Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Do What We Want

"When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing...then it is an idol" - Tim Keller

That quote means so little to someone who doesn't know they have done it. And we all have.
Before I delve into this, I would direct you to my friend Bekah's post, which speaks of something similar, but with a different direction in mind.

We do what we think will satisfy us. What will fulfill us. We do what we love. What do you love? What you spend your time and money on...what you invest your life into is what you love.

I've seen people do a lot of things to satisfy themselves. I thought being loved by a beautiful girl would satisfy me. I mean REALLY loved. Like the kind of love I have for her. I said and did the right things, changed myself, gave myself to her, completely invested my heart, my time, my money, my body, just to make her happy. Because if she loved me, just like I love her, I would be so satisfied. So happy.

I have seen beautiful, amazingly beautiful girls, dress like whores and get totally trashed, among other things, just to get guys' attention. Even girls who deep love do the same. I've seen guys get trashed and treat these girls like trash because they think the achievement of sex is the most satisfying thing.

The athlete that spends all her energy and time and thought about how to be better, because only the best get the glory. The professional manager, climbing a corporate ladder, because if he made that much more, if he had that much more influence, he would have achieved something of real worth. One of the guys doing something crazy for the glory. Drinking and dancing, having someone flirt with you and put their hands on you, just for a taste of some good satisfaction.

What about the Christian who gives away everything and abandons the people around them to do something radical for God? If he was hardcore enough, on fire enough for God, he would be doing something worthwhile.

We do these things because they satisfy. Just a taste of her love brings me to my knees in a glorious, passionate, ecstasy. And I fight for more. I can't get enough. And when I don't get it, I spend a copious amount of time and energy trying to think of what I'm doing wrong. Why don't you love me? Don't you know what I've done for you? Are you not satisfied with my affection?

I had a conversation recently with a friend about why people walk away from their faith. 75% of Christians walk away in the college years and 80% of new believers walk away during the first year.
What the heck? Is Christ really that unattractive?

I would submit to you that we, as Christians, do the exact same thing with Christianity that everyone else does. We go to church and experience a strong attachment, an emotional high, an epiphany, whatever it be. We spend time with our Christian friends and feel accepted and like we are good people. We "do stuff" for God and feel like we are doing something worthwhile with our lives.
But our human nature is in all of that. We compare ourselves to one another, checking to see if we are hardcore enough. We feel this "righteous guilt" (which is some Christianese nonsense, btw) about not doing the right stuff. We devalue ourselves when we sin. We actually question whether God is there or if the church is leading you to Him based on how much we "feel it" that day!

What I'm saying is that the same issues we bring up with the "stuff of this world" which we usually point out as being only temporary fulfillments are the same issues we have in church! In fact, these issues are so bad, our church-y fulfillment so temporary, that 80% of newcomers walk away in one year. Random sex sounds a lot better to a lot of people.

"Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained." - A.W. Tozer

As someone who has been a Christian as long as I can remember, I can say that getting past temporary fulfillment in or out of the church is a battle. I couldn't even admit that I wasn't ultimately satisfied in Christ. I've been in ministry since I was 12 years old (doing worship teams). Ten years later, I find myself not participating in ministry for the first time since then. And its taken some hard slaps in the face to realize something:
I made her love the ultimate satisfaction in life.

And honestly, it was better satisfaction than I knew in the church most of the time. I was just like Jacob, in the Bible, who worked 7 years thinking he would be rewarded with Rachel, but was instead given Leah, and worked 7 more years to get Rachel. Her love was the ultimate reward for him, worth any amount of years of labor. Where was God?

We talk about the eternal fulfillment a life with Jesus brings all the time, but we so often rely on our own understanding of it. If we rely on our own, temporary understanding of God's eternal fulfillment, it will only be temporarily fulfilling (Prov 3:5-6). Our fulfillment will only come during our Sunday morning service, our 'Christian fellowship time', or our in our hardcore actions for God, when we are stimulated. It is no wonder why so many people cannot engage with Christ and the church and walk away to other things we consider temporary fulfillments.
Finding true eternal fulfillment in God is rarely practiced anymore and truly knowing God is a concept buried among our Christianese cliches that only scratch the surface of God and claim to be deep.
Our culture is not concerned with deep understanding. It is concerned with being right and being satisfied. Maybe we need to realize that being on the right side and feeling satisfied does not mean you have reached righteousness, wisdom, truth, or love. Maybe we need a divine perspective to even begin to understand what it means to be eternally fulfilled in God.

Maybe to really be satisfied, knowing God, and taking joy in being with Him, being in communion with Him constantly, needs to be our focus. Maybe satisfaction isn't what we think it is now.
Maybe, bringing other people into the church, praying for their salvation, and checking them off our lists is exactly what we need to stop doing, and instead, seek after communion with God ourselves first, so that others can see the eternal fulfillment in us, and we can tell them why we have it.

"That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God." - A.W. Tozer

Don't just consider this another call to faith. Search yourself. Vigorously and painfully. Not for the right answers, but for the failures. They exist in all of us.
Because God is asking humanity: Why don't you love me? Don't you know what I've done for you? Are you not satisfied with my affection?
But His affections are infinite. Even if they were something like the affections I have for her, I would be so satisfied in being that loved. But how much more than that it is! Our hearts were designed to love and be loved in such a way that is ultimate and greater than we can imagine. Will we continue to search for it in sex? relationships? success? attention? Or will you devote yourself to finding a satisfaction that nothing in this world can compare to? You have to believe it exists first. The salvation of belief is just the beginning, and we are called to a transformational fulfillment and love far beyond just mere belief and emotional attachment.

"The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters, which at the most, cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes and instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man's laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too much to bear. The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them. Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any is more hateful to God than idolatry...the idolatrous heart assumes God is something other than He is..." - A.W. Tozer Knowledge of the Holy

I am guilty of idolatry. Are you? Is your church?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Worship Pre-Amp

Since I am sick and cannot sleep, I have little else to do at 4:30 am besides get creative.

I was reading through some of Hillsong's blogs about creativity and musicianship and thought it would be nice to have something like that within our church, where we can share with and learn from each other, as God has gifted us each differently. Being my first attempt at this, I thought I would share something small about a little of my approach to playing guitar for a worship team, hopefully without the pretense that I do it the "right" way. Hopefully this will inspire or encourage someone!

The multi-effects pedal. Its what pretty much all the guitarists at LifePoint use. The POD is pretty popular, but we also see Boss, AXE-FX, and Digitech in the mix too. I can't really talk about the POD or Digitech at all, since I use a Boss, but I hope the sounds I talk about will be familiar to everyone else. I'll just talk about one right now.

Picking a pre-amp is the most important part, in my opinion. Using pre-amp with too much fuzz or too little power will corrupt your sound. I always have my pre-amp effect active when I'm playing on stage, so its easy to see why I think its most important. The particular effect I use is a BG Lead amplifier modeler. I messed with this particular effect by itself for a while to get the sound I have.
When using the Aviom mixers, the way your guitar sounds is completely different in the earphones than how it sounds going through the speakers. This being the case, when I started playing, I had way too much drive on the pre-amp. I was using overdrive all the time. It sounded great in my earphones, but then one day, Jeff Richards and Gary Floto came up to me and told me that since I had so much drive in my effect, they had to keep the high frequencies on my channel low. Low enough that it wouldn't have the desired punch of a good electric sound.

What I did was got a pre-amp effect that sounded so clean that it would sound like playing dry. I turned the drive down to 0 and the BG Lead modeler sounded like a clean tube amp. Then I turned up the drive maybe 10-15% (not a lot, some days I'm at 5). At first, it sounded kind of lame because it didn't have that heavy distortion that makes the guitar rock more. It sounded almost completely clean. But in reality, its not. When it goes through the speakers or my amplifier, the volume alone gives it that epic, mad powerful punch you want.

So don't over-effect your ax. The bottom line is that with a good, clear toned amp model, you will sound much better than running with a bunch of drive and overdrive effects on. Try messing with it sometime, the sound guys might be very grateful if you get a sold tone they can crank!

Drop some feedback or differing opinions on what you do, I'd love to hear from you. I'll talk about other effects later.