Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why I CHOOSE to play Christian Music....

Ok, so it’s no secret to a lot of you guys I don’t enjoy playing Christian Music that much. Even more so, I really don’t enjoy the politics that are associated with Christian music. Ok, I’ll be honest: I HATE it. I don’t like the fact that my generation hates it and so in order for Christian music to be relevant, it has to cater to generations ten or twenty years before my time. Honestly, I personally enjoy playing my instrumental music the most because it’s something a lot of people don’t listen too, and because of that, it’s music I play to stimulate my own senses. I guess you can call it my vacation from Christian Music. HOWEVER, I’m not ranting, I’m simply stating the facts!

So why the heck do I choose to keep playing music that I don’t like? The answer is simple.

The funny thing about God, is that he can work through anything I do, as long as I do it. I never understood how that worked until a young teenager came up to me after a worship service and told me how he was thinking about suicide, but during the worship set, he felt something he never felt in a long time, hope. He thanked us for saving his life. In another sunday morning, a couple wanted me to give there kids piano lessons. A couple months later, they opened up to me and told me how they were on the brink of splitting. However, watching there kids try to learn music gave them something keep the marriage going and eventually it was worth fighting for. I have countless other stories I can tell you just like that, but I wouldn’t stop typing. I’m actually kind of getting emotional typing this up.

Everybody wants to be the next “American Idol” or “Guitar Hero”, and soak up all this attention for themselves. That’s all fun, but that’s not for me. I’m so tired of chasing five minutes of fame. Why do that when you can give others something that will last? A Grammy is a piece of metal that sits on the shelf, but something like a Marriage is something that affects you and your kids for a lifetime. Do you see what I’m saying?

So the reason I’m writing this is for one purpose. I know a lot of you guys play in churches because I get hundreds of messages asking me to encourage you in what your doing. When you play, you have NO idea what impact you have on other people. So don’t give up on it just because you think the music sucks. This doesn’t just apply to Musicians either, this message was really for EVERYBODY.

This is it, this is why I CHOOSE to play worship music. Read II Timothy 2:15

Thank you Pastor Ross, Matthew, Jeremiah, Jared, Jon, Glenn, and everyone else at New Life for giving me the opportunity to do What I do. Ryan and Joshua, thank you as well!

The Church and the People it Hurts

Ok, this is a VERY touchy subject, and I know just about ALL of you guys have experience with this.

Over the past six months, no matter where I’ve been whether its the church I work at, my former churches, or a church I’m visiting, I’ve noticed an AWFUL a lot of hurt people approaching me. The fact is, I know EXACTLY why they approach me. When I play music, I tend to wear my feelings on my sleeve. In the past, I’ve been burned by people in church before, and that tends to lead to a visibly raw performance when I play worship.

As I’m typing this, I know I don’t have ALL the right answers, but I WILL NOT hide the fact that I’ve been burned by church’s in EVERY single way imaginable! The reason why I won’t hide that, is because I also don’t hide the fact that I still LOVE the church no matter what I’ve been through, and I NEVER allow ANY excuse to change that.

So in this particular blog entry, I’m going to be VERY direct, and VERY honest, but if you finish reading this, I promise it’ll be worth it.

I want to address three different types of people in this blog: People that have been hurt, people who intentionally hurt people and people who unknowingly have hurt people. I can definitely say I’ve been on EVERY sides of this coin.

For those that KNOWINGLY do the hurting:
I know a lot of friends and pastors that will agree with me on this. In my experience in the ministry, there’s not a lot of things you can do to push away the Grace of God. However, one sure way to push God’s Grace away is to push the people he sends in your life away. Not only do we have a calling in life, but NONE of us can do that calling alone.

Whether you like it or not, GOD usually provides the people you NEED, not the people you HAVE IN MIND. The key to success in the christian life is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE...PERIOD. Love is not an option for us, it is a requirement! We have to willing to clean each other’s messes REGARDLESS of what YOU FEEL THERE SHORTCOMINGS are. Besides, we’re not the judge of people, God is. Let God be the judge, all we should focus on is using the people in our lives.

For those that UNKNOWINGLY do the hurting:
This is the category I tend to be in! First off, lets make it clear: it’s IMPOSSIBLE to make everyone happy in life! There are just SO many people from SO many backgrounds that SOME people are not going to be able to work with you. Does this mean we should avoid these people? Absolutely not. The hardest part of life is working with people you don’t like, but it’s required of us.

My personal story is the life of the “people pleaser”. Growing up I wasn’t friendly in order to make people happy, I NEEDED people to like me! It was an addiction for me! If ANYONE didn’t like me, I had a HARD time dealing with it! What ended up happening to me was that people walked all over me, and when things got out of hand, I started getting upset at people. When I started getting upset at people, people stopped liking me, and so I ended up being at square one again.

Everything started changing for me when I decided to actually LOVE the people in my life, rather than feed on people liking me. When you actually love people, you start celebrating there victories, and mourning there loses. That’s the difference between being a people pleaser and someone who loves people.

For those that have been hurt:
This is tough. My pastor say’s it the best. “When people leave church, you don’t say “Whatever”, you should say “Wow, there hurting, and I hope they get healed wherever they go.”

I’ve been hurt by churches before, but beside’s the fact that this information is VERY confidential, but more importantly it DOESN’T MATTER! John Bevere is a forefront teacher on this, and one thing he says is that “The church disappoints the most people because everyone has this expectation that church people can’t let them down”. John’s absolutely right on this! The church is made up of people just like me and you!

I FORCED myself to make this confession:


If there’s one thing our society is pathetic at, it’s our need to keep score of things. If someone does something to us, we have to keep inventory of it and count it against them. It happens in marriages, in families, in jobs, and especially in church congregations. This is why people in church use the word Hypocrite so loosely, because they judges peoples characters by the failures and not there beleifs. I’ll repeat this, GOD judge’s character, NOT US. Don’t sit there and cast judgement, and just learn to work with them!

Bottom line: PEOPLE make mistakes. The church is no exception. If you spend your time judging people by there mistakes, you’ll constantly be let down. But if you learn to work with people despite there mistakes, you’ll start to see why God is using these people, and why he sent them into your life.

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV)
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Don’t take anything I’ve said the wrong way, my intent isn’t to discourage, but to encourage true growth. If you’ve hurt people, don’t ask for forgiveness, BEG for it. EVEN if you don’t understand what you did.

If you’ve been hurt, FORGIVE them! REALLY FORGIVE people that have hurt you! Nothing in life is worth staying mad about forever, so just forgive them. If you REALLY need to, make a phone call, talk to them in person! I did this before, and a funny thing happened, people started to look past my mistakes and shortcomings and see me for who God called me to be: a worshipper.

ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, FORGIVE PEOPLE. The imperfect person (hypocrite/coward/people pleaser) in you will fade away, and you’ll become who you’re CALLED to be.

"The last thing people need is another jaded christian, especially when most people respond to a redeemed sinner"

Clarification: My Thoughts of Capitalism

Okay, I've been taking ALOT of heat (mainly face to face confrontation, but on facebook as well) for making jokes about capitalist's lately! I throw the term around WAY TOO loosely, and a lot people think that I'm a firm opponent of the system! That couldn't be farther from the truth.

Here's where I stand: Capitalism is GREAT! Anybody who believes that capitalism is stupid has NO idea that they are enjoying the benefits of it.

HOWEVER, as with ANYTHING IN LIFE, SO many people ESPECIALLY in this SPOILED ROTTEN country make it an idol. I define Capitalism as a system based on the notion of making money...PERIOD. Once again, there is nothing wrong with making money, but the fact of the matter is, people make TERRIBLE decisions in the name of making money.

In Mexico, there is a SILENT WAR happening between DRUG LORDS and Mexican authorities. One of these Drug Lords argued that this war was in the name of Capitalism. The truth is, is that he's RIGHT!!! He's willing to destroy ANYTHING in his path in order for him to gain FINANCIAL POWER! I understand that's an extreme example, but it gets the point across.

So what do I believe? I believe that GOD is the answer to everything for me!!! God WANT'S us to prosper financially, but not at the expense of our relationship with him! I've seen this THOUSANDS of times, GREAT christian people will go through HORRID financial situations, and they'll ask God, "Why have you done this to me?" "This isn't fair!!!"

This kills me EVERY TIME!!! First of all, GOD doesn't do fair. God does justice. If God wanted things to be fair, there's NO WAY he would have sent Jesus to die for us! We deserve condemnation, but instead we get justice, and the crazy thing about justice is that ANYBODY can pay ANYONE'S price. JESUS PAID OUR PRICE!!! Justice was satisfied for us!!! Don't pin your issues on the fairness of God when we all deserve death!

When we go through financial hardship(I'm DEFINITELY preaching to myself here), just know this: CAPITALISM is wonderful, but the only thing better than capitalism itself is CAPITALISM UNDER GOD.

I could elaborate on this, but it's better to simplify this: MAKE MONEY GOD'S WAY, and THINGS WILL WORK OUT!!! You don't have to cut peoples throats, or make terrible moral choice to make a buck! YOu don't have to rob the bank to feed your kids is what I'm saying.

If people understood this, then our economy would be in a better place because people would ACTUALLY trust each other(BERNIE MADOFF)

So when I use the word capitalist in a derogatory way, I'm really saying "You could care less about Integrity, all you care about is money."

I'm not trying to offend people, in fact all I'm trying to do is ENCOURAGE people to live with integrity above all else! I'm learning this in my own life! It's difficult, but in the end SO MUCH BETTER!!!

Jesus Simons

Just got off the phone with one of my best friends who is a worship leader! and I really wanted to share something for other musicians and writers. This is WONDERFUL!!!

Working on the Music staff at a church can FEEL LIKE the BEST and the WORST jobs you can do! It's the BEST job in the world because your doing music for a living, and your music is DEFINITELY making an impact, which most people would argue is best place to be in life (I'm definitely one of those people!).

It can be the WORST job in a sense that you REALLY SEE HOW OPINIONATED AND INSENSITIVE CHURCH PEOPLE CAN BE! In EVERY church big or small, there is a group of people who are just CONSTANTLY critical! Not only are they CONSTANTLY CRITICAL, but in the church, they feel as though they are being CRITICAL IN THE NAME OF GOD. In there own minds, there "Simon Cowell-like" opinions are furthering the kingdom of God.

I call these people "Jesus-Simon's".

As funny as that sounds, thats just the UGLY truth about working with PEOPLE! I understand that it's not really fair to say that this is a church problem, but is IS fair to say that church's are made up of imperfect people.

This blog entry ISN'T for "Jesus-Simon's", in fact I actually LOVE having "Jesus-Simon's" around! Personally, I enjoy the challenge of getting there cranky butts to focus on God rather than there own narcissistic opinions (I make it a game and actually keep score).

This blog is for people who ACTUALLY serve in church's and who undoubtedly deal with this pressure ALL THE TIME!!! The fact of the matter is, hearing those opinions DO affect us, and people that say it doesn't are being dishonest with themselves.

Here's the BEST NEWS!!!

Peoples OPINIONS ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE COMPLETELY OBJECTIVE!!! When it comes to your taste and ability in music, there really is no such thing as a COMPLETELY right answer, which is infuriating at times if you want to please people!

Here's the beautiful thing: we're not trying to appease the "Jesus-Simon's" of the church. We're in it to help people experience the PRESENCE of GOD!!! Thats good news for me because it mean's I don't have to be Liberacci on piano in order to carry the presence of God. God can use a donkey to speak to a prophet, so he can definitely use my less than spectacular musical abilities to speak to people!

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best, because you SHOULD! What I AM saying is that you shouldn't try and be someone your not just because a "Jesus-Simon" doesn't like the flavor your cooking. Unlike "Jesus-Simon's", God will use us IN SPITE of our shortcomings.

Psalm 7:8
Let the LORD judge the Peoples,
Judge me O LORD according to my righteousness,
according to my Integrity, O Most High

Who cares what the "Jesus-Simon's" say. God is the judge of everything, and he judges righteousness and integrity. Trying to appease overly critical opinions isn't living with Integrity if those opinions aren't genuine to who you are.

Be the best at being who YOU are, and God will use you! That's the promise he gives to us as worshipers.

Here's a great story:

One time a guy told me I was acting too sexual on stage, so the next week I played I looked for him and prayed "God, mess him up like you've messed me up". During that worship set God showed up and answered that prayer, and at the same time really messed me up! I LOVE that!

The Love of God

So today, I got a day off today, and realized this is really the first day off i've ever had where I was away from the noise of life, and had an opportunity to spend to serious bro time with God. There was crying, there was healing, and I really got a chance to re-evaluate my life today. I've never EVER felt like this before.

I spent a lot of time reading John 8, and pretty much it talks about Jesus telling the Pharisee's that he is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, and we're pretty much free from sin. The thing that got me the most was verse 34-36:
Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

For the first time in my life, I didn't feel like a SLAVE, but I felt like a SON. and ALL OF US are sons and daughters, and son's and daughters get to crash with our Father FOREVER because we we're part of the family. We're no longer Slaves to sin!!!! THAT'S INCREDIBLE!!!

Over the course of the past 9 years of my christian life, I've been accused of SO much crap by so called "christians", that I realized today that the past few years, I didn't "feel" christian. At one point, I felt like I was Banished from the "Church People" clique, which in all reality wasn't the case. Really what was happening was I really wasn't free from sin, I was a Slave to my own insecurity. Today, I realized what it really meant to be a Son, and that absolutely WRECKED me.

So what does that mean to people that don't speak Christianese? It means that God has got your back! You can feel like the unwanted, underachieving step child all you want, but all God wants you to do is let your insecurity go and fall head over heals for him! And if you say no, he will wait at your doorstep until you let him in.

While I was reading this, a song came up on my iPod, is was John Mark McMillan song Closer. Here are the lyrics:

Come closer, closer to me.
Find me broken, find me bleedin'
cause I need more now than a fairy tale,
a god who lives in a book. I need someone real.

So would you come?
Would you come?
If i begged you, would you come closer to me now?
Come closer, closer to me.

Find me broken, find me on my knees,
cause I need more now than philosophy.
Some god in outer space doesn't mean anything to me.
So would you come?
Would you come?
If I begged you, would you come closer to me now?
Would you come? Would you come?
If i begged you, would you come closer to me now?

Son of David, do not pass me by,
cause I am naked, I'm poor and I'm blind.
Son of david, don't pass me by,
cause I am naked, I'm poor and I'm blind.

I encourage you to listen to this song and BUY it on iTunes. the performance is UNFORGETABLE!!!

My perspective on Revelation

I haven't been able to connect with a lot of you guys, I'm kind of still getting used to this new season of life and I haven't been able to settle down yet. So I've been trying to do some writing lately, and one of the songs I wrote called "God Send" has had a lot of success and to be quite honest it's been very overwhelming for me. When I say overwhelming I mean that watching a song that I wrote move people to be better and make better decisions is an extremely humbling experience. For those who have heard the song and fall under this category, thank you for responding to the call of God. It's totally an honor to be doing what I do!

Anyway, lately I've been trying to write a lot more, and it's honestly been very difficult! I've recorded and trashed about six demos, and thrown away A BUNCH of yellow pads, and haven't had too much success. Mainly because my motivation was the fear of becoming a "one hit wonder"(I'd HARDLY call "God Send" a hit). But the past couple months, I've become an Uncle, and watching my family change and grow has given me a chance to rethink why I do what I do. I don't write songs to write songs so I can feel good, I write songs because I have passions and thoughts that I can put to song and melody that I feel can inspire and move people to do more than the ordinary, but do EXTRAORDINARY things! That's my call, that's what I was born to do, and whether I like that or not, I'm gonna do my best!

The past month I've been reading the book of Revelations, which is something I honestly wasn't looking forward too. I hate how most scholars try to interpret it as if there trying to read a christian fortune cookie or look into a crystal ball. I've always thought that was irrelevant, but I came to realize that it really IS relevant! I read through Chapter 21, and it talks about a vision of heaven coming down to earth in which God is releasing our sorrows and doubts, and replacing it with Hope(vs. 4-10) Then I realized something, what are we waiting for? If God lives inside of us, why can't we strive to bring heaven to earth through our Church. This chapter states that the church is the Bride of Christ, and if respected our churches like a lot of people respect there own spouse, then church's would be the closest thing to "Heaven on Earth". If we really looked at the church as the "Bride of Christ" we would do everything we could to make her beautiful, and make sure the church is serving the groom, who is Jesus, and Jesus specifically states that he lives in the [widows, orphans, needy, poor, hopeless, hungry, lost, ect.]. To ask the question "What if the Bride loved The Groom" in this case is to ask "What if the CHURCH was MADLY in love with [widows, orphans, needy, poor, hopeless, hungry, lost, ect.]"? That idea has been shaking my bones violently. That's why I CHOSE to write songs like this rather than write love songs or break-up songs, or pop songs.

All that to say, I've been writing a couple songs from these meditations on the book of Revelation, and my goal for the next year is to do the best I can to inspire people to attempt to bring "Heaven on Earth" and also do the same myself, and the best way I can to that is to write these tunes!

So stay tuned people! I'll keep you updated! I'll probably be starting an ACTUAL blog this year! just to help me put my thoughts down more than anything!

love you guys!

What God Doesn't Do

He doesn't withhold his Love for You, he doesn't wait for you to be a good person.
He's actually HOPELESSLY in love with all of us.

He doesn't give conditions for his love. He doesn't wait for you tithe, quit smoking, or stop sinning in order for you to have a relationship with him.

God doesn't impose rules on us to oppress us. God lays the law out because when people follow the law, that's when his love can be UNLEASHED and where we can THRIVE. Unfortunately for us, we don't follow the law all the time, so we end up making things messy.

God doesn't mind cleaning our mess when we ask him too. He forgives us when we ask for it, and when don't, we just make the mess a lot worse really fast. That ALWAYS sucks by the way!

God doesn't like it when people tell other people "God Hates [insert sub-culture that society doesn't accept like gays, lesbians, homeless...]". God hates it when people lie, especially when they lie about what God thinks of these people. Just because YOU hate them, doesn't mean GOD hates them. Stop hating them in the first place!

God doesn't care if you know what's going on all the time. He actually prefers it if you left that up to him!

God doesn't share your same worries. He's in control of all that stuff! The only thing God really worries about is if you want to love him back!

I know this is a little cheesy for a lot of You guys! but whatever! It's the truth!

“Worship Music Sucks, Why Bother?”

I hear this ALOT! I used to ask myself this a lot too! But now, I don’t ask that question anymore!

First off, I’ve heard that the OBVIOUS answer is that “religious people” don’t spend alot of time focusing on playing tasteful music.

As “good” as this sounds, to me this is an ABSOLUTE farce! Two things make a load of crap:

1. EVERYBODY believes in something! Even Atheists. Even is you don’t believe in the absence of a God, that’s STILL a belief, and you’ve still chosen a side!!! Either way, what you believe has NO bearing on your ability as a songwriter or a musician. Your not a bad writer because your religious, your a bad writer because your a bad writer!

2. What someone believes is GOOD music TOTALLY objective opinion!!! I know ALOT of non-religious people that LOVE christian music, there just all 30-50 years old. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that people from there teens to 20’s don’t get it! Besides, the only reason why there isn’t christian music for teen’s through there 20‘s is because no christian in that age group buys music (Ask EARTHSUIT about that). There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a free market and that’s just how it is!!!

HOWEVER, this is when it gets weird: when “christian raised” teens are FORCE fed this type of music growing up. All that really comes out from that are public school teens that have NO sense of musical reality, and try to show “normal” kids christian music. That’s why people ask “Worship Music Sucks, Why Bother?”

This is MY personal belief on writing and performing music. You should write and perform what you believe in...PERIOD!!! People who write great love songs have had LIFE CHANGING experiences with the opposite sex! People who write good fight music had ISSUES with work, growing up or whatever!

I write worship music! Here’s a couple reasons why:

1. Nothing’s impacted my life more than God! Period. If you need an explanation for that, read JOB 38-41 (Yes...three chapters, in fact, read the book)

2. The difference between Worship music, and every other music, is that Worship music is centered around the Love of God. If you don’t know what the God is capable of, then you should look into it. God has the ability to move mountains, split seas, and smooth the valleys(Read JOB 38-41), but instead of being so dramatic, God would rather spend his time being MADLY in love with us! I couldn’t think of ANYTHING else that would be worth singing songs for!

Here are three verse’s from Job:

Job 1:21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."Job 38:1-2, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said, 'Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?'"Job 42:5-6, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."