Category Archives: Music

Shocking Reality

FireBIGAs I observe the times in which we live, I sense almost a dread at the shocking reality of Christian beliefs.  Our times are filled with Christianity, in all shapes and sizes.  Some churches which would place themselves under the umbrella of Christianity deny that Jesus is even God’s Son.  To me, that is a shocking reality; while others pick and choose which teachings of Christ they will embrace and trash the others as archaic or irrelevant.  That is also a shocking reality.

However, the most shocking reality is the beliefs that people embrace about salvation.  There are those who feel that they will safely arrive into heaven’s domain because they belong to a certain church, or have completed a course, or have practiced a religious activity.  And then there are the myriads of humanity which have been “born-again,” and that also comes in all shapes and sizes!

Salvation: What does it mean to be saved, born-again, converted?  Of all the doctrines of the Bible, it is understandable that Satan would work the hardest at distorting this one!  What a price we pay for not embracing the whole truth about salvation!  What do I mean by that?  Read on…

Let’s say that you live in a community that has a wonderful community group, which does a lot of wonderful things.  They are very organized, not just a loosely banded group, and they require members to fill out an application.  You have attended some of their meetings, have even joined in with some of their activities, but you haven’t filled out the application.  Are you a member?  No.  When it would come time for any votes to be taken or any major decisions made, you would not be included.  Why?  Because you did not fill out the application.

You may really believe in their cause.  You may like them.  They may accept your presence happily and wish that you would join “officially.”  They may even give you the application and urge you to join; but for whatever the reason, you just didn’t do it.

Salvation:  Is it just believing in God?  If so, then according to a recent poll 74% of Americans are saved.  If you believe that, I have a great deal on some land in Florida I’d like to sell you!  🙂

Is it asking Jesus to be your Savior?  I would think that most of you would say, yes.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10: 13

The above scenario about the community group creates the problem concerning someone who purposely did not fill out the application.  The spiritual equivalent: someone purposefully no asking Jesus to be their Savior.  Why wouldn’t you do that?  Maybe you just never got around to it.  Maybe you don’t think it’s necessary.  Maybe you know the commitment it will involve and you’re not ready to commit.  Maybe you don’t believe in that sort of thing. Maybe you think your way or your churches way is good enough. Whatever the excuse, just know that there are consequences for not making that commitment – a big one called hell.

Is it possible to ask Him to be your Savior and still not go to heaven?  Yes – it’s not the words, it’s the heart.  Is it possible to really, really mean it and not go to heaven?  Yes – if you really, really mean it because you just don’t want to go to hell, but you will not admit your sin and forsake it – be saved from it, in Jesus name.  How could someone be saved from sin if they don’t want to let go of their sinful life and seek holiness?

“But I believe that God will accept me just the way I am.  That’s just your interpretation of the Bible.”   Another shocking reality: God loves each of us more than we could ever understand.  His love is completely unconditional – I can’t do anything to make Him love me more or less.  In fact, He loves us SO MUCH that He willingly sent His Son to die in our place – He, God the Father, placed every one of our sins on God, the Son – His ONLY Son!  Wow!  That’s beyond my comprehension!  And then someone will say that God would accept a person because they are good, even though they refuse to bow the knee and ask forgiveness – asking Jesus to save them?  The shocking reality is that many people think that way.  How do I know, because I see lives that talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk.  There’s no sense of “God” in their lives except when they are in church, IF they even go to church.

Am I talking about sinless perfection?  No, just a heart for God, the rest will follow!  We, as born-again believers, all have a walk to walk.  God knows what it is that He wants us to do to glorify His name.  What a wonderful thought!

If the Holy Spirit is urging you to make a decision for Christ, don’t continue to ignore Him!

Revelation 22:7 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Complete in Thee! no work of mine
May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.

Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And glorified, I too, shall be!

Complete in Thee—no more shall sin,
Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;
Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,
And I shall stand complete in Thee.

Complete in Thee—each want supplied,
And no good thing to me denied;
Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,
I ask no more, complete in Thee.

Dear Savior! when before Thy bar
All tribes and tongues assembled are,
Among Thy chosen will I be,
At Thy right hand—complete in Thee.

 Aaron Robarts Wolfe (1821-1902),James Martin Gray, chorus (1851-1935)

If you have never made that commitment to Jesus Christ, and you don’t quite understand what salvation is, maybe it would help to read “What is Salvation” at the top.

For Musicians Only

ID-1009202When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, so many lessons for my Christian walk are brought to mind!

First, may I say that this collection of hymn arrangements, In Remembrance are absolutely beautiful.  (Dan Forrest has also put out a CD by the same name, and includes all the pieces in this book.) At first glance, they don’t look to be that difficult.  There aren’t the tedious running arpeggios that you find in Fay Lopez’s arrangements (also beautiful, just difficult!).  It just doesn’t look as though there are that many notes; HOWEVER, Dr. Forrest says plenty with few notes!  He manages to sneak in little counter-melodies all over the place, and unless you really practice, they will be missed, and the music loses a lot of meaning!

He also uses beautiful mixtures of harmony, creating wonderful splashed of musical color! Anyone with a bit of piano skill can play this music, but unless you really pay attention to every note, a lot will be missed!  For example, it always fascinates me that by changing one note, an F chord is now an a minor chord–big difference in the key of F!  The Tonic (I) or key note chord becomes the minor Submediant (vi) chord!  If I play the F chord, it will sound alright, but if I play it correctly as an a minor chord–BIG DIFFERENCE!

But then I think, is it really a big difference to the average listener?  I can hear you out there shouting, “No!  I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” Well, I suppose that’s true; however, who am I playing this offertory for anyway?  Is it for me, or for the congregation, or my Lord Jesus, or all of the above?  Obviously,the answer is: all of the above.

There are times when I wonder if it’s really worth all the practicing.  I mean, if we have seventy-five people on a Sunday, we’re thrilled! My heart continually reminds me of two things:

  1. All those dear folks in the pews that I love so much deserve to receive my best.
  2. My wonderful Lord and Savior is the primary receiver of my worship, and He deserves my best!

But there is another lesson to be learned.  As I practice and study and analyze, I gain a better understanding of the music, AND I love it more!!! You know where I’m going–all too true about the Word and the One who gave it to us!!! The more we read and study and analyze the Bible, the more precious it becomes!

The practicing enables me to play with confidence; but more than that, it enables me to put my heart into the music.  Reading God’s Word enables me to live with confidence: but more than that, it enables me to put His heart into my life!

GREAT VERSE FOR PIANISTS: “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight” Psalm 144:1

GREAT VERSE FOR LIFE: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should hew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9

“Mind” Your Master!

ID-100141782Ah, my first day of a new year – I’m only twenty-two minutes into this fifty-fourth year and God’s Spirit calls me from my lovely bed, stirring my heart and thoughts.  Now if only I can harness them and pull them all together into one communicable blog!

It started when I awoke from a dream – a bad dream, a real dream from my wicked past.  It’s as though Satan can’t stand the thought that I’ve had such a wonderful day walking with my Lord; so he tries to spoil it by reminding me of the pit where Jesus found me!  He’s so sneaky – using something as defenseless as a dream. But I have learned long ago that I’m the only one that remembers – God will not remember my sins any more (Jer. 31:34) and “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12.  Boy, Satan can’t stay around for long when I start remembering these precious promises from God.  Soon, the dream and its haunting memory are gone!  A sweet cool summer breeze floats into the window reminding me of God’s Spirit:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,                                                                       but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth…” John 3:5

With free and wandering blasts as it wishes.” That’s how a note from the Geneva Bible aptly expresses it. Oh how wonderful to know that we have the Spirit of God and mind of Christ!

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?                                                               But we have the mind of Christ.” 1Corinthians 2:16

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”                                                                                        Philippians 2:5

Is it possible to comprehend such a truth?  I don’t think so!  But there it is in the Word of God, so I must believe it.  I have the mind of Christ – surely that will change everything about me: first, the way I think, then the way I go! My thoughts become centered on Jesus, although I am quickly reminded that this weak flesh can never fully grasp what that means.  In my whole lifetime, I will only gain a tiny thimbleful of the vast ocean of God’s understanding!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,                              saith the LORD.                                                                                                                       For as the heavens are higher than the earth,                                                                                                                     so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. “                                         Isaiah 55:8,9

But I know that as His Spirit lives in me controlling my mind, so my life is changed completely, and this world is no longer home.  I’m truly a sojourner just passing through!  As I live and work in this world, my eye (my mind!) is focused on the next.  Often we are reminded that living in the past is no way to live, for in so doing we miss all the blessings of the day.  But living in light of eternity – in the future – only keeps our minds in Christ and everything else in proper focus!  As I work down here, I think of my Lord working up there: preparing a place for me!  Isn’t that what we do when we are parted from a loved one?  Right now our youngest (my baby!) is working as a counselor at the Wilds Christian Camp.   How often my mind wanders down to North Carolina into the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to that special place, and I wonder what he’s doing at the moment.  I haven’t been to heaven but it’s the same concept as my mind goes there and my heart clings to His promises:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3

 …and I think about my Savior there fulfilling these promises and my mind is stayed on Jehovah!

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Refrain

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Refrain

Frances Havergal (lived a short 43 years!)

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Our Song of Victory!

I recently had a piano student prepare a beautiful hymn arrangement, and I asked her to play it for an offertory at church.  I was surprised to hear her say that my daughter had recently played the same piece, and a lesson came to mind:

We all have the same story to tell: Jesus Saves! And each of us is to tell the story in our own way.  Even though both my daughter and this student played the same hymn arrangement, I doubt that anyone listening would have known that.  Why?  Because each played with their own style. The notes were the same, but the delivery was certainly not – and both played it beautifully!

Perhaps Priscilla J. Owens can help us out here.  She wrote the following words, published in 1882 for the Union Square Methodist Church Sunday school in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Thank you for that information: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/e/jesussav.htm)  Take a look at the words below and notice all her suggestions (I’ve highlighted them for you! )

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing it softly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

What a wonderful story we have to tell to a lost and dying world!  Several years ago, I was subbing for an English teacher who had given the students the assignment of writing a speech about themselves.  It seemed as though she may have given them questions to get them started.  One question must have been, “What are you afraid of?”  To my surprise, many of the boys especially wrote that they were afraid of dying, probably because a young man from the area had just been killed in Iraq.  I wanted to stand before them and shout the Gospel! Unfortunately, that is outlawed in our public schools! How sad!

We have a story to tell, dear Christian.  It isn’t the eloquence of your delivery that is important, it isn’t how smart you are, or how much Bible you know; it isn’t your audience that matters – what matters the most is that you ARE telling those you meet the best news they will ever hear: Jesus saves!  If you have truly been born-again than you have all that you need to tell others!  Just tell them what happened to you, and God will do the rest!

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”  Ephesians 6:19

A Lesson From the Piano Strings

For those of you who know the workings of a piano, you understand that the damper pedal moves the felt dampers off of the strings so that they will ring or vibrate when other strings are being struck by hammers as the pianist plays.  The affect is beautiful; in fact, even the average listener would be able to tell if the pianist was not using the damper pedal.  The sound is flat, dull and lifeless.

As I was thinking about this today, I thought of the wonderful illustration it gives of Psalm 133:

 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

When a fellowship of believers is united, each one “rings” out the praises of God.  What a beautiful song we make when we are all united in our praise and are “vibrating” or responding as the Word is preached or the choir is singing or someone is giving a testimony!

You know, I believe almost anything would taste good drenched in chocolate!  However, if the strings are coated with anything, they will not be able to vibrate.  What sin is keeping you from “vibrating” in tune to God’s Word?  Do you come to church loaded down with the cares of this world?

ID-1009202When we were at our first ministry, I once told Tom that I was going to place a box by the door of our kitchen where he could deposit all the burdens of the ministry, so that he didn’t carry them into our home and destroy our heavenly atmosphere!  We need to apply the same principle to our times of corporate worship as well as to our private devotional times with God.  Always start each with a time of prayer: praising God, but then confessing our sins and shedding all the debris that’s cluttering our lives.  Then our hearts will be “tuned to sing [His] grace,” and we will be ready to be teachable.

So, next Sunday, come prepared to vibrate!  Come and worship and do your part!

Ps 96:3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

Practice Makes Perfect!

ID-1009202I’ve taught piano lessons for nearly forty years, (I started teaching when I was two 🙂 )  and I’ve had all kind of students!  One of the most common statements that I hear is, “I played it perfect at home!”  One of the greatest blessings about teaching piano is knowing how many of those students are now serving the Lord with their talents!

There have been times whenI have had students that are really talented but they do not succeed because they do not have the discipline or heart to practice.  I have also had students with much less talent who have succeeded to the best of their abilities because they DO have the heart and discipline to make it happen.

It’s almost comical to me to see a student that hasn’t practice stumble through a piece.  I often have the feeling that they think they are fooling me into believing that they practiced!  It ain’t happening!

One of my favorite statements about lessons is this: You do not learn to play an instrument by taking lessons but by practicing!

To be honest, some lessons are real torture!  As I sit there week after week listening to music that shows little effort or improvement, I want to send them on their way!  If it continues too long, I will talk to the student first and say that it isn’t fair to waste my time or their parents’ finances to continue.  I hate doing that, but at times it is necessary.

Then there are the lessons that are pure joy!  Those students come in practiced and ready to go.  It’s like a musical journey that we walk together, working to improve what we have heard and enjoying the results of their hard work.  We become a team working towards the same goal and it’s exciting to both student and teacher.

I couldn’t help thinking about how much that relates to our Christian journey.  Oh, how O want what I have just described to be true of God and me – a team working together, enjoying the journey!  However, how often does God look down on my walk and endure my effortless wanderings and shallow excuses for not pressing towards the mark?  “But Lord, I just didn’t have time this week.  You know how busy I was.  I just didn’t have the time to read Your Word or time to talk to You in prayer or practice holiness.”

He listens patiently, knowing how much more we could accomplish if we would only have the heart and discipline to do so!  I know He doesn’t get discouraged because that’s a sin, but the example really hit home with me today!

So much to do, and so little time!  Do we apply that statement to the Lord’s work or ours?

Only one life, twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd

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Tonic? Dominant?

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6: 14

Dominion – domain – dominant. Dominant!  Ah, for you music theory lovers, that word has a special meaning!  I will try to put it into ‘layman’ terms.

Music has twelve different tones, and those tones make music, just like the letters of the alphabet make words.  We can play them on any instrument one by one and we get a melody – the tune of a song.  If we pile them up and play or sing them together, we have harmony. Chords make up harmony, and chords come in all shapes and sizes depending on how many tones you put together and what tones you use!

In a scale (do, re, mi…) we can build a chord on every tone.  (Hang in there – there’s a great lesson for us!)  The chord built on ‘do’ or the first pitch of the scale is labeled with a Roman numeral one (I), ‘re’ (II), ‘mi’ (III)… the fifth note, or ‘sol’ is labeled (V) and is called…the Dominant chord!  There it is – Dominant, but why?  To be honest, until today, I wasn’t quite sure.  I mean, shouldn’t the first chord be the Dominant?  The (I) chord built on ‘do’ is called the Tonic.  Tonic?  Why Tonic?  Well, think of the (I) chord as home plate.  Every song you sing ends on the Tonic chord; if it didn’t,  the song wouldn’t feel complete.  Just sing Jesus Loves Me and end on the next to the last note.  It doesn’t feel finished and the chord for that next to the last note pushes your ear to hear the last note.  Guess what – the next to the last note has a Dominant chord, and the last note it Tonic. The Dominant pushes to the Tonic EVERY TIME!  AND if a Dominant chord goes anywhere but to the Tonic at the end of a song, you have what we call a Deceptive CadenceOOOOH!

SP14.3a

Here’s the lesson.  There are so many natural laws in this world.  (I succumbed to one of them in my last blog: gravity!) Music has laws as well. Even if you don’t know or understand the law, your ear naturally reacts to those laws.  That Dominant chord has dominion over the harmony set forth.  It dominates the path which the music will take.  It pushes your ear to want to go home to Tonic!  (What a wonderful name for home: Tonic!!)

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6: 14) Sin does not have to dominate my life!  It doesn’t have to push me to the wrong ending.  When I was not saved, it was true – I was under the natural law of sin.  I naturally was bent to sin and was pushed to its desired end, but no more!  I am now under grace!  My life is a Deceptive Cadence in Satan’s eyes.  He had a plan, a dominating force, but that force was conquered at the cross!! Does that mean I never sin?  Don’t I wish!  It does mean that I don’t have to sin – there’s a big difference!  I have the power to ‘just say no’ because of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Woo! Woo!  That is a very freeing bit of information!  It’s not easy – in fact, it is impossible APART from the GRACE of God, but… ye are not under the law, but under grace!