We are so limited. We have speed limits, spending limits, credit limits, some people shop at a place called “The Limited”, we even have Limited Liability Corporations (LLC). If they aren’t liable for the products that they put into people’s hands then who is?God is not like this. He is just so unlimited in everything He does!
The list goes on and on. It is in fact limitless.
I cannot wait to see “The Unlimited One” face-to-face, but in the meantime, I make the best of this limited world with my limited abilities.
Attending a Christian concert can be a really good time and an uplifting experience but it is not meant to be a replacement for attending a church worship service because we need to be participants and not just spectators.
As a church musician, my goal is not to copy what I hear at a concert because I am not there to entertain, I am there to serve and it’s a huge difference. The most important piece is not the sound quality or how well I play my instrument; it’s how people are being fed God’s truths and given the opportunity to join in praise as we sing together. And for this reason, no one really cares if I make a mistake. In fact, the people in the pews are like family to me. They are not supposed to be musical critics. They are worshipers.
But we are sinners and that means that we sometimes get critical even to the point of deciding what style and what instruments God prefers. I often wonder if God really cares much about musical styles because styles come and go like the wind. I am however sure that He cares about the hearts of those that make and those that sing the music. It is after all music that gives us a language and a vocabulary of engagement with God that is pleasing and beautiful.
In the end, we are all servants united by a common purpose and we are not defined or divided by style.
This is a great way to read the Bible, with awe and as if God is talking to you! Because He is!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, (He is in me!)
there is freedom. (for this I am thankful)
And we all, (this of course includes me)
who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, (I don’t have to veil my face as even Moses once did)
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, (Is he really talking about me here? This is awesome!)
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (Incredible!)
– 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
If you come to God’s Word with an attitude of academia, thinking that you need to dissect it, parse it, learn it, or sit in judgment of it, then the pages of the book will be closed to you; you won’t understand them. But if you come as a child, impressed by everything, not thinking you know the answers, but with a spirit of wonder and discovery, then the book will begin to speak volumes to you. – Source Unknown
help me to:
make every effort to add goodness to my faith;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, mutual affection;
and to mutual affection, love.
– based on 2 Peter 1:5-7
“It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.” – by ?
Anyone know who wrote that quote? I think whoever it was, is right on. And I think we need to keep this in mind especially during times of persecution. We have all been there, haven’t we? Someone says false things about you behind your back? Someone bullies you at school or in the workplace? Most times words hurt more than fists.
Just Like Christ!
But we are to be Christ-like to our neighbors even if they fall soooo incredibly short of God’s morality. A true Christian and follower of Christ will actually become more Christ-minded when people rub them the wrong way. Perhaps this is part of God’s plan – sufferings lead to perseverance, perseverance to character and character to hope (Romans 5:3-4). Maybe these hurtful people are placed into our lives for our benefit because they help us to realize our own shortcomings.
We need to overlook the offense and instead remember the all too numerous times God has forgiven us. A simple act of love can change a boulder of a heart into a softer one; soft enough to be molded into something new by our artistic Creator. Your heart is the softest place on earth, so take care of it. Stay soft, it looks beautiful on you!
And by the way, the opening quote was said by Martin Luther.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.“
That could very well be the sweetest verse in all of scripture.
A review of the latest CD release by Contemporary Christian recording artist Mike Westendorf.
by Steve Brown
What Songs Do You Carry? Isn’t it true that we all carry a bag of songs along with us throughout our lives? I know that I do. I still remember the song that my wife and I danced to at our wedding – it happened to be “If” by Bread. I can hear it in my mind right now as we tried our best to gently foxtrot across the floor. I remember songs from certain funerals that I have attended, I remember songs from my youth, and I certainly have my favorite hymns and other Christian songs that help to carry me through the roughest times. I recall hiking with my wife once on some high mountaintops (she is afraid of heights) and after the hike she told me that during the highest lookouts, while standing as near to the edge as she dared, she would sing to herself “Right Here” by Jeremy Camp because it’s in those fearful moments that she wanted to know that God was nearby and she made the connection using a song that she carries. Songs that we carry have a special meaning to us, they comfort us, and they remind us of fond memories. I believe that Mike’s CD contains some of the songs that he carries in his heart and that it gives him overwhelming joy to share these songs, which are a piece of his soul, with the church. Some of Mike’s songs are a bit more personal than you might be accustomed to in church, but they show a very comfortable side of the relationship between Mike and his Savior. It’s a heart-felt relationship that many of us long to have.
Where Inspiration is Birthed When I first listened to Mike’s CD, I thought to myself, “Mike is a storyteller more than a lyricist.” After listening to his CD several times, I took out the liner notes and read that he refers to himself as a storyteller as well. This is evident as you listen to his music. What’s interesting is that Mike states that some of his songs “were written just for me” and that these songs “will be a sort of refrain to a larger story that God is working out in our lives.” These quotes ring true with me and echo my very thoughts.
I contrast Mike’s words to mine: “In Ephesians 2:10, God’s word states that we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Some pretty powerful words indeed! That word “handiwork” is actually translated from the Greek word “poiema” from which we get the English word “poem.” The Bible is filled with poetry. The traditional church’s music overflows with rhyme and meter. In a very real way, my life is unfolding God’s poem for me. I am the poem, the thing being written and so are you. God is the poet.” – Steve (excerpted from the book “Lifestyle Worship”)
What’s Your Story? God is crafting a marvelous story for each of our lives. Both Mike and I are actively pursuing our stories, we are in fact all in pursuit of God’s story for our individual lives. Mike’s music is making a statement and this statement is part of the ongoing story that God has planned for him. What is your story? What poems are in your heart? What is God doing in your life? What songs do you carry?
Ephesians 2! But the similarities between Mike and I go even deeper. Mike and I write about poems and lyrics written that are just waiting for a melody and we each claim Ephesians 2 as playing a significant role in inspiring our work (as does my brother who is a writer as well!). I quote Eph 2:10, my brother quotes Eph 2:6 and Mike quotes Eph 2:1. The strange thing is that I have never met Mike in person. We are FaceBook friends and we are brothers in faith, but one day, our great Creator will introduce us to one another, of this I am sure. At that point we can talk about the colorful songs we have carried throughout our earthly lives. I encourage you to read Ephesians 2 yourself and see if God inspires your story through it.
The Sharp Keys The CD is well produced, sounding beautiful to my ear and uplifting to my soul. I would say that all of the music except one song is guitar-driven as opposed to piano-driven and my guess is that Mike likes the sharp keys – G, D, A and E. Some of the harmonies are so tight and sonorous that you might think they were sung by a brother and sister team.
Every Picture Tells a Story The CD cover artwork is humble and introspective, using brownstone muddied tones that depict a man who loves worshipping his Savior, enjoys life and family, holds music in high regard, and as a fellow guitarist I can appreciate the fact that Mike is holding and playing his instrument in all six photos. Included with the CD are all the lyrics and a special message from Mike. I listened to all the music first, a few times, then read the lyrics and finally Mike’s message. After doing this, I was compelled to listen again and in more detail because his music just seems to invite the listener into his world and to appreciate all of God’s graces and majesty.
Mike’s lyrics are bit unusual, but I mean this in a good way. There are so many Christian songs coming out today that all seem to be saying the same thing – one giant amalgamation of praise. But Mike avoids the rote cliches with his unique phrases that will engage the listener and pull you into his message; which is a good thing for a song to do.
The Songs that Mike Carries
Here is a quick rundown of the songs:
I Will Sing – The bridge will surprise you. Suffice it to say that John Newton’s most famous hymn fits in with the story of this song. Excellent electric guitar work as well; I loved the intro, the outro, the power chords, the riffs – the whole enchilada. This song was inspired by Psalm 89.
My Own Best Friend – A very warm and heartfelt message that I think Mike is singing to one of his sons. Not a song that you would probably use in worship but priceless nonetheless. The bridge contains a particularly endearing plea. Thanks Mike! You blessed me through this piece.
You Are – A good song to sing in corporate worship. The bridge uses a portion of Psalm 23 which is the kind of nice surprise that Mike tucks into his songs. The CD also includes a performance track of this arrangement for use in worship.
Coming Soon – This song is epic! The lyrics portray a conversation between us in worship and Jesus. The chorus is bombastic and the vocals soar.
In the Garden – Is Mike talking about Eden, or Gethsemane, or something entirely different? You must listen for a fresh take on “The Garden.”
Worthy (All Glory to Your Name) – Another great song to sing in worship along with the provided accompaniment track. The inspiration for this piece was Revelation chapters 4 and 5.
Climb the Mountain – This is Mike’s motto. He usually signs his name with it. When I first saw this I had no idea what he was referring to. I think that I now finally get it. The mountain is the pinnacle of our worship experience and we climb the mountain as we grow closer to God. Mike’s heart is to help to give you the best worship experience possible, and he does this through his music and the work of the Spirit. You can watch Mike tell the story behind this song here: https://youtu.be/eKIkb3qn8h4.
Safely Home – Another touching arrangement from Father to son or daughter beautifully embellished by cello. This piece would be an amazing song to have a soloist sing at a Confirmation service. The Holy Spirit, I am quite sure, would see to it that there would not be a dry eye in the house. I just love the lyric where Mike turns things over to his child by saying “You’re older now, the pen is yours, you’ll write all new pages, the story now becomes your own new chapters without end.“
At a Time – The only piano-driven arrangement in the collection. It’s a simple yet beautiful song encouraging us not to lean on our own understanding but to rely on our God for strength to get through those tough days. Talk about a sign from Heaven! – watch this – http://youtu.be/6fGLVN1yOPs.
It is obvious from this CD that Mike has a passion for sharing God’s word through music to children, teens and young adults that is fed by his own love for Christ and the work of the Spirit who is working powerfully in and through him. The Church is blessed to have a man, a musician, an artist, and a worshiper with this amount of passion towards this age group. I pray for much success to Mike in his efforts to reach the weak, the wavering and the lost through his music and that he continues to climb the mountain to see his unique story unfold.
Quantity Discounts of the Book “Lifestyle Worship” are Available!
I am able to offer quantity discounts to you or your church if you are interested in using “Lifestyle Worship” for a book reading group, teen event, summer bible class, ladies group or something similar. However, we will have to do things the old fashioned way since I am not set-up to sell merchandise from this website. Three book titles are available as briefly described below:
This is my book and is based on the content offered on this website. It is a devotional book about Christian worship. The paperback version is 230 pages and is currently selling on Amazon for $10.95.
These are the discounted prices (includes shipping in the US and taxes):
SEATED ABOVE, LOOKING BELOW – POEMS TO LIFT YOUR SPIRIT:
This is a book of poetry written by my brother. The paperback is 138 pages and sells on Amazon for $6.99. The book contains about 50% secular content and 50% Christian content based on scripture. It is a light and easy read.
These are the discounted prices (includes shipping in the US and taxes):
SEATED ABOVE, THE JOURNEY CONTINUES – THE DEEP CALLS TO THE DEEP:
This is my brother’s second book but it is independent of the first book. It is also a book of poetry but is predominantly based on scripture with about 30% being secular. The paperback is 172 pages and sells on Amazon for $7.99. It is also a light and easy read.
These are the discounted prices (includes shipping in the US and taxes):
All of the books are printed in the USA and I should also state that these sale prices are not sponsored by either Amazon or CreateSpace (the printer). I am buying the books as the author and passing the savings on to you directly.
If interested, contact me at sjbrown58(at)yahoo(dot)com. Here’s how it would work: You would have to first send a check to me for the total. Upon receipt of your check, I would place the order and it would be sent in one box to your provided address.
I can also work with you if you would like to preview the book(s) prior to committing. I can offer free Kindle E-Book versions of the books for this purpose. Otherwise, you would have to order one copy of the paperback from Amazon at the above mentioned prices but I will include one free paperback in your group order to compensate you for the preview copy.
I can also work with you on a group purchase of E-Books by dropping the price of any of the three books temporarily to $0.99. Actually, as of this week, Bob has put both of his E-Books on sale for $0.99.
“The pillars hold a spiritual family up and hold them together. They have a long history of faithfulness, and they rarely get what they deserve for their service. One day, they will. In the meantime, why wait? Find the pillars in your church and tell them, “Thanks, we wouldn’t be the same without God’s blessing through you.”