christian, p 225
(7) ibid, p 228
(8) ibid, p 234
(9) ibid, p 133
(10) Wilt, The Rise of the Worship Artisan, p 1
(11) ibid, p 4

Are we headed for extinction or eternity?

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us? Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace?” – Thomas Merton (Seven Storey Mountain p. 142)

It seems that the more we as a race grow and develop and learn new technologies, the more dangerous we become. This world has has the potential to be a paradise from the beginning. But each time some new technology or science or method is invented, I am caught up in the spirit of this age in thinking that this new thing will answer the worlds problems. With nano-technology scientist have already turned silicon (sand) into gold. There are many alternative fuels out there ready to be used, and they are discovering more efficient ways to make oil from many different sources. A solution to Global Warming is offered through capitalism by building carbon-capture machines. Imagine the irony if Capitalism actually saved the planet!

However the sad truth is that we’ve been trying to dig ourselves out of the same hole for thousands of years now. We have new gadgets, and air-conditioners (thank you Jesus), but we haven’t stopped domestic violence, racism, murder, greed, lust, or even simple over indulgences such as drunkenness or gluttony. We haven’t managed to become our own savior, we have become our own worst enemy.

As Merton continues in his book, “We have only to open our eyes and look about us to see what our sins are doing to the world, and have done. But we cannot see. We are the ones to whom it is said by the prophets of God: “Hearing hear, and understand not; and see the vision, and know it not.”

The evidence of our failure is all around us, but we are blinded by our own lies and continue to believe that somehow we will get it right in the end. So how do we get out of this mess? In Romans (7:24,25), the apostle Paul asks a similar question: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan. Satan subjugated creation from us in the beginning. It’s like he tricked us into giving him the legal rights of ownership. But fortunately we didn’t own creation, we were only sent to “tend the garden”. Jesus came and broke Satan’s back by dying on the cross and the started the reversal and renewal of this fallen world beginning with his own bodily resurrection.

Someday Jesus will finish what he started, and until then we are his emissaries, his imagebearers. We go out into the fallen world and reflect his image to a world that is blind, deaf, and mute. We heal the sick, cleanse the leper, and raise the dead. Perhaps God will use us to do these things literally, and I pray that I would be used in such an obvious miraculous way. But more than likely God will use the majority of us in more subtle ways, but no less powerful and effective. A simple gesture of love to the unloved, a prayer for the dying man in a home for the elderly, baking bread for your neighbor, a sacrificing boss, or moving someones couch or refrigerator. There are probably as many expressions of the kingdom as there are people.

Christian Worldview (ICEWS bd 2008)

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

God is revealed to us in scripture as a Trinitarian God. This is unique among all other religions. Another term is the Latin word perichoresis, which means the mutual indwelling, or interpenetration, which some call the divine dance (1). God is also immanent (2), although his home is in heaven, another dimension beyond our time and space, his spirit and presence is felt and acknowledged here on earth (3). His name, YHWH, literally means “I am who I am”. This suggest that he cannot be referenced or defined in terms that relate to our existence. He is in his own category (4)

We, humans, are beautiful yet broken (5). We are beautiful because we are God’s imagebearers (6). We are subcreators like our God made us. We are full of his creative impulses (7). Our community models his Trinitarian nature (8). We are broken because of the fall, because of the sin that has entered into the world through us. And because of this we are Salvific Storytellers. We tell the story of our past, about Jesus and his victory over sin and death. And of the future, of his glorious Kingdom, where every wrong will be made right (9).

The Kingdom of God can be summed as any place where his will and rule is taking place. Ultimately this will be fulfilled at some future date, unknown to any human. However we can experience and celebrate the coming Kingdom in myriad and diverse ways. We experience, celebrate, and express the Kingdom when we; hear and respond to issues of justice (10), quench peoples spiritual thirst with the pure water that only Jesus can give (11), learn to love our Christian brothers and sisters (12), and revel in the [incomplete] beauty of the earth (13).

In Revelation 21 the culmination of history takes place. The Kingdom comes down from heaven. It is a moment of renewal where new creation takes place. Every tear will be erased, every injustice will be made right. We will not only have renewed eternal bodies, but the entire cosmos, everything [from the stars to the plants and animals] will be made new and perfect (14). The new creation that began with Jesus’ Resurrection is completed with his coming in power and glory with his Kingdom (15).

(1) Berten Waggoner, The Divine Dance (IW Master All, p 125)
(2) Wilt, Essential Worship Theology: The Nature of Worship, p 14
(3) Wright, Simply Christian, p 59
(4) ibid, p 67
(5) Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology: The Nature of Human Beings, p 1
(6) ibid, p 4
(7) ibid, p 3
(8) ibid, p 5-6
(9) ibid, p 7, 9
(10) Wright, p 12
(11) ibid, p 26
(12) ibid, p 30
(13) ibid, p 46
(14) Wright, Voices On Resurrection and New Creation (IW Master All, p 313)
(15) Lewis, Voices On Resurrection and New Creation (IW Master All, p 313)

New expressions of worship

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The Psalms encourage us (perhaps command us) to sing new songs to God (1). It’s not because he is bored with all the old songs we were singing, but because he wants us to reflect his image to a world that is dark and dying. A world who has lost touch with his image, and can no longer hear his voice.

Jesus has come and everything is different. He came, he saw, and he… well he won the victory. He defeated death, hell, and the grave. He inaugurated the beginning of his kingdom and the end of Satan’s. The world is changing. It’s like a river swiftly flowing toward the sea, constantly changing, yet steadily flowing towards it’s predestined course. As we jump into this mighty river, we are swept along with it. We get to paddle a little to the left or a little to the right. We can paddle with the current or just drift, or we can fight it and wear ourselves out and eventually succumb in the end, exhausted. Ultimately we are all headed towards the same destination… the fulfilled kingdom with the King reigning as Lord over all.

Because we are his imagebearers we are bound to create. Either we will create new songs, new expressions of worship, or we will create new ways to sin. When we use our imagination to worship we are fulfilling who we were meant to be. We are free to use tradition, but we are not bound to it. Of course if we do a “new” act of worship long enough it becomes tradition.

Just as the river is always changing as it’s water is flowing, it is always still the same river headed on the same course. If it stopped moving it would be a stagnant pond. And this is like our worship, if we stop creating and expressing in ways that only we can articulate then our image reflecting ability grows dull and lifeless. God wants us to live life to the full, and we accomplish that by embracing the things that we love to do, and they are many and diverse.

God is complex and diverse in his unity. And in order to worship him we offer both complex and diverse expressions of worship. And just as he is eternal, so too our expressions of worship have no end. I foresee that we will never run out of ways to honor, worship, and reflect his image.

(1) Wilt, Exploring Our Roots: The Contemporary Worship Movement (Inside Worship)

Comnplete the Circuit (ICEWS bd 2008)

For the Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University. Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

It’s not that the prosperity gospel is wrong, the preachers who preach health and wealth use scriptures that seem to be right, but somehow the reality of it all doesn’t fit what goes on in our lives. The wealthiest and healthiest of people in the world aren’t even Christians, which goes against the core of this type of interpretation. But it’s a hard case to argue, on the surface it seems to be true. However, when we look at the life of Jesus it just doesn’t fit. When we look at the Disciples and the Apostles and the New Testament Church it doesn’t fit. When we look at our lives it doesn’t quite line up all the time with all the claims. Something is not quite right.

It’s not that the prosperity gospel is wrong, but really it’s incomplete. It’s asking all the wrong questions. Tom Wright puts it this way in Simply Christian: Many of the questions we ask God cant be answered directly, not because God doesn’t know the answers but because our questions don’t make sense. As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, many of our questions are, from God’s point of view, rather like someone asking, “Is yellow square or round?” or “How many hours are there in a mile?” (Ch 9, 5th paragraph).

Asking for material possessions isn’t out of the question for God, we are supposed to pray about our needs and bring our requests before God, he will provide for our needs. In fact it is implied that we pray assuming that God wants to supply for our every need. And it’s certain that God did bless many of his servants with great wealth (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, etc). Asking the question, does God want to bless us and make us rich?, is not really a good question. A better question would be, How can I worship God to my full potential?

Shooting for our full potential of worship in every aspect of life, presupposes that there is a reason to do so. God does deserve it, and that in itself is enough, but there is more. God actually has a plan. He will one day make everything right. He will bring about true justice, spirituality, relationships, and beauty (the four echoes in Simply Christian). As we understand what God has done (through the Cross and the Resurrection) and what God will do (covering the earth with his glory the way the waters cover the sea) our worship begins to reflect this in as many creative and unique ways as there are people.

Living lives of intentional theology and maturity leads to; an end to selfish desires, of service to others, and holy living. These acts of worship spring from the Cross, as we crucify our flesh, and learn to walk in the spirit. Our growth and maturing never stops, as we are transformed continually into his likeness.

Our whole lives reflect both the Cross, it’s death of the sinful man, and the resurrection, new creation. As a new creation we are given a fresh start, but as the “fresh start” implies, it’s only just the beginning. But the beginning of what? Even the act of Christian maturing has a purpose, and not just so we can be great Christians leading fulfilling lives enjoying Gods blessings. We do get that, but there’s more.

When Jesus rose from the dead he inaugurated the beginning of the end of the old age and the beginning of the age of the Kingdom of God. It continues when we are saved and God’s Spirit brings life to our spirit. It continues as our lives are redeemed from sinful acts and bondage’s. It will be finalized when Jesus comes to make everything right.

Our job as Christians should be to find ways to celebrate both the past and the future. The circuit is complete when we include both the Cross and the coming of God’s Kingdom. Our worship intentionally displays to the world what God is going to do. They get snap-shot of God’s Kingdom as they watch our lives (families, marriages, and friendships), view our art, watch as we heal the sick and raise the dead, listen to our songs and music, become our employers/employees, see us concerned and caring for the poor and oppressed, and otherwise interact with us on a daily basis.