The Sweetest Scripture Verse

“It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.”  – by ?
 
The Quote! 
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.
 
Forgiveness 
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. 

– Jesus 

 

That could very well be the sweetest verse in all of scripture.

Songs We Carry

 

Songs We Carry
Songs We Carry
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.

Mike with Guitar
Mike Westendorf leading worship
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. In the Garden – Is Mike talking about Eden, or Gethsemane, or something entirely different?  You must listen for a fresh take on “The Garden.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

To purchase the CD:  ITunes or http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mikewestendorf4

For concerts and booking information: http://www.mikewestendorf.com

Well that’s my review!  Now you can hear Mike talk about the CD in his own words here: https://youtu.be/bel5BbMMu18.

 

CD Artwork
CD Artwork

Climbing the mountain, carrying my songs & pursuing my story,
Steven Brown
Author of “Lifestyle Worship”  &
the voice behind the “Worship Ideas You Can Use” BLOG

Summer Reading

Lifestyle Worship by Steve Brown
Lifestyle Worship by Steve Brown
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:

LIFESTYLE WORSHIP:

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):

Quantity            Price per Book      Savings

5-10                            $8.50              24%
11-20                          $8.25              26%
21-30                          $8.00              29%
31-40                          $7.75              31%
41+                             $7.50              33%

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):

Quantity            Price per Book       Savings

5-10                             $6.00              16%
11-20                           $5.75              20%
21-30                           $5.50              23%
31-40                           $5.25              27%
41+                              $5.00              30%

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):

Quantity           Price per Book       Savings

5-10                            $6.75              17%
11-20                          $6.50              20%
21-30                          $6.25              24%
31-40                          $6.00              27%
41+                             $5.75              30%

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.

Prices are subject to change.
 

Lifestyle Worship Link
Seated Above Book 1 Link
Seated Above Book 2 Link

Who Are The Pillars in Your Church?

“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.”

Preview Steve’s Book Here

Always, Continually and All

Always, Continually and All

Not much wiggle room in those words.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This is God’s will for my life and for yours as well!

Why you might ask? The answer is because we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. – Romans 8:28.

So rejoice always!

Pray continually!

Give thanks in all circumstances!

Can you do it?  I think we all struggle.  We rejoice once in a great while.  We pray, maybe a few times a day, and we give thanks in a few circumstances. Actually, we complain often.

But in this scripture passage, Paul is urging us to adopt a lifestyle of joy, prayer and thanks because this is God’s will for us.  Incredible!  It is Lifestyle Worship!

Our hearts need to be disposed towards prayer. Breathe it in and out. Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks – Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks – Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks. Let it sink in.

You can even pray about whatever it is that has caused you to rejoice, and give thanks for that precious moment. In fact, prayer should always be laced with thanks.

This week, I pray to my Creator that I am thankful for the gift of life as I rejoice in the birth of my first grandchild.  Always, continually and all.  Indeed.  Amen.

The Best Verse

The Best Verse – John 3:16

This is the reason why we are all moved by John 3:16!

For God… the best Creator

so loved… the best reason

the world… the best mission field

that He gave… the best action

His one and only Son… the best sacrifice

that whoever… the best opportunity

believes… the best requirement

in Him… the best savior

shall not perish… the best promise

but have… the best certainty

eternal life… the best ending.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Why You Should Polish Your Guitar

A Polished Act

One of the things that I usually do before accompanying worship is to polish my guitar.  I do this for several reasons:

  • I want my instrument to look it’s best for my Lord in the same way that I dress myself in nice clothes for worship.  This is a reflection of my commitment, my reverence and my passion towards my Lord.  Polishing the guitar removes all the fingerprints and smudges of life.  It’s like I am starting worship anew.
  • I polish not only the body but also the back of the neck.  This actually helps your fretting hand to move more easily and quickly over the fretboard.  In real hot and sticky weather I have also added a little baby powder to my hands.
  • I lightly polish the strings as well for both lubricity and because it eliminates “string noise” during worship.  There is a product specially made for strings called “Fast Fret”, I have tried this, it works, but in my opinion polish (like Steinway’s spray) works just as well and is cheaper.

Let’s make our music the best it can be!  Please forward this to your base guitarist, cello, violin and viola players as well!

Remember…

“The music of the strings makes you (God) glad.” – Psalm 45:8

 

A Toolbox for Worship Leaders, Pastors and Musicians

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