Sunday, 31 October 2010

salt and light

We were talking about being salt and light, thinking of practical things we can do in the coming week to make an impact in the lives of our friends and family. Simple as that. We've talked about this in iBridge camp on a slightly larger scale - practical things that we can do to make a difference in the different spheres of our nation, i.e. politics, economy, health care, social works (I can't remember the other one). 

These problems seem really big. I mean, you start thinking about it, and you get frightened. It's overwhelming. You look at the forest and go woah, and what were we supposed to do again? But frankly, it isn't our job or our responsibility to change the whole world overnight. It isn't our job to overhaul the system. We can't. The system is rotten and we know it. But right now, with the resources we have, we just cannot change it.
However, what we know is this: if enough people do something about it (or even say something about it), things will change. It's not good enough to say that the system is rotten and it's not fair. We know that. The question is, what are you going to do about it? It only takes a single stone to start and avalanche (or maybe a single snow ball). It doesn't seem dangerous when it starts but it gets big pretty quickly and that really changes things.  
It really isn't any use lamenting the fact that we know that these things aren't good and fair and complaining or wondering why those with the power aren't doing anything about it. We know they aren't, and probably won't unless a miracle happens (we can pray). We know they have too much interested vested in it. It doesn't work to go, "but well, if I were the son of the MP/person in charge/person with power I would do something" because they too have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  
But the best way to make sure that the people put in charge really do the right thing is not to sit around and complain about it. It's to go out there and give your opinion loud enough so that they have to listen. It may even be about replacing those people in charge with the right ones who will do something. 
It isn't easy and it isn't safe. But doing the right thing isn't about being safe. I can't remember who said it at camp, but he said if you're doing something right... expect to get into trouble. Why? Because all those who have interests vested in it aren't going to be happy. And they're going to try their best to shut you up. The thing is, it's never going to change if we never do anything. And if enough people do something, no matter how small, things WILL change. 
How was slavery abolished? By one guy constantly bugging the parliament and attempting to garner support in bugging the parliament. How did the Missionaries of Charity get started? By one woman doing all she could in the slums of India. It works everywhere else... why not with Malaysia?

The problem with Malaysia now... is really our mindsets. 
I guess it stood out extra clearly to me today during our discussion as one guy kept going on about how the system is rotten and how we can't do anything about the system being rotten. What we kept telling him was that yes, we know the system is rotten and we can't do anything about it now, BUT if everyone of us just starts doing the small things that we can do (for example, vote. Or even just helping out in social work, or getting involved in ministries that help the poor and the broken and the migrants) then something will start to change. Even if we can't change everything for everyone, at least that one person you are able to help will have received what he needed. Even if the other 49 still can't fish, at least there is one more person who can fish, and who can help in the work. 
He just couldn't accept that. He kept going on about how it's not his responsibility. He has done his part by paying his taxes and the government should do that bit. To each his own, and let each man decide for himself what he should do. It smacks of selfishness, but we really are selfish people. We want to have our cake and eat it. We want to complain about the state of things but expect that other people will fix it for us. We don't want to get our hands dirty. If I could generalise, I'd say that our age is an age of irresponsibility. We've learnt to pass the buck so well, that we don't know where it stops. 
Our reply to this was fine, to each his own. You decide that you can't do anything and you will not be part of the solution, then that's up to you. We believe that by just doing the little that we can, it will help be a part of the solution (erroneous or not) but we'll take up that responsibility to do that bit. 

I think what really clinched it for me today was the idea of functionality. We normally talk a lot about the analogy of salt and light; salt as a preservative, an aid to healing, a purifier, giving taste and light to show the way, drawing people and giving hope. But we hardly ever think about the fact that salt and light just has a very clear purpose. True, it's wonderful that there are so many things to say about salt and light. The fact remains that for it to just be useful, it has to be used. 
There's no point in having a lit candle if it's already in the light. No one can see it then. For the candle (torchlight for modernity's sake?) to be useful, to serve its purpose it has to be in the dark. And no matter how small or unstable it is, as long as it's there, someone can see. 
For salt to preserve or to heal wounds, or give taste, it has to be in that meat. And meat is by nature, messy and bloody. And if you cook it, it's going to be hot. 

The fact remains that perfection is never going to come in this lifetime. The question is, do you just accept that it isn't and then do NOTHING about it, or do you still do your best to at least get nearer?

Then again, this is just talk. This is just another blog post. What then will we - I - do to make the difference we are talking about? That's where the rubber hits the road, innit?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Shout of the King

The shout of the King is among us
God lives here in our praises
The shout of the King is among us
Praise Him, praise Him
Praise Him in everything
Shout of the King, Blessed 2002 (Hillsong)
The shout of the King, the Son of God
Your presence now here with us
The sound of praise all in a name
Jesus Christ, the one who saves
Shout of the King, Matt Maher
I think I got a little hot under the collar (assuming I was wearing one) at the implication in a not-so-recent worship leader's meeting where someone said something to the effect that all song writers are theologically unsound. I'm probably exaggerating. The fact remains that he DID say something to that effect and the way the senior pastor responded, it sounded like he agreed. (If you think that way, why are you a worship leader and why do you bother with worship in song? I mean, it's all "EMOTIONAL" AND "ARTISTIC" isn't it?)

One such song he brought up was Hillsong's The Shout of the King. He said that 'shout to the Lord' makes perfect sense because we lift up shouts of praise to God. But where does God shout? Why would God shout? Two things that irritated me was the fact that I know that all Hillsongs songs ARE vetted by the senior pastor (or at least the pastoral team) before they are approved and sung, which means that this can't be very far off, even if it was in someways made more "artistic". Secondly, I was relatively sure that I had read this somewhere in the Bible before because I really loved this song and had searched a lot of stuff about it.

Well, it appears in Numbers 23:21:
"He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them."
Bible study tools has this to say:
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob-Many sins were observed and punished in this people. But no such universal and hopeless apostasy had as yet appeared, to induce God to abandon or destroy them.
the Lord his God is with him-has a favor for them.
and the shout of a king is among them-such joyful acclamations as of a people rejoicing in the presence of a victorious prince.
With Gill's exposition as follows:
and the shout of a king is among them;
of God their King, the Shechinah of their King, as the Targum of Onkelos; his glorious Majesty, to whom they make their joyful acclamations, upon his appearing among them, and on the account of the victories he gives them over their enemies: or of the King Messiah, as the Targum of Jonathan, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; and so, in an ancient writing of the Jews, this passage is referred to the days of the Messiah: and this shout may respect the joyful sound of the Gospel, one part of which is, that Zion's King reigns, and which proclaims him to be King, and speaks of the things concerning his kingdom, both the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory; some respect may be had to the sounding of the silver trumpets by the priests on various occasions in Israel; see Numbers 10:1-11.
And Matthew Henry's commentary:
The shout or alarm of a king is among them. They shout against their enemies, as sure of victory and success, glorying continually in God as their King and conqueror for them. They had had the experience of the benefit of God’s presence with them, and his power engaged for them; for God brought them out of Egypt
If you want something more 'traditional' try Wesley's notes:
The shout of a king - That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their King: when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory. This expression implies God's being their King and ruler, and their abundant security and confidence in him.

I don't know. It kind of makes you think that maybe you might want to do your own Biblical research before you call others' into question?
There's another whole post on this here, which mainly highlights the following:

Shout = terua – terua = Alarm (Joshua 6:5; Jeremiah 4:19), signal (Leviticus 25:9), sound of trumpet (Amos 2:2) and exultation of praise to God (Psalm 150:3)The “shout of a king”; therefore, refers to the jubilant sounds by which the presence of the Lord as their King among them was celebrated by Israel.
As a nation, Israel was instructed by signals from the priests blowing trumpets (Num. 10). The Feast of Trumpets illustrates the regathering or Rapture of the Church and the beginning of the regathering of Israel. Another of God's trumpets shall call Israel from the ends of the earth on the Day of Atonement. Isa. 27:12-13; Matt. 24:29-31; 1 Cor. 15:52ff; 1 Thes. 4:13-18
Therefore, The shout of the King must be understood as a militaristic threat, implying that the Lord is a Warrior who leads His hosts to victory. Josh. 6:5, 20; Ps. 47:5; Jer. 4:19; 49:2
So the phrase "shout of the King" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "praise to our warrior King" as noted in the following translations:
Num 23:21 (NLT) “No misfortune is in sight for Jacob; no trouble is in store for Israel. For the LORD their God is with them; He has been proclaimed their king.”
Num 23:21 (GWT) “He doesn’t want any trouble for the descendants of Jacob. He sees no misfortune for the people of Israel. The LORD their God is with them, praised as their king.”

And not to forget this:

"The shout of a king is in their midst." As often happens, the Hebrew here is delightful for its variety of meaningful thought. The word for "shout" (Strong 8643, Harris 2135b) carries the meaning of sound or signal. It is used to mean the sound of trumpet, that is the silver trumpets or the curved horn shofar. In Leviticus 25:9, it is translated "jubilee" Elsewhere it is translated "alarm", and most frequently a jubilant and triumphant shout. Here the shout of the King in the midst of His people Israel is a beautiful reminder to us of the shout of triumph with which our Lord descended from heaven at His return. This is the trumpet signal the Lord's people now hear and recognise, and indeed, the same word is used in Psalm 89:15, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.." They recognise the triumphant shout of their King. It is the time of gathering of the church to Himself, gathering too of Israel, first to her land, then to her Lord... the Saviour out of Zion, Who will turn away iniquity from His people.

And yes, I am not quoting these two sites fully here so that no one can fault me and say 'but your research is only online and everyone knows that everything online is false', as also implied by some dumb politician. If you suspect that something has been "edited" online, you could always go back to the printed copies of the commentaries above.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

the story-arch of a worship set

I've spent a night choosing songs, going back and forth over which songs to sing, what would bring out the message, where are we would like to go with this and finally falling back into the rut of 'I think this is too ambitious, my musicians will kill me, it's going to be a disaster, I don't know why I'm doing this, can I sink into a hole and disappear now?' along with the little voice that says THIS IS GREAT! I LOVE THIS! Negativity usually has more vocab than positivity and is usually louder, don't you think?

I doubt I speak for every worship leader when I say that I choose songs for the story. I don't know if it's a normal method, or it's just some strange thing that I do, but I like to choose songs in a sequence and a theme. I like to bring you somewhere from the start of the praise songs to the end. Maybe it's the way I think, or an outcome of being a writer-ly and reader-ly kind of person.

Sometimes this ends up as having a dual theme between the praise songs and the worship songs because I cannot find one overall theme that fits, but sometimes when things click it just arches over by itself. I don't really know how to explain it. It just happens, which is why I don't like recycling songs and song sets. Re-using a good medley that works, yes, if it fits, but not reusing a whole song set or merely swapping one or two songs in and out. That just doesn't work for me.

Each week is a different week. God says different things all the time. Reusing the same song set is like projecting that God doesn't have anything new to say. There are times when certain songs get chosen together over and over, maybe because they work well together. Nothing wrong with that. There are times when a song is sung every week, or keeps recurring regularly because that is really is what on God's heart (or at least on yours). Nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is if it's done because you don't have time or you don't have the willingness to make time.

This sometimes annoys me though, because I start off wanting to introduce a fresh song, or thinking that we should do a song that hasn't been sung in a while and I get excited about it, but when I actually sit down and craft the songs together, it just doesn't fit anywhere. It doesn't go with what has been happening in my life, in the church, in the present. Usually the "isn't right in my life" is the strongest factor though, because I can only lead you in worship to where I've gone before. I can't take you further than that. (ah, that whole revelation thing of worship was something I wanted to blog but haven't yet)

What I'm bringing you through next weekend (if you don't mind knowing in advance) goes with the theme of missions, since it's missions month and we were requested to insert at least one "missions" song during worship. It goes from the time has come to stand for all we believe in to stating that we believe God is mighty to save and where it says I give my life to follow everything I believe in we dedicate our lives, telling God to take my life, I lay it down at the cross where I am found and into Here am I, all of me, take my life, it's all for Thee where we reconcile what we believe and what we should do with Jesus, I believe in You and I would go to the ends of the earth for You alone are the Son of God and all the world will see that You are God.

Then again in my current (negative) state of mind, I might dumb this down. You'll find out next weekend.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

of worth

"Do I have worth?" asked Nutt.
"Yes, Nutt, you do."
"Thank you," said Nutt, "but I am learning that worth is something that must be continuously accumulated. You asked me to be becoming. Have I become?"
"Yes, Nutt, you have become."

~excerpt from the Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
What makes one worthy? Is it something continuously accumulated? Is it something that has to be worked at and slogged over before it can be maintained? What happens then when things fall through?

Do we need a back-up plan for our dreams so that, as Glenda says to Juliet, "you'd know that if it all goes pear-shaped you could always make it pie-shaped"?

"Do I have worth?" Nutt asks often, and it's a question that I ask most days. Will I still have worth when I miss that deadline, or forget an accounting standard? Will I still have worth if I forget the words or miss the beat in the song? Will I still have worth if my writings get rejected? Will I still have worth if everyone goes for lunch without me?

Traditionally, this post should have ended with a happy-clappy "but I know where my true worth lies... it lies with Jesus!" But for the most part, that would have been the most false and hypocritical ending I have ever written. I know we've had endless countless seminars and sermons about self-worth and security and how it can only be found in Jesus and I know that. It isn't anything new.

The fact remains that there are nights when "It doesn't matter because Jesus loves me anyway" doesn't ring true because it does matter to me. It matters very much that in my mid-twenties I am more alone than I thought I would be when I was in high school. The lofty ideas of meeting a great guy and having a great relationship and the wistful dreams of having a close-knit party of friends where I am never the odd-ball, the outsider, the unwanted tag-along has remained just that - lofty ideas and wistful dreams. For the most part, I'm probably to blame because I'm just as introverted and prickly as ever.

Worth. Do I have worth? Yes I do. I know I do. It's just sometimes hard to believe it.