Archive for the ‘ worship ’ Category

The Future is Rend Collective Experiment

Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) is the future. I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying that a lot lately — be it about the iPhone or iPad or the ebbs and flows of social media — but RCE here is the real deal.

Imagine this: the Rend Collective is a bolt of blue, a breath of fresh air, a streak of light across a night sky. Throwing out what we understand about modern worship out of the window, right with the baby and bathwater. Completely redefining what we consitute about the ‘sound’ of worship, infusing a whole new sense of what it should be like, and presenting with such honesty, realness and verve. Oh, I could wax lyrical about their music the whole day long if I had to. But more than that, more than the bright-eyed, whimsical musings of star-struck wonder, more than just plain good music, you can touch, feel, experience the joy of the Lord reverberating through their notes and melody.

What truly sets RCE apart is the sense of freedom that propels their music, best expressed in ‘Movements’ — in which the video perfectly illustrates their sound — it’s the liberation, the elevated joy, that we possess because of Jesus. No longer prisoners of sin but of hope. What would your reaction be if you, a slave born to a life of servitude, wretchedness and death, were told that, ‘You are set free from your slavery, your bonds are undone; you are now a king, a beloved son, and all that is in the kingdom is now yours’? Would you not shout, dance and sing? Would you not give praise to the One who broke the chains, bought you liberty?

What RCE does is reveal that freedom and that joy. And it is all too evident in their music. Like in ‘You Bled‘, it’s a song of praise, of exultant worship, contemplative but without the sombre weight that accompanies most of the music we hear from Christian bands nowadays. It’s a celebration. One that frees you to be who you are, whoever you may be, but also welcomes you with open arms; it’s not a commission or an exhortation, but an invitation! Worship in the Father’s house is always one that includes and never excludes. We are brothers and sisters all, each different and every one unique, all belonging.

And there is always dancing, that expression of pure joy, that spreads and suffuses every inch of your being, that you can’t help but sing and smile and move; united together with the sharing of that same rich exhiliration that can only come with the revelation of the price and purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice of love. It’s faith and hope and love, wrapped into one person, expressed in this music. Community.

Rend Collective Experiment shows us a whole new way of expressing worship. ‘Radical’ is not the word. Nor is ‘transcendent’. But it is real. And inclusive. And maybe that’s what we need to know most about God.

P.S There is so much to be said about the individual videos as well. iPhone worship is one example of their boundary-breaking efforts. I love their use of brass instruments, the collective scenes of fun and celebration (in ‘Movements’ and in the end of ‘You Bled’), and the mash-ups of old hymns in ‘You Bled’ (How wonderful/how marvellous and Yes, Jesus loves me) and the narrative of children. How it alludes to how we must approach the things of God like a child, and how God is best seen through their eyes of simple faith and open hearts.

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Every Night

Poetry is exactly unlike what the word suggests. It is the haphazard cobbling of bits and pieces of emotions, sensations and imagination. The slide on a blues guitar. Colours caught on film negatives. The sound of ivory. The briefest of glances. How skin creases as her face forms a smile. The chance sparkle in her eyes and all the promises held within. Each night a prayer rising towards heaven, and a whispered ‘alleluia’.

Tonight the words don’t form up like they usually do. But all I need is to close my eyes and learn to dream again. You find me once again, needing Your breath, your touch and your quiet voice in the stillness, with every hope and future held in Your hands.

Explosions and Worship

Explosions in the Sky.

I first came to know of the band when I began watching the first season of Friday Night Lights. Snippets of the band’s work were meshed seamlessly into the frames to elevate it beyond the mundane. The music was moody ambience; crushed velvet with the subtle hint of melancholy silently filling the empty spaces. It was memories replayed in the head but embellished with the reminiscent fondness that so often seeps from the heart.. melodic crescendos of sound mixed with distillations of the soul..

I never knew ordinary music could be so singularly powerful. It is even more startling considering the band doesn’t use vocals in any of the songs. So their music allows the listener’s vivid imagination to conjure an entire plethora of meanings.. frantic drumbeats and razor-sharp guitar notes blend into the pulsating joy of five senses suddenly come awake (‘First Breath After Coma‘) and firing electric signals into your brain as you realise you are alive – not just a vegetative semblance of a human being – but alive.

Alive with life.

Explosions’ music inspires me. It is music for sunsets burning in the horizon, with the wind in your face; for nights spent in solitude as you stare at the moon and her stars and begin to dream; for mornings when you peek out of the window and marvel at the sun-coloured clouds creeping across the sky at dawn.

It is music for remembering and for writing. It’s the rush of blood to your cheeks as you feel the touch of her skin against yours for the first time (‘Your Hand in Mine‘).

Listening to Explosions makes me introspective. I began thinking of how musicians wring and weave such complexities in their music in their quest to attain the perfect sound. For one such as me, possessing only a minuscule amount of such ability, such a venture is daunting, if not impossible.

But Abba is a God of such wonderful contradictions. Following a listening session of EitS rose within me such a desire to commune with Him that I picked up the guitar and began playing the simple four-chord progression which was the first one I learned. With my soul already so sensitive to nuance I felt the entire weight – or perhaps that indescribable lightness of being – of His presence filling the room.

It was glorious. No need for words, not even tongues, in those moments as His majesty unfolded before me. The lavish gift of Jesus and the entirety of salvation revisited once again, and once again leaving me in awestruck silence.

Then it hit me: only through Jesus can simplicity become perfection. The perfect soul-music for the perfect moment.

However, the essential thing to be shared is that what truly began was a shift in how I perceived worship to be. Reading Kauflin’s article on worship gave me further pause for thought – what was the word after the transitive verb of “worship”, for me?

‘When we say we’re going to “worship”, we need to define the object of our attention and affections. It has to be more than the sound of the band, an emotional high, being with the people we enjoy, or any of the other things we tend to associate with “worship”.’

I think that Abba deepened my understanding of it. I’ve been to that place where I’m going through the motions – the raised hands, eyes closed and face arranged to convey an expression of reverence and dignity – but with my heart in some faraway place and not turned to God.

But I can tell that something has started to change from within.. in exactly what ways, I am unable to elucidate at this point of time. And just yesterday, during the closing song in Arrow service, the band playing the new song with guitar riffs surprisingly similar to Explosions’, those few minutes seemed to transcend through time as I opened my heart to Him.

There were no prayers from my mouth.. for I thought, why the need to say anything to my Father who weaves the desires of my heart and cultivates my very breath and soul; there were no heartfelt pleas.. for I thought, why the need to explain to Him who knows me to the bones of my bones..

I have just heard Him whisper: the absence of sound is not utter silence.. when words fail, the quietness you spend in my presence carries all the meanings you cannot express.

And in the space of those few minutes, ensconced in His presence, it was fresh revelation of worship.. and I felt as if I had touched the very face of God.

Beyond Price

Abba, you are simply amazing. It is moments like this that I love, when I am confronted by the sheer majesty and beauty of Your heart and goodness that I am rendered speechless in awe. Moments when I can only remain silent and lift my hands, stretching them forth before heaven, and simply being still to worship you. I imagine myself silently dashing into Your arms in the throne room, and hearing Your cry of delight as you sweep me into a fatherly embrace.

Thank you for the privilege of witnessing what happened tonight. As the three of us gathered in that small area behind the curtains to pray, we were enveloped in a comforting darkness, though we could see well enough by the light that filtered through the gaps. It was a place of quietness and safety, which seemed to me rather fitting for the matter at hand. I felt like an intruder however, as if I were not supposed to be there, a brutish lout barging into a secret conversation that only You and the ladies were privy too.

As she prayed over her, I felt your Spirit rushing around us like a roaring flood. Its immediacy was astonishing, but its gentleness was a soothing, familiar touch. However, I found myself a spectator instead, as if You were giving me a glimpse of how You saw all your ‘daddy’s little girls’. Precious gems beyond price, being cut with an intricacy and deftness as befits the superior skill of a master craftsman or jeweller. I saw You setting them into precious metals, enhancing their infinite value, while also granting them purpose.

All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Songs 4:7

That is how You see them. I ask that you engrave that into my heart, soul, mind and Spirit, that I may not forget nor foolishly take for granted. You are showing me the secrets of Your heart that is always, always turned towards your people. Abba, once again you have left me in awe of Your majesty.

All glory to You in the highest!

You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.”
Songs 4:9

The Heart of Worship

In the failing light of day and onset of dusk, I went to sit up on my bed and took my guitar with me. My guitar is a humble thing, a classical one that I pulled metal strings on to make sound like an acoustic. I usually play a set of four chords together, very simple but something I always play when in my quiet time with Abba.

I didn’t really have an idea of what to do, but there was something that I wanted to bring before Abba. A part of my old self that I wanted to leave behind forever. I knew that I had to step boldly before my Abba and surrender it to him.

“Make me deepened in Your love as I seek You, Abba.”

After that I kept quiet, playing the few chords that I knew, focusing on Him, inviting His spirit to sweep the small room as the sky darkened and bled into the evening. As minutes passed I started to pray and sing, paying no heed to being in tune or blending lyrics into the melody. I sought Him desperately, in words and music that would have sounded terrible to anyone who would have heard it.

I came to Him in utter brokenness, for what was I without Him? How can I lift my head before Abba outside of the covenant established in Jesus? Can Abba’s work in us be done without the fullness of His grace?

Abba, I said, take all that I am. Take every broken piece of my self, and transform it into wholeness in the light of Jesus’s sacrifice.

I yield all that I am unto thy hands.

Take all of me and make me all of You.

Make me new.

As I played with my broken chords and haphazard singing, all too frequently stumbling with both the words and strumming, Abba gave me glimpse of the way He saw me. He didn’t see me as I saw myself, being inept and inexpressive with music or unable to sing with both verve and skill.

No. Not in any way did He see me as inadequate.

Right at the moment, the tears just started streaming forth from my eyes. The Spirit burst from within like an open dam, and I felt the love of God pulsating throughout the very core of my being as if I was immersed in the flood.

Don’t you know how beautiful your worship is to me? He asked.

I was struck speechless, more overwhelmed than I had ever been during praise and worship in church. I could not form the words to say anything being caught up as I was in the endless tide of Abba’s love. I saw David, worshipping God as he was out alone, with only a harp and his sheep for company, in the fields far from home.

Abba then said, All the psalms in the Word cannot describe the fullness of the beauty I see in you as you worship.

So, so beautiful.

I am not ashamed to say it; I cried. I cried like I never have before, in the presence of my loving God. Tears rolled down my face to fall damp on my shirt. Not tears of grief or sorrow, but tears of awe and joy and love and gratitude and everything else about Abba that cannot be described in language.

My shoulders heaved with soundless sobs as the waves of His love washed over me. There really are no words to explain it; be it that I could! Yet the love of God defies human understanding, for it cannot be discerned by the mind.

Abba didn’t see the four same chords played to death over and over again. He didn’t frown at the ineloquence of my prayer and my dull, croaking voice. He didn’t shake his head at my poorly guitar and its woeful sound. Nor did he disdain my humble surroundings, or even me, clad in t-shirt and shorts, sitting alone in my room with no ears or eyes around me to witness my worship.

What had I to offer? What can I possibly give unto Him that did not already belong to Him?

Worship springs from the heart that is turned towards God, He whispered.

And I am the heart of worship.

Jesus THE History-Maker (Pt III)

I’m loving this life as a child of God. I love the way Abba guides my feet to a deeper intimacy with him, illuminating His word that with my spiritual eyes I may perceive the heart He has for me. It seems that for the first time in years, the Bible has come alive – I read a few verses and in the Spirit I start rejoicing and realise what a great, loving Abba I have. Indeed as David declared: Abba’s love is better than life.

It may be that my journal entries appear a tad longer than usual and possibly quite boring as well, but Abba has placed so much in my heart that it feels full to bursting, so I just have to share it here!

“I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!”
Psalm 34:1-3

As I’ve mentioned earlier, HistoryMakers 6ix was the time when Abba opened the floodgates on what it means to praise and worship Him. Oftentimes in the past, in utter foolishness as I now see in hindsight, praise and worship to me was a chance for me to get ‘high’ on the Spirit or overwhelmed with emotion. I actually wonder how many times was I really praising and glorifying Him – I am sure there were moments when I truly was, but I was so easily distracted. My mind would wander to other things – of things of work, personal issues or idle thoughts.

When the band or worship leaders were playing poorly, or when I heard a song I didn’t like, it seemed as if the zip had gone out of the praise and worship. The problem wasn’t any of that, as I’ve come to realise. It was me. I started looking at these things to create the ‘atmosphere’ that I wrongly thought to be necessary for me to praise and worship Him ‘properly’. I felt the music direction was heading the wrong way – too rehearsed, too conscious of keeping up appearances, too constrained (though now it seems the campus band is taking many leaves out of Hillsongs United’s book).

Abba was still faithful with his misguided son. He just placed one thought in my heart when it came to praise and worship: “Just seek to give Me glory.” That threw open the gates for me. I was overwhelmed, not by the music or songs, but by the indeniable grace and beauty of my Lord. I stood like a man who is transfixed by the indescribable glory of a living, undeniably real God. Not only by His divinity and holiness, but rather by the heart He has for me; rendered speechless that I would be loved so much by such a mighty God.

Abba is so, so, so good. Even when we seek Him and give Him praise, He responds:

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
Psalm 34:4-7 (continued from above verse)

He delivers from ALL our fears; as we behold Him, we are filled with an overflowing joy because we know how much He favours us; even when we are at our weakest, He still hears our cry – delivering us from our circumstances.

Jesus surrounds us like a shield, a fortification against evil, and yes, DELIVERS us. This psalm is beautiful. It constantly assures us that Abba is our ever present help in time of need. What is even better is that we need not resort to our weak arm of flesh to attain this favour from Him, for all we need to do is to look to Him. To behold a God who is ever-willing, ever-loving, ever-lasting, ever-faithful. Our Abba.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
v.8-10

Jesus himself says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” Praise and worship gives us that opportunity to seek Him. To attribute to Him the glory He so richly deserves. To praise Him for His goodness, his loving kindness and tender mercies.

Abba’s heart is always turned towards us, smiling at us, ever ready to pour His favour down on us. Ready to rescue us when we call out for Him. Even in the most dire of circumstances, He is there in the midst of us.

“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.”
v.15-18

Amen and amen. Such are the promises of God toward the righteous. What blessed assurance! Have hope, that confident expectation of good, that Abba will swoop to rescue you from whatever circumstances you find yourself in. His eyes and ears are turned towards you, ready to act when you cry for Him. Imagine yourself as a child in a playground, and Abba the doting father watching you play. When you fall and bruise your knee and cry out in pain, how swift will Abba run to your side? Even when you are consumed by the hurt in your knee, Abba already knows what He will do. He will bring you to the doctor’s, care for you until you are well, and He knows before long you will be again running and laughing in the playground. Yet we sometimes are so consumed by the pain that we fail to see beyond it.

Take heart! For our Abba in heaven has promised us never to leave us in our time of need, for He will always be near; Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Jesus THE History-Maker (Pt II)

One thing I remember very clearly from what John shared that night was that even as we give our praise and shout glory to Abba during praise and worship, we also RECEIVE from Him, as the verse from Psalms in the previous entry shows.

There is this verse from Zephaniah that has been imprinting itself on my heart ever since Christmas. Even when I’m reading devotionals or articles on Boundless, watching videos on YouTube, or simply doing things that seemingly having nothing to do with worship, I keep seeing this verse being quoted or used. It is nothing short of amazing, and all glory goes to Abba. I am beginning to understand why it is called the Living Word; I keep seeing layers upon layers of Abba’s goodness as I begin to meditate on a single verse. I strip one away and think it done, but Abba then brings me to another to marvel at and ponder upon.

Charles Spurgeon said in one of his sermons (which touched on the Zephaniah verse!), “Holy scripture is wonderfully full and abiding in its inner sense. It is a springing well, whereat you may draw, and draw again; for as you draw, it springs up for ever new and fresh. It is a well of water springing up everlastingly.”

Amen, amen and amen!

Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.”
Zephaniah 3:14-15

The verse above tells us how we sing and rejoice because we are no longer held accountable for our sins, for one Man has paid the price for it all by hanging on the cross, the sacrificial Lamb of God.

We sing and shout aloud, be glad and rejoice simply because of Jesus Christ. The Saviour who took upon himself the sins of the world so that we may be called righteous by faith! A Jamieson, Fausset and Brown (JFB) commentary calls it “happiness follow[ing] in the wake of holiness”; it is the surpassing joy we have in our salvation!

There is a change within me that burns fiercer than a bonfire; it is a hunger, a spiritual craving for more of Abba’s living Word that is ‘full and abiding’, that still springs up new and fresh, sweeter than the best wine, even as I continue to draw from it.

Yes, surely we as children of God will praise and rejoice in His name when we realise the magnitude of His love and passion for us when Abba sent Jesus to die for our sins. Indeed we have been forgiven much and been given so much. Yet do you know that Abba doesn’t just stop there? He doesn’t just wipe our slate clean and then leave us to our own devices, to fend for ourselves in world that has no mercy for those who cannot “keep up”, so to speak.

No, what Abba promises is that He will never leave or forsake us, and even as we praise Him for His goodness, He delights in us, and likewise rejoices with singing!

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

The original Hebrew of “he will quiet you with his love” is literally “he shall be silent (charash) in his love”. It means that Abba is so completely overwhelmed in His love for us, that there is no language in existence that can describe the vastness of this love that He bears towards us. This silence, as Spurgeon says, is infinitely expressive.

God isn’t distant or removed from us, not as a Supreme Being staring down from the clouds at his minions, all the while perched on his Throne. That is not the heart God has towards us; He is with us, on the greatest level of intimacy, completely overjoyed at us when we dance and jump and shout and weep as we praise and worship Him. Why do you think we call him Abba, Daddy or Father?

Is it not amazing? That Abba, who was silent in His love for us, would then break out in a song of joy for His beloved? He did not sing when he created the heavens and the earth, but instead burst out rejoicing with a song when He looked upon us. We, who are as nothing compared to God, but were blood-bought by Jesus himself, that we may call ourselves the sons of God. We, the redeemed of Calvary, that would move Abba to sing a hymn of joy!

It is such a privilege, such a precious gift, this Salvation of mine, that it drives me to my knees. Such as Isaiah was when he cried “Woe is me! I am undone!” when He laid eyes on Abba. My Abba, my beautiful saviour. Who am I that you would deign to send Jesus to die for? Such grace and mercy! Such loving kindness! What love can compare to Yours?

Abba, may all that issues from my lips be words that shall glorify Your name. May all who see me instead see You in the highest, for only You deserve all glory!

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