Sunday 20 November 2011

Karma and Grace

Good Karma, Bad Karma

I was listening to a guy on the radio the other day and he was talking about Karma. Basically he was saying that there is good karma and bad karma, and depending on how you live your life, either one will happen to you.  
Karma is defined as a reaction caused by an earlier action; cause and effect. 
They say that for every action there is an equal reaction. In Biblical circles we may refer to it as sowing and reaping. When someone is experiencing a tragedy in their life, an observer may say "he had it coming to him after all he's done!" that's bad karma. 
Or we see someone who has been doing it tough but always was kind and had a good attitude all of a sudden experiencing a miraculous turn around in their fortune, our response may be:" it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person" that's good karma". 

Karma vs Grace

The problem with karma is that it is based on the law of sin and death. In a lot of ways, it leaves no room for Grace, as when we have spent a lifetime being "bad", doing nasty things to people that they didn't deserve, then in reality we are signing off onto the rest of our lives in misery, and if you're that way inclined and you believe in reincarnation, you will come back in the next life as a cockroach or something and have to purge your soul in that next life to earn your way back into the following good life, and so on it goes, I think.  Confusing isn't it?  

I love the concept of Grace. I love that God sent His son Jesus to die on a cross for my sin; He who knew no sin became sin in order that we may have life. He took upon Himself our punishment so that we could have relationship with Him forever. And all we have to do is receive it. 
That's grace! 

The prodigal Son

I love the story of the son who spent his inheritance, which he demanded off his father even before his father had died, in prodigal living. It was a bit like saying:"I wish you were dead, give me now what's coming to me when you pass away, old man". Not exactly the most respectful thing you would do your parents? 

For those who are not quite sure, "prodigal” just means living life wastefully, spending money on wasteful living, living it up. 
So there were a number of insulting, humiliating, and bad things that happened to this young man as a result of his bad choices…I guess you could say the result of his prodigal living was bad karma because of how he'd treated his father when he demanded his inheritance. 
However, grace steps in where karma can't rescue the young man. The Bible says, when he came to his senses, he said to himself; how many of my father's servants have enough to eat and a place to sleep, and here I am having to fight it out with the pigs for a feed. I'll go back home to dad and see if he can't hire me as a servant. 
This is the grace bit, for when he is yet a long way off, his father sees him coming home and before the son even has the opportunity to give his well rehearsed speech about how bad he was and how he is prepared to come back and work as a hired hand, his father runs to him with arms wide open, falls on his neck and kisses him, puts a brand new coat on him and orders a ring to be put on his finger (a symbol of sonship). Then he throws him a welcome home party the like of which the neighbourhood has not seen. 

See, when we are in relationship with our heavenly Father, we are under His grace. Karma and the law of sin and death no longer apply, because God sent His son to take upon himself the result and effect of our prodigal living. 
Don't you just love grace? 

Have a great week!

What happens when it all goes south.

I was in church last Sunday and the worship team was doing a great job. 

Unplanned distractions

The worship leader was a beautiful young lady who has been leading worship at our church for some time now. She is competent, confident, and has a great passion for the heart of worship. 
Last Sunday she felt her time at the front wasn't that successful. 
I thought it was great, but I wasn't leading. 
A couple of things didn't go exactly as planned, and they became a distraction to her. A flat battery in a radio mike, a song that was started in the wrong key, words on the screen that weren’t correct; little foxes that spoil the vines. (Song of Solomon 2:15)
Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. What do we do, how should we react?  

What happens between input and output

If you are a worship leader and can identify with what is written here, I want you to be encouraged with is this: God will have His way. If you are well prayed up and prepared, there is nothing that will stop the Holy Spirit from achieving God's purpose in the service. You can be confident of that. 

Years ago when I sang in a contemporary Gospel choir, we had a saying: "God works miracles between the mouth and the mike.” We knew this because there were sounds that were made on the stage that had no right to be there, and we would have tears in our eyes trying to control ourselves and keep our stage presence. Singers would cringe on the inside whilst confidently appearing as if nothing was wrong. 
Afterward members of the audience would come to us saying what a great song that was and how anointed the music was…Case proven! What went in was obviously completely different to what came out; God had worked His miracle. 

God hasn’t left the building...

Obviously sometimes no matter how well prepared we are, things will go wrong. 
I encourage you to take heart. God has not abandoned you; The Holy Spirit has not taken his bat and ball and gone back to heaven, leaving you to your own devices. 
Here are some keys:

1) Don't drop your bundle! 

You must keep going, keep your head together, smile confidently, cast a glance upward and throw a prayer behind it. Usually a short prayer like: "HELP!!" works well. Keep your head in the game!

2) If you can fix the problem quickly, do it. 

A mike with a flat battery can be changed, a guitar with a broken string can be re-tuned or maybe if you have more than one instrument on the stage, the string can be fixed. 
This is where preparation is so important. I often bring 2 guitars on the stage in case I break a string. I also carry spare strings with me and can replace a string on my guitar in less than a song if I break one. 
Today I beckoned a member of the congregation, and he took the mike and changed the batteries while a backing vocalist gave up her mike while the battery was being changed. 
An old acting saying is: "the show must go on!"

3) It's better to restart a song than to keep painfully going with a mistake.

Recognise the problem quickly, make the change and move on. Don't make a big thing of it, because drawing unnecessary prolonged attention to the problem will distract people away from their focus on the Holy Spirit.  

4) Back up plans are handy. 

This is more to do with being adequately prepared for the unexpected. One of the problems we had today was with our projectionist. We use a programme called "Easy Worship" it is a great computer programme that helps run the service via a digital data projector onto a screen. Any programme is only as good as the person running it. While everything was programmed well for the order of service, the person driving the programme got distracted and before you knew it, words were up on the screen that weren't meant to be there. Not only did the congregation get lost, but the leader, who was dependent on the correct information being on the screen also got lost. If she had had some sheet music in front of her, she would have been on the front foot and known where to take the congregation.  The same advice could have applied if something had gone wrong with the projector or the computer. 

God in the house

Being prepared covers a lot of areas, and you are not always going to get it right. However, never forget: God is in the house and He's in charge. He will not allow your foot to slip (Ps 121:3). And however inadequate and failed our beautiful worship leader felt when she got off the stage, there were people crying under the anointing of the Holy Spirit as they were being ministered to and many people came to her (and to me) after the service commenting on how beautiful the worship was today. 

God Bless you! You are an amazing anointed worship leader!
Have a great Sunday!

Tuesday 8 November 2011


Worship and hymns. 

Recently I was at a seniors conference…as a guest. 
One of the speakers was bemoaning the fact that there is a general obligation on the part of the older generation to embrace what he referred to as the modern contemporary music in the worship service, without there being any requirement of the younger generation to honour the oldies with their music. 
I agree. We keep getting more and more modern with our church services, and it is good to embrace  change, however as church we are a community of people that should embrace all generations. 

To confirm history we  look further back. The reason we trust the Bible is because throughout the ages it has proved itself to be true and accurate time and again. So if we embrace history as confirmation of the present, then why don't we embrace those who have been part of it? 
I love worship. I love leading worship, and I love seeing a church full of raised hands. 
I am one of those people who also loves all types of music. There is not much I can't listen to, from Pink Floyd to Vivaldi, from Enrico Caruso to the Corrs, I count myself as having a good taste in a variety of music. In worship I am the same, and I also love hymns. 
So should we do hymns in a Sunday worship service? 

Not a backward step

I am not suggesting we need to replace the modern contemporary worship service with hymns. And for that matter, if you talk to the older generation, they wouldn't suggest that either. There are however, a number of hymns which do not know the boundaries of time or the generations. Great, anointed songs that have blessed, filled, and lifted the generations for, well, generations! We should incorporate hymns into our worship service. 
There are great hymns like How Great Thou Art, and Holy, Holy, Holy, which can be re arranged to suit modern music, instrumentation, arrangements and music tastes. My only very strong suggestion is that if you are going to do a hymn in a service, don't re-arrange the song so much that it is no longer recognisable. 
I personally use hymns regularly, and it is amazing to see when you look out over the congregation, how many eyes are closed and hands are raised when a hymn is sung. People don't need to look at a screen, they  have the words written in their hearts.  The music is familiar, so they sing it with gusto, with great passion and often with great emotion.  
There is something so amazing about using hymns in your service that you won't get any other time. It is unique. 

If you are a young modern church with a mainly younger congregation, you may be surprised at the incredibly positive response you get if you introduce a hymn into your service. Most young people don't know what a hymn is, and many people in our church have not been part of a church tradition, so for them it is another song. 
I also note with interest that there has been of late an increase in the use of hymns in places like Hillsong and other churches which regularly release praise and worship albums. 
I also like to string together contemporary songs and hymns, rolling from one into another, and using the hymn as a build into worship. 
I recommend you think about what I've written and think about ways in which you can incorporate hymns into your worship service. And watch what happens…. 

Which Hymns?

Some of the hymns which I regularly include in my worship leading also include: The Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, All to Jesus I Surrender, Great is thy Faithfulness, Just as I Am, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. 
There are many other richly anointed  awesome songs which have stood the test of time. 

Oh and by the way, the song we did at the  conference was an old hymn: "T'is so sweet to trust in Jesus". What a great and challenging way to finish a blog!

Have an awesome Sunday