“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. James 2:8 NIV
14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
My latest card at zazzle. Inside text:
May you find REST and COMFORT in God.
In his Love
In His Light
In His Peace
In his Presence
I am currently reading through several books amongst others Alpha Questions for Life by Nicky Gumbel.
In this book Gumbel tells the story of a woman that promised herself to read 1 Corinthians 13 everyday, in which Paul explains so beautifully what love and what the importance of love is.
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now 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.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Time and time I am captured amazed by the beauty of these writings.
Now the lady Nicky Gumbel speaks about decides that she would replace ‘love’ by ‘I’ and stop as soon as she came across a description she did not make. Hopefully she would one day be able to tick off all the descriptions.
I have found on many occasions that replacing the Bible really starts to speak to me when I make things personal. As an example,read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 v1-17) and see how they provide you with a clear picture on what you will become or aim to become if you replace the “you” with “I”.
- I shall have no other Gods before Him
- I will not make or have idols
- I will not misuse his name
- I will remember the Sabbath by keeping it Holy and will not work on it.
- I will honor my father and mother
- I will not murder
- I will not commit adultery
- I will not steal
- I will not give false testimony
- I will not covet
What a beautiful promise he commandments become.
Or try this with the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6: 9-13.
My Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name (by me)
your Kingdom come,
I will do your will as your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give me today my daily bread.
Forgive me my debts,
as I have also forgiven my debtors.
And lead me not into temptation,
but deliver me from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.
To me the prayer speaks differently when the generic “us” is replaced by I and all of a sudden I commit myself very personally to doing His will, all of a sudden the confession of sin becomes personal and is no longer a vague ‘us’ but a personal acknowledgment that I am a sinner that needs forgiveness, all of a sudden God‘s provision becomes very personal and all of a sudden it is very clear that “we” are not just tempted by evil and in need of deliverance in general as a humanity but personally.
And so it is with the sixteen descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13 when you make them personal. What a guide for life they become:
- I am patient
- I am kind
- I do not envy
- I do not boast
- I am not proud
- I am not rude
- I am not self-seeking
- I am not easily angered
- I keep no record of wrongs
- I do not delight in evil
- rejoice in truth
- I always protect
- I always trust
- I always hope
- I always persevere
- I never fail
There is only one sad things about this checklist: So far I never made it past point one: love is patient. What about you?
The other day I was watching a fellow guitarist at Harmony Church (yes Issa you). It was great! I thought to myself: even if every note would have been the wrong one I would still have enjoyed his playing. It is the conviction with which he plays every single note that makes it beautiful.
Two thoughts came up:
- What is so great about playing Christian music is that it implies as per definition the most amazing audience you can ever have, your own creator and loving Father, who is dying to hear what you have to say, how you love Him with all your heart, spirit and mind, what you are asking of Him;
- Therefore we should focus more on MEANING every note you play. You don’t need the ‘wow, you are so technical’ compliments, in the end a monkey can do that, I know I was one of them. You want your message to come across, to tell a story, to share.
Every now then I go out and see some music or I end up watching videos on Youtube or listen to music on soundclick. With jazz still an important preference I enjoy the discovering of new unknown players. Without a doubt on many occasions I have heard players that play all the right notes, they display an in depth knowledge of harmony and technique yet something seems to be missing. How can it be: the play all the right notes but I am disappointed? I think I know know why.
From what I am hearing these people must have spent countless hours in their studios, their rooms or wherever, practicing, exercising, working on stuff, perfecting their skills, analyzing chord changes, work on harmonic and melodic ideas and everything else that comes with being a jazz guitarist. They seem to be having a good time with the band and by themselves but nothing seems too be coming across: they speak the musical language but not to anyone in particular it seems. It comes across as thinking out loud not directed at anyone but themselves.
They do not seem to be communicating. What they say musically may well be very clever, perhaps impressive even, but whatever it was, it never reached the audience. In fact, the audience seemed to be the last thing on their mind.
It may be me but is playing an instrument not the same as sharing stories, emotions or a particular point, perspective or message with others? Your instrument merely replaces your voice. Just as a writer has his pen and a painter his brush as part of their toolkit they use to share their sentiments and insights with us, so it is with the guitarist and other instrumentalists. And admittedly as instrumentalists we have to try much harder as we do not have words to use. At the same time we have an opportunity to express things in a way that goes beyond words.
Play with Conviction
While I do not suggest that we skip technique and theory, I do believe that we also need to work on developing our own instrumental voice, that we learn how to communicate with our audience, we need to work hard on having our instrumental voice carry further in order for our music not to become one big display of what you now or can do, of vanity. What I mean here is playing with conviction, instead of quietly and timidly looking for the right notes, meandering away almost as if sorry you are making a sound or doing it out (very) loud but for the wrong reason: not to communicate but to showcase.
This does not translate to an audience or at least not to me.
As a musician it is very easy to fall for the trap of making things a public display of your capabilities, hey you put the time in for sure and you still are. Just imagine this: if you had to choose between a novel or autobiography or an encyclopedia so as to be touched by it, which one do you think will have the greatest potential?
So it is with our music, and that is what religious music teaches you. You want to be the best you can be on your instrument, because of the love you want to convey for your Father, and for the love of your fellows and neighbors who hopefully may share in your emotions and even better, it may serve in opening the lines of communication with heaven for yourself and the audience. And if you are ‘praying by playing’, you’d want God to understand what you are trying to tell or ask Him.
So, what I am really talking about here is playing every note with total conviction, truly meaning every note you play. Make it goal to have the person in the audience who knows nothing about music, feel you, understand you.
It Is Not About Me
So, it is no longer about you, but all about the other.
Whatever the style of music, I believe the difference is all about musicians that play for themselves and musicians that try to get a point or a message across or that are opening up their hearts minds and spirits to share their lives with you.
That is what I feel when you see a giant like Joe Pass
This is what I feel when I hear Santana
And it is not any different to hearing the singers in the next video rip away on ‘Great is your Mercy’
Be in the Moment
So now I made communication and meaning, making my guitar actually speak part of the ongoing efforts I put into improving as a musician. It is all about finding ways to let my guitar really speak. It is an ongoing effort and on many an occasion I disappoint myself, but I guess that comes with development and growth.
Most of all such an approach requires you to be in the moment completely, and when I fail myself it usually is because my heart, spirit and mind are not there in the moment, that is when the fingers do the work but I am no longer communicating the way I want it to be.
In a therapeutic culture in which psychology is the lingua franca, it’s easy to inadvertently subvert the gospel, to imagine we’re talking about the gospel when we’re really talking about the anti-gospel.
A few months ago when I was traveling, I attended a local church that was “the” evangelical church in that suburb. The text for the day was the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The preacher began by reminding us of the context—the search of a shepherd for a valuable sheep; the search of a woman for a valuable coin. We were then told that the father in the parable, when he saw his wayward son far off, did not see someone who was selfish or a loser. Instead, through all the junk, he saw something valuable: a son. The sermon concluded with a reminder that God gives us the ability to see the treasure, the value in everyone we meet.
I am one with this preacher’s motives and aims. But in his desire to proclaim the magnificent love of God, he inadvertently fell into language that actually proclaims bad news—all this talk of the intrinsic value in the object of love. This preacher did not go so far as to say it, but I’ve heard the following in sermons and read it in books by respectable evangelicals: “You are unique and valuable. You were worth so much to God that he was willing to die to redeem you, so you could be in his family.” And this: “We are worth the price God paid for us, the death of his Son.”
But of course this gets it exactly backwards. Unfortunately, in an attempt to convey the radical love of God, such well meaning Christians actually sabotage it.
Read the rest of this very read worthy article at Love Needs No Reason | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.