May. 31, 2022

(con't from Part XLII)

This posting has to do with practical matters of sales and circulation which are brought to bear upon the contemporary composer writing art music for the Organ.

Looking at it strictly through the lens of the Organ, anyone composing music these days for the King of Instruments is writing for a medium whose core repertoire spans hundreds of years and is automatically entering into a dialogue with the past and having enduring works for models.  This leads the composer into giving some thought to what it might take for new writing to become something that speaks to a broad variety of musicians and music lovers over a span of cultures, places, and epochs -- something that might have a life beyone its original premiere and even possibly labored over, loved, interrogated, and admired by future generations.

The overwhelming majority of music being created for public consumption today is made with an entirely different goal in mind, viz., to create a hit, catching fire with the broadest possible listening public with no concern or regard for any kind of historical endurance.  The desire to write a piece that would enter the Organ repertoire is particularly apposite, but, for any new work that has substantive ideas, a well developed sense of craft, and an inner propulsion that carries the listener forward from start to finish including a little of the unexpected, history teaches that such characteristics, among others, are necessary for any new art music to one day enter the standard repertoire regardless of whether or not it happens to be fashionable for the current time or place or ever achieve acclaim during the composer's lifetime.

This has been the essential thinking of a substantial number of composers for many centuries, but, for better or worse, times have changed, tastes have changed, and, before "selling" their music to the audiences of today, contemporary composers are faced with "selling" it to today's organists who might want to play it.  And, for them, that's the Catch 22.  Most organists will only play what their audiences are willing to hear, and most audiences are inclined to listen to what they already know.  This has led many contemporary composers to stop writing fugues and other lengthy polyphonic pieces because just about nobody in the listening public is interested in such style anymore, very few people possess the skill level to play them, and those organists who happen to have the requisite skills generally prefer to play more well-known music or what can be learned in a much shorter time, as their jobs typically require the handling of new music quickly.  When these same composers begin creating chorale preludes and meditations on well-known hymn tunes with clear melodies however, they very often find interest in their composing picking up; they feel compelled to write simpler music after that because they want other people to play it, and it seems clear that they won't play it unless it fits a certain format with this general make-up:  1) emotionally charged title, 2) under 5 minutes in duration, 3) homophonic, i.e. not more than a single recognizable melody sounding at the same time (could be in any part), 4) recognizable form, 5) harmonies with not too much chromatics, and 6) simple rhythms with recognizable patterns and time signatures.

All organ playing is balance, and the same is true of composing for this instrument in today's world; the balance comes in finding a way within these parameters to include some individuality and craftsmanship without overwhelming today's listeners with a preponderance of style to which they're indifferent, not to mention being ponderous and challenging to learn [See blog, Balance In Organ Playing, Parts I-III].  Now, this is not the same as saying that contemporary composers should feel compelled to yield and undergo some sort of drastic metamorphosis contrary to their own innate inclinations for employing animated counterpoint as a basis for their writing ... or if, let's say, it's been their habit to insert spicey chromatic harmonies or perhaps a bit of the unexpected at times into their music; these kinds of creative practices among others are the same practices which have carried the art of composing forward and have encouraged its preservation from the very beginning.  How they write their music is all part and parcel of who they are, what God has put inside them, and what He calls them to do.  At the same time contemporary composers should not feel surprised or discouraged when today's broader listening public -- a largely myopic public ignorant of the musical greatness of what has come before -- expresses zero interest in their work.

The truth is, today's society has created substitutes for everything, and a great many people have confused these imitations with the authentic.  Today's society is so accustomed to the artificial that a great many people have forgotten the real thing.  This is why there are far worse things that can happen to someone than to be less trendy and a bit "old-fashioned" in his/her thinking [See blog, An Anointed Ministry, Part VI].  Whatever is old-fashioned has to do with it being typical of an earlier time and having stood upon a framework of sane and solid principles which have provided it with staying power and long-standing appeal.  This, as stated, spans cultures, places, and epochs and has nothing to do with the latest craze that appears briefly for a time only to be replaced by the next fad, enthusiasm, or fever.  In the case of music this framework involves, among other things, well thought out and well-crafted starting materials, recognizable form, skillful workmanship, a quick and creative imagination, and many other aspects frequently associated with greatness which, even if passed over by the consumers of the present day, are nevertheless dateless, intemporal, and never go out of style.             

Apr. 27, 2022

(con't from Part VI)

It seems obvious that among the various Christian "churches," denominations, and faith-based groups of the present day there is significant misunderstanding of the purpose of music in worship.  To view or promote the music made at a worship event as a means to facilitate an encounter with God or that it will move people closer to God would be a rather serious theological error.  In this schema, music becomes a mediation between God and man, an idea which is closer actually to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.

Popular, well-meaning, but mistaken notions such as this undermine the foundational biblical truth of the Christian faith that Christ is the only Mediator between God and man and that He alone is the One Who reconciles us to God.  It seems ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which Christ Himself gave to His church, viz. baptism and the Lord's Supper, they are fine with granting the music at a worship event some sort of sacramental power as if it were a means by which we enter the presence of God and receive His saving benefits.  The fact of the matter is, there is no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God -- this is actually a pagan notion far from Christian.

There's a fine line to be drawn here, one upon which, unfortunately, not all professed ministers of the gospel of Christ agree.  When the music at an event is looked upon as a means to encounter God it can lead to several negative consequences, not the least of which is that the musicians become a surrogate for the Person of God's Spirit Who alone assumes that role in drawing people to Christ (John6:44).  Any time the people in a congregation start believing that the performing musicians on the platform at a worship event are successfully moving them into God's presence the musicians will have attained a status that is far too high for their own good.

In some congregations. as praise bands and lighting have grown, pulpits have correspondingly shrunk and even disappeared.  For those young church-goers today whose ears are accustomed to a hard driving rock beat, music provides the elusive swing and sway while the Bible is, for them, more prosaic.  It isn't unusual therefore, in many contemporary Christian services and gatherings where music is given a prominent role in worship, for God's Word to be shortchanged and marginalized.  Faith however does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God; it is birthed and strengthened through the proclamation of God's Word (Rom.10:17).  When people get to associating God's presence with a particular feeling from a musical experience the question arises as to what happens when they no longer feel it.  Such believers often search for churches where the praise band, orchestra, or pipe organ produces in them the feelings they're chasing when the reality of God in their lives actually depends upon the Person of God's Spirit drawing them to Christ, not on subjective experiences.

There is also the tendency for people who identify a feeling as an encounter with God where only a particular kind of music produces that feeling to insist that this same type of music be played regularly in their church or worship gatherings.  If everyone else in the congregation were to agree with that, then unity among them, albeit in error, is a possibility ... but, if others depend upon a different kind of music to produce the feeling that is important to them, then potential division within the church of Christ, one of the things the devil is interested in stirring up, is cultivated.  For anyone who gets used to associating particular feelings from listening to music as encounters with God, their demands for what produces those feelings usually become very rigid.  This is one reason why certain well-meaning pastors who are trying to hold their congregations together sometimes succumb to the temptation to offer multiple styles of worship services which, unfortunately, can have the unwanted and unintended effect of sanctioning division and self-centeredness.  There is but ONE style of a worship service.  And that is to have Almighty God and Jesus Christ at the center of it.

The devil understands this and uses music and musicians, as tools and surrogates, respectively, to cunningly deceive the unwary by getting them to think that music is useful for drawing people to their object of worship, something that is nowhere found in Scripture and actually has more in common with pagan practices.  Sadly, some pastors and even certain world renouned Christian evangelists have not been immune to this thinking, unfortunately.  Christ said that no one can come to Him unless the Father Who sent Him draws them (John6:44).  The agent which does the "drawing" is none other than the Holy Spirit, NOT the fine arts or any other human agency.  It is the Person of God's Spirit Who reveals to someone, in gentle spiritual nudgings and inner awareness, Who Christ is, how much Christ loves them, and why they need Him.  This was revealed to the apostle Peter, for example, NOT by song or hymn but solely and exclusively by the Spirit of God working on his mind supernaturally (Matt.16:13-17).  It's absolutely biblical to use song and hymn to TEACH the message of Christ (Col.3:16), but there's nothing in Scripture to indicate that God has ever used song or hymn as an agency to DRAW people to Christ or that people should presume that the Holy Spirit resorts to using musical sound vibrations to reach the hearts of men when all else fails.  Those who have been saved at a certain worship service who claim it was the music at that event which drew them to Christ need to understand that it was the presence of God's Spirit at that event Who drew them, not the music they heard.  The music may or may not have been written or improvised under the guiding influence of God's Spirit, but the combination of tones, how they're arranged, and how they're realized in performance, no matter how uplifting and edifying the resulting sound may seem to be, has no saving power; remove the Holy Spirit from the equation and no one listening to worship music is saved.  Repeating, Christ Himself indicated that the Person of God's Spirit reaches the hearts of men supernaturally (John6:44).  It's rather important for those working in the music ministry to know and understand the subtlety of this difference.

SOMETHING ELSE DEMANDS COMMENT:  Those contemporary composers who are writing art music for the King of Instruments authentically (that is, on an unrestricted canvas with freedom unabridged to express the entire range of musical thought and human emotion at the touch of a key) may be surprised to learn that Satan, the devil of old whose hatred for God is implacable and incurable, has tempted and swayed certain contemporary composers to write so-called Dark Gothic organ music, sometimes called Dark Ambient Fantasy music, to promote his own devious agenda to dupe, befool, and lure as many unsuspecting human souls as he can, distract them from the Word of God, blind the minds of unbelievers so they cannot understand the gospel of Christ, and, ultimately, get them to forfeit their own lives.  This is a deadly serious matter.  Not satisfied simply tampering with, hustling, mis-recording, and redubbing BWV 565 as "the Dracula toccata," something which would have had J.S. Bach infuriated [See blog, Bach d minor, Part III], self-serving individuals like these have used their God-given talents and modern music-writing technology in even more revolting ways by composing brand new pagan ritual and satanic ceremonial organ music of their own, making computer-generated audio clips of the same, and posting these on social media as Dark Gothic slide shows easily accessible, even to children.  These pathetic, wretched musicians, sad to say, are also dishonest about revealing who they are -- they adopt fictitious mystery names to conceal their true identities, deviously try to hide behind them, have no clue about how many other culpable people these musical creations of theirs will irretrievably harm, and don't care.  The organ music they manage to forge is typically devoid of animated counterpoint, is improvisatory in nature, and generally separates into three primary stereotypical types:  1) the brooding, mysterious piece of irregular free rhythm and arcane mood, 2) the lively dance-like piece of thin texture and regular rhythm, and 3) the invariably loud piece of acrimonious mood having dissonant notes and chords held against animated repetitive figuration.  Within this broad classification there are multiple subtypes of each grouping which vary in texture, tempo, dynamics, and registration.  This trinity of types and subtypes also is found blended into a single massive admixture, producing a lengthy meandering fantasia that could occupy an hour or more of listening.  Written invariably in minor keys using a triadic tonal vocabulary, this music is jam-packed with a preponderance of minor chords moving above droning pedal points; it makes liberal use of tritones and other dissonant intervals, tonally ambiguous bare 4ths and 5ths, and is peppered with agitated, repeated patterns that rudely intrude themselves.  Not surprisingly, while it's cleverly contrived for its intended effect of fostering nervous apprehension and dread among listeners, this music is ambiguous in form, speaks only in somber and abridged musical language, writes its own rules, and takes unexpected turns, sometimes roaming about the tonal landscape like a roaring lion, modulating to suit itself.

Now, it's disturbing enough that creepy "haunted house music" like this manufactured solely for its shock factor is being adored and applauded as the work of genius, which it is NOT -- it cannot begin to compare with the masterpieces of giants like Bach, Reger, Franck, or Vierne -- but it's nothing short of horrifying to discover that more and more gulled individuals who have come under its malicious charms, people for whom Christ died, are filling their ears with it every day and seriously contemplating this bogus and pretentious babel for their own wedding and funeral music.  Make no mistake:  Dark Gothic or Dark Ambient Fantasy music is NOT authentically written, as thus defined; it is nothing of the kind -- it is written in a tenebrous and ghoulish shorthand using means that are always predictably dictated -- it is improvised in a murky and caliginous dialect that is always slavishly followed -- it is the product of dark intelligence and design -- a morose and at times raucous, counterfeit clamor practiced by rueful, lamentable souls who have dabbled in the occult, hardened their hearts, turned their backs on and mocked God, Christ, and the Bible, planted their flags with the powers of darkness, put themselves in a very dangerous place, and are quite happy to stay there [See blog, An Annointed Ministry, Part V].  Crafted under and inspired by the Muse of demonic influence and publicized from behind a wall of secrecy, scores like this (some of which have been made printable for a fee) are an artificial and defective substitute for the real thing; such scores are fabricated by imprisoned minds held in restraints; it is creativity stripped of liberty and license, robbed of all traces of equanimity, composure, peace, serenity, poised assurance, and joy, and are coldly calculated to rob the listener of the same.  Such scores in their cookie-cutter semblance have nothing to teach, no innocuous or beneficial use not even for private let alone public amusement, and, by sounding as if heavily influenced by supernatural or supernormal powers or some secret knowledge of them, stand in bold defiance of the righteous wrath and retributive justice of Almighty God Who considers ALL forms of occultism an abomination (1Cor.10:21).  For organists and church musicians in whom the Spirit of God is or should be dwelling, this is as repulsive and sinful as it gets, it spits at and mocks the one true God Who gives the great gift of music to mankind, and all people will do well to take due notice of these truths, if they haven't already, and govern themselves accordingly. 

God does not give those in Christ a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2Tim.1:7).  Scripture is full of exhortations to God's people to sing and make music to the Lord, and the God of this Universe has been gracious to give human beings the means and the great gift of music to praise Him.  It's important therefore for organists and church musicians to keep in mind that God-honoring music in worship is NOT made to entertain the crowd, garner applause, facilitate an encounter with God, or to draw people to Christ.  It definitely IS made however for at least 4 other biblical purposes:  1) to offer praise of and thanksgiving to God (Ps.147:7), 2) to express the joy of salvation in loud and jubilant rejoicing (Ps.98:4-5), 3) to teach the message of Christ and admonish others in a spirit of gratitude (Col.3:16), and 4) to demonstrate, feed, and strengthen the faith of believers (Matt.26:30, Mark14:26, Acts16:25).  

Apr. 24, 2022

(con't from Part IV)

There are several priorities that can be expected to help organists who are involved in this ministry to keep first things first and to better enjoy their anointed calling.  It's important to never forget that GOD is our audience.  This means adopting a conscious and constant attitude to redirect ourselves away from an entertainment model where the singers and musicians are onstage to put on a show to impress the critics and the rest of the audience in their seats.  As musicians living in utilitarian times we're constantly tempted to value efficiency and precision in performance over everything else, merely for the sake of our Art.  Even if we happen to be seated on a platform front and center and our playing is helping to offer collective praise before hundreds of human onlookers and listeners, we're still performing to an Audience of One.

We need to ask the Lord to lead us rather than just bless us.  Sometimes people are prone to build the house, finish what they created, and then ask the Lord to bless their efforts rather than to be a faithful worker under His direction all along the way.  We can forget that God knows what will ultimately please Him far better than we do.  In spite of what we plan, He's more concerned with the depth of our obedience than the magnitude or absolute perfection of our musical finished product.  No matter how many times we've practiced a work, each time we perform it there will be a difference.  

We need to practice reverence for the holy.  Helping to lead worship can expose us to the dire consequences of spiritual pride, and there is an irreverent danger in becoming "too familiar" with the things of God.  We recall that, in the biblical story, Uzzah was struck dead because he touched the Ark of the Covenant as David and his army brought it back to Jerusalem (2Sam.6:1-7)).  Instead of abiding in God's instruction for the priests to bear the Ark on their shoulders on poles, David placed the Ark on a cart drawn by oxen in the care of people who weren't qualified for the job.  He played fast and loose with holy things because he wanted to get the Ark home for a massive worship celebration.

People should be valued over performance.  People are to be loved; things are to be used.  We fail in our calling when we use people and love things.  People have talents, gifts, and roles, but people are many more things than that, NOT JUST those things -- they are priceless individuals created in the holy image of God, broken by the Fall, and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  Whether we're full-time, part-time, or volunteers, we need to constantly remind ourselves that our ministry is not music but people.  Music is simply a means we use to express praise, thanksgiving, and the joy of salvation, to teach the message of Christ, admonish others, and serve the faithful, but the temptation is there to put our services first.  We measure our effectiveness not just in terms of services conceived and completed; we measure it in relational terms.

We should rejoice in the privilege of doing music.  God gave us music as the language of the spirit, and when we write, play, or sing music we partake in His nature as Divine Creator.  Music helps us to see beyond ourselves and share our hopes and dreams with one another.  It's highest calling, however, is to bring praise to God from Whom all blessings flow.  It's so easy, when we're tired or anxious or frustrated, or when moments may come when we feel especially satisfied and proud of our contribution, to forget that being musical is a holy privilege.  It's an amazing thing, to push a key, pluck a string, or sing a note, and hear a musical tone.  How much more to do so in the service of our Lord!  To remind ourselves of that is a profound joy.

(con't in Part VI)

Apr. 1, 2022

(con't from Part III)

Those organists who have sensed within themselves a definite inner awareness to expand their outreach beyond the art music of the organ to help spread the gospel message are all united in one thing:  they do not give their remaining lives and the sum of their talents, energies, tools, time, and know-how to a dead Christ but to a living Christ.  Because God has given us a singing faith and the gift of music to praise Him there can be no doubt that the music ministry has pastoral dimensions which stretch across the entire enormity of ALL groupings which embrace the Christian faith.  It's important therefore for organists and church musicians actively involved in following that anointed calling and have been habitually working and serving at a particular worship center or at similar venues, for pay or otherwise, to know that the Person of God's Spirit very likely has been speaking to them and that keeping the tenets or creed where they meet and work in biblical perspective is an important part of their work.

Having a solid grounding in those biblical concepts which have been the subjects of such a vast company of inspired hymns, hymn arrangements, anthems, masses, cantatas, chorale harmonizations, chorale preludes, and songs of the church as have come down to us, sheds light on the work of today's organists and church musicians.  Christ Jesus never called us to be a Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, or any other denomination, but to be born again.  One searches the Word of God in vain to find that in heaven there will be multiple denominations, churches, or faith-based groups which continue at variance with one another.  On the contrary, there, believers "from every tribe and language and people and nation ..." (Rev.5:9) will be united together in Christ.  What a comforting thought it is, that all the things currently dividing the followers of Christ in this age one day will be swept away.  One can certainly appreciate the loyalty to their "church" or denomination people of this day may express and perhaps require of those who are needed to meet its own musical demands of worship, but, the truth is:  The love of God is not restricted in its limits or extent to any one denomination, persuasion, or grouping of people; it is His will that ALL be saved and come to repentance and the knowledge of His truth and for NONE to perish (1Tim.2:3, 2Pet.3:9).  One may logically infer from this that none of these differing groupings are exclusively right while everyone else is wrong.  Evangelists who have traveled extensively carrying the gospel message to different countries across the world come into contact with many men and women from a multitude of different backgrounds who love Christ, and these same messengers of the gospel have returned grateful for the spiritual oneness they have observed.  

Sometimes there is a deeper issue behind someone's attitude that their own faith-based group, and theirs alone, has the truth about God and everyone else is under condemnation for being wrong:  "The church Jesus started" is a designation being claimed by many conflicting Christian-based creeds and communions these days.  Again, to keep things in perspective, the deepest issue of all is humanity's sin problem -- the basic evil from which all people need deliverance.  We, each and every one of us, by being descendants of the first man and woman who willfully chose to rebel against their Maker, are automatically born into a rebellious race.  The desires of the flesh to which the Holy Scriptures refer is not a reference to the physical body but rather to this rebellious nature of man.  When man willfully abandoned God's way and began trusting the devil, sin entered the picture and became part of man's nature.  Because of sin, every person comes into this world inheriting this nature of being naturally disobedient to and unable to understand the things of God.  It's this fleshly nature of man which, under the continuing hurtful influence of Satan's broadcasting, has spawned all the pride, greed, jealousy, malicious intent, conflicts, bloodshed, misery, poverty, filth, and squalor of this present evil world and the sewer-pipe-ungodly immoral society in which we live today.  Even though that same society presumes without authority from God to trivialize sin, redefine it by cloaking it in alternative terminology, and even accuses the apostle Paul, chosen vessel of God  and brilliant explainer of the gospel transition of the human heart, of being mistaken (thereby implying that Almighty God is mistaken), the fact remains that sin as God's Word defines it has cursed and broken every human life, broken every family, broken every community, broken every nation, broken every kingdom, shattered this world, and the rubble is everywhere.  It has distorted the heart and soul of every human being, and its effects and consequences are everywhere in view.

One day every person alive today can expect to die and moments later be judged by the truth contained in every line of the Word of God as the Holy Spirit gave it.  Like a workman's rule or gauge, God's way codified in the commandments presented to Moses (Ex.20:1-17, Deut.5:6-21) define what sin is and measure everyone's thoughts and conduct against God's standards, reflecting a person's moral image like a mirror to display the fleshly nature of man as a holy God sees it.  These laws reveal the depth and breadth of God's standards and show that NO ONE is righteous on their own, that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God.  The Bible further indicates (Rev.20:11-15) that every act of human disobedience to God -- every sinful thought and action -- has been recorded in heavenly books and, if not expunged from that record, will be held against people when the day and hour arrives for judgment.  That day and hour arrives for everyone because all have rejected God's way, all have been disobedient, and all are under condemnation for it.  Every person can expect to die one day and moments later be judged by the truth found in the Word of God.  But God, in His unfathomable love for us, wants to forgive us; He wants to make us a new person and has provided a way of deliverance for us from the power and effects of sin -- a Way to erase a repentant believer's offenses once and for all from the heavenly books that record them and to enter his or her name instead into the Lamb's Book of Life.

So, with all this in mind, the real question for the organist/church musician must be:  How are people saved? ... Are they saved just because they belong to one particular church, denomination, or faith-based group? ... Or are they saved because of their good works or religious acts? ... The answer to both is no.  God's Word is clear:  there is nothing anyone can do to earn their own salvation; no person is righteous on their own.  But for those who repent of their sins, believe in Christ and His sacrifice, and ask Him to come into their heart and make Him their Lord and Saviour, the same are then justified by God.  At that moment a measure of the goodness of Christ is spiritually poured into that person, and their past sinful thoughts, words, and deeds are then forgiven and wiped away as if they never happened.  Like a single glimmering ray from an altar lamp, the Spirit of Christ within then shines forth and serves to make the darkness visible, and, from then on, they are in Christ, and He is in them.  In the way this glimmering ray makes His home with us, God imparts His peace and His righteousness to us through it, our offenses are pardoned, we've been reconciled to God, and each of us is a new person in Christ.  No matter what a mess we may have made of our life up until then, this gives us a fresh start, a new beginning.  This is what it means to be a Christian, to be "born again" (of God's Spirit), to be saved, to be identified as belonging to Christ and part of the church that Jesus said He would build, to grow in Him, and to be heirs with Him of the promises of life eternal.  This doesn't happen by praying for someone to be born again; it happens by being exposed to the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which is truth.

The way God has chosen to reveal Himself to humans is by means of a triune nature, and man whom He made in the image of Himself also was given a triune nature, viz. a body, a soul, and a spirit (1Thess.5:23).  The human body (Gr. soma) or outermost man is physical, the seat of the 5 senses, how we interact with the physical world, and is readily comprehended.  The human spirit and soul on the other hand are less distinguishable and often confused.  As stated, the spirit (Gr. pneuma) or inner man is what is born again; the soul (Gr. psyche) or outer man is not.  The soul of someone born again has to be "renewed," and the physical body has to be disciplined.  This progress takes time.  Our human spirit, when present with the body, is what makes us alive, and when we die our spirit separates from the body and returns to God (Eccl.12:7).  The soul, which the Bible sometimes refers to as "the heart of man" (Matt.15:19, Mark7:21), is the seat of our identity, personality, and character, our emotions, feelings, and passions, our intellect and mind, our will and desires, and our conscience in knowing right from wrong.  Creativity springs from the soul.  The ideas for a creative venture, including hymn writing and composition of art music for the Organ, come from the soul, but, in the case of the composer saved in Christ, this creativity spiringing from the soul can be led and guided by the individual's spirit.  Sadly, the soul also can be a dwelling place for evil, meaning our own sinful human nature and possibly evil spirits.  Our spirit on the other hand exists for God, is always pointed toward God, and is the place from where we communicate with God in prayer.  At the moment God justifies us by our faith in Christ and belief that He was resurrected from the dead, the spirit of man becomes active as the dwelling place for God's Spirit.  From then on it starts functioning as the seat of spiritual discernment, revelation, and insight from God and imparts His peace to the soul.  The spirit of the individual saved in Christ also is where true ministry happens, and it leads and guides the soul and body to act and operate within the will of God.  It permits a much deeper discernment between right and wrong, and no evil ever dwells there or is emitted from there.  Apart from God however, man's spirit is inactive.

With that in mind, Christ, in sharing in our humanity, took upon Himself a human spirit at His birth which in its functionality was no different than ours.  This can be inferred because on the night He was betrayed, during the hours He spent overnight in Gethsemane in mental agony awaiting His arrest, as He literally became sin for us, God withdrew the Person of His Spirit from Him, leaving Him alone to feel His human spirit separated from the Holy Spirit for the first time in His life.  Christ also took upon Himself a human soul at His birth but which, due to His divinity, lacked any base natural sin, but in its functionality, save for it being under no burden for sin or yoked with generational curses, it was identical to ours.  Upon His death on the cross the human spirit which was His at birth was committed to His Father in heaven (Luke23:46).  His soul however did not fall asleep when He died, nor did it vanish into thin air.  His soul did not return to heaven unto God Who gave it, as might be expected, because it had singular work to do; it descended into a spiritual compartment within the heart of the earth (Gr. tartarus, translated "hell") where certain rebellious angels are being confined awaiting judgment (1Pet.3;19).  No human ever goes there, but when Christ descended there with the personality/identity of His soul fully intact He preached a message to them.  The Bible does not record that allocution, but what was very likely made known to them in no uncertain terms was that He had just triumphed over death, hell, and the grave, and that THEY, by enlisting under Satan's banner, had bet on the wrong horse.

While still in the heart of the earth Christ visited a second compartment called Paradise, or Abraham's bosom, and emptied it of the souls of the Old Testament saints who, waiting there in a place of comfort, were saved by their faith in a coming Messiah even though they died not knowing him to be Jesus of Nazareth.  Christ then emptied Paradise by removing all these souls to heaven along with the soul of the penitent criminal crucified with Him whose faith had earned him a place among these Old Testament saints.  Thus Paradise, Abraham's bosom, is now in heaven, and the compartment in the heart of the earth that used to be Paradise has been vacated.  Alhough at the time His dead mortal body was resting in a tomb and He had commended His human spirit temporarily to His Father, Christ's soul in the heart of the earth remained fully intact and active.  The same also continued after His resurrection else His personality/identity would not have been evident to His disciples when He appeared to them in a glorified state (John21:12).  The point is, upon His death Christ's human soul, functionally no different than ours, did not enter a sleep state, neither did it disappear.  What happens to everyone else's soul at death depends upon the type of resurrection that awaits that person.  The Bible speaks of three types of resurrections:  1) physical life, 2) immortality, or 3) judgment.  In the first two instances the soul of the deceased man, woman, or child returns to God awaiting a resurrection to immortality or perhaps another physical life, but in the last instance the soul is sent to an awful third compartment within the heart of the earth (Gr. Hades, translated "hell") to await a future resurrection to judgment and the lake of fire.   

When our own spirit is born again it's very much like a newborn baby.  It needs to grow.  It's needing to be fed, cleaned up, trained, disciplined, all of that.  That new human spirit of ours just born again isn't anywhere near ready to take on the likes of our old, experienced soul.  The latter has been around a long time and will not be told what to do by some new upstart, so, it tends to keep doing what it wants, even if our new, born again spirit is making feeble attempts at urging us to pray, read the Bible, meditate on God's Word, go to church, or do other acts of service for Him.  Until our new spirit grows and gains strength, the soul will keep kicking its little behind.  Thus, even though we're a new person in Christ and making progress a part of us out of habit still sins and keeps feeding itself.  This explains why someone born again, like a toddler learning to walk, keeps stumbling in sin.  The sinful nature expressible by the soul is an enemy to be recognized and battled every day along with the world and its ways and Satan the devil, three deadly enemies that can prey upon a person's life.  So, the Bible tells us that we're a new creation in Christ, and here we are wanting to sin, like always.  When this happens the presence of God's Spirit within us is grieved, our own spirit senses this grief, God's Spirit convicts us of the sin, we feel horrible over it and led (again) to repentance, and our salvation obtained by faith in God's grace through Christ continues.  The Bible speaks of being renewed in spirit of the mind (Eph.4:23) for a reason, because the changes of being born again are not immediate or magical and we have to work to retrain our minds and to salvage what we can of our souls.  When the Bible speaks of "possessing (saving) the soul" or "standing firm and winning life" (Luke21:19) it is speaking of this.  The unsalvaged soul unrenewed, unled, and unguided by God's Spirit to operate within the will of God is lost in sin, and, if left in that condition, is headed for death -- the second death (Ezek.18:20) 

NOTE:  Coming from some of the most misunderstood passages of the synoptic gospels, the term "unpardonable sin" has caused more consternation and fear than perhaps any other (Matt. 12:31,32, Mark 3:28,29, Luke 12:10).  The very idea can cause the stomach to tie in knots and create despair in the hearts of young believers in a way that could send some over the edge.  It is not merely mouthing some nasty words about the Person of God's Spirit that brings the trouble ... rather, it's a sin people who profess religion or to know the Lord, or else have once known Him and turned their back on Him, commit against themselves in falling away, in hardening their hearts to such a degree that no evidence will ever be enough to draw them to or hold them to Christ; such a person's spirit remains inactive, out of touch with God, and unable to be reached, which keeps that person in a lost condition (the kinds of things a person denies when they fall away are God, Christ and His return, sound doctrine, the faith, morals, authority).  Any unsaved person who has never heard of Christ and has not yet made a profession of faith cannot blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but whoever blasphemes the Spirit will have no desire to serve Him.  The unpardonable sin also has to do with ascribing works that could only be done by God's Spirit to Satan the devil or to his minions, the effect of which is still the same -- it renders a person incapable of receiving salvation.  To label anything which is actually of God as being of Satan and to attribute the Power of God to the chief Destroyer in the spiritual realm is a serious offense, indeed.  Such people, sadly, doom themselves.  One of the primary earthly roles of God's Spirit is to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to gently lead them to saving faith.  Jesus told the Jews, "No one can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draws them ..." (John 6:44).  The agent actually performing the "drawing" is none other than the Holy Spirit.  The moment that the believing sinner comes to realization that (s)he is a sinner in desperate need of a Saviour, the Holy Spirit, Who is God, draws that person to Christ.  Thus, if anyone credits to the powers of darkness those things that the Holy Spirit is working to do in their own life, then there remains no avenue for revelation to be led to salvation, no path or track left for insight or communication between that person's spirit and God.  The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to which Christ refers in the synoptic gospels therefore is a dangerous situation for someone to be in.  This information, this message, is not given to believers so they might judge others -- it is rather a warning, a reminder, so that they might never ever, repeat never, even think about hardening their own hearts to such an extent that even the Person of God's Spirit cannot, or can no longer, reach them.  Those who have Christ need to very careful before they conclude that any living human being is beyond redemption. 

This is not to say that a backslider cannot come back to the Lord if forgiveness is sought and there is heartfelt, sincere repentance (such a person's sins can still be pardoned in Christ).  What it DOES mean is that, as stated, one who has actually blasphemed the Holy Spirit will have no interest in Christ whatsoever and is happy to stay that way.  Anyone who desires to come to the Lord (something placed there by the Holy Spirit) can certainly do so (Rev.22:17).  It's proper therefore to say that anyone worried or concerned that they may have committed the unpardonable sin clearly has not done so, for those who have hardened their heart to such a degree will not even care about it.  Rest assured, dear reader, that if you think you have crossed that line, you have NOT crossed it, and God is still working in your life.  And if, after careful prayer and searching, you come to a different conclusion from what the Bible is actually saying, then you have that right.  But your right to accept what you want and reject or ignore what you want from the Bible won't change the fact that the truth as revealed in it is God-breathed, perfect, pure, infallible, never changes, and trusting and obeying it benefits us all.

It's a fact that we're all heading toward death from the day we're born.  It's appointed for people once to die, and our lives are but a vapor which appears for a brief moment and then vanishes.  It's also a fact that a mere one second after we die our soul and spirit leave our physical body and enter an eternity in which the only thing that will matter is our personal relationship with Christ.  Back here on earth the ownership of our home and/or real estate property, if any, will fall to someone else.  Someone else will be driving our car or truck, owning our clothing, and possessing our bank account and other personal belongings including jewelry, furniture, musical instruments if any, and all other material items.  All of the titles, awards, and honors we managed to accumulate and whatever prestige that may have come with them will be left behind and mean nothing where we're going.  The accolades, if any, we've received in this life, our privileges, licenses, memberships, and that Ph.D. we worked so hard to earn, will mean absolutely nothing.  How many people we were able to please also will mean nothing.  Almighty God will not have the slightest interest in how many people we were able to please in this life.  What He WILL want to know is:  What did each of us DO -- with what He put inside of us? ...

A very great deal of vocal and choral music which organists and church musicians are typically expected to accompany also has to do with the subject of love.  There are four different Greek words found in the New Testament Scriptures (Gr. agape, eros, philia, sturge) with completely different meanings that translators have rendered into English with the lone word "love."  When the apostle John states (1John4:16) that "God is love" (Gr. agape, pronounced "uh-GAH-pay") this Greek word refers to the highest of the four types, the divine love that comes from God, a perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, pure, and selfless concern for the welfare of others including the stranger.  It is the type of love which the world doesn't have and, in fact, cannot have, which only a believer can have, and which can only be given by the Lord Himself.  It does not refer to the sensual, romantic affection (Gr. eros, pronounced "AIR-ohs") reserved for marriage between a man and his wife ... it does not refer to the most generally seen and powerful emotional bond (Gr. philia, pronounced "FILL-ee-uh) of friendship among dear and close friends ... nor does it refer to the affectionate family bond (Gr. sturge, prounced "STOR-jay) that develops naturally between parents and children or between brothers, sisters, and other near relatives.

A word of caution:  The Word of God. i.e, the Bible, has been given to humanity to provide an understanding and accounting of history, to reveal knowledge and prophecy, to demonstrate His love, and to teach and show people the way to salvation and how to grow in God-like character ... it was NOT given as a book of suggestions from which people might cherry-pick ways based upon what they're convinced will work best for them.  As it plainly warns in Prov. 14:12, the ways of the individual are right in his/her own eyes, but their ending is the way of death.  These words and every other verse found in every chapter of the 66 books of Scripture Almighty God has inspired men to set down in His written Word speak the truth.  It is impossible for God to lie.  If what people are calling heavenly, beautiful, God-given love doesn't like up with and contradicts the unerring truth found anywhere in the Word of God, it is neither God-given nor true -- it is rather a compromise between the ways of this world and the truth of God, something the 1st century church at Ephesus experienced with the Nicolaitans and that both the Ephesus congregation and Christ are on record for hating (Rev.2:6).  The idea of God reaching a settlement of mutual concession of any kind between Himself and this present world under the influence of evil is detestable to Christ because there is no middle ground when it comes to sin.  If there was any golden mean that could be arrived at between good and evil it would not have been necessary for Christ to go to the cross.  One does not need a Bible to know that a little bit of fiction alloyed with the truth is still fiction.  Before those who may find any of this offensive, rejectful of and hurtful to their feelings, impossible to reconcile with their own "life style," and stop reading these lines, they need to first remember the immeasurable offense and rejection Christ endured for them, draw near to God in prayer, pray for understanding, stop believing the myth that they're under suspicion and feared by those who are truly in Christ, realize that they're loved just as they are, then go to their Bible, read it carefully and thoughtfully, and bear this in mind:  "Love" is NOT the God we seek.  The well-meaning people promoting this idea today, some even from the pulpit and sancutary altar, are teaching something that, according to the Scriptures, is false, idolatrous, and provocative of Almighty God.  The Bible makes it abundantly clear that neither agape nor eros, philia, or sturge is a god to be sought after, that the God we seek is not an affective aspect of consciousness but the Creator and Supreme Architect of the Universe, the Author of Life, the Giver of all good gifts and graces, the Spirit of grace and truth, and the prophetic Revealer of hidden mysteries and future events, among so many other things -- not to mention being, according to Christ, the Doer of the Impossible (Mark10:27).  Being saved in Christ imparts freedom from sin's enslavement, an inner sense of conviction for sin, and an impulse to renew one's sinful soul in Him.  It does NOT grant a license for egocentrism, to continue as before in habitual sin, to take issue with and discredit the prophets and apostles for what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write (John10:35), or to take the Bible's wording out of context or paraphrase it to bring it into agreement with one's own inclinations or the decisions of a ruling board of men, thus compromising God's ways with the ways of the world like a modern Nicolaitan, without accountability.  This is not meant as a judgment of others.  That isn't where it is.  It is simply to lay out for organists and church musicians by way of review what pleasures the heart of God on the one hand, and what He detests and finds abhorrent on the other.

NOTE:  Save for a few passages written in Aramaic, the Bible was penned originally and entirely in Hebrew and Greek, two languages having words which in many ways are richer in meanings than English.  The sixth commandment, for example, is translated from the Hebrew "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex.20:13, Deut.5:17).  What this refers to is murder -- the unlawful taking of human life with malice aforethought (which presumably takes in self-murder, or suicide).  It does not refer to all killing, such as a) killing an animal for food, other animal products, or to defend one's person, family, or property, b) taking someone's life as a last resort to save the stranger or children from certain death or great bodily harm, or c) killing in godly war.  These differences are not implicit when the lone word "kill" in used in English translation.                 

God loves us with an everlasting love and condemns no one to an eternity separated from Him.  That is absolutely true.  Reedeming love and retributive justice joined hands, so to speak, at Calvary.  God's pardon for sin is not forced upon anyone, but if anyone willfully ignores what Christ did ...

Think about this, what Christ did ... being falsely arrested and falsely accused, deserted and denied by his closest friends, then verbally abused, spit upon, mocked, repeatedly struck, had His beard plucked out, beaten by temple guards, then wrongly convicted of blasphemy by a Sanhedrin kangaroo court in a sham trial held illegally in the dead of the night, dragged from one governing authority to another all night long without a minute of sleep only to be further mocked and verbally abused, then tied to a whipping post and scourged unmercifully, worse than an animal and without limits, by sadistic Roman soldiers until his flesh hung in ribbons and he was judged near dead, a crown of thorns then crammed down on His head, then repeatedly beaten over the head with a rod, mocked and spit upon again, then presented a bruised, bloody mess barely recognizable to an unruly mob screaming for His death, wrongly judged and wrongly sentenced to capital punishment for a crime he never committed, then crushed to the pavement under the weight of a heavy wooden beam tied to his shoulders, whipped again with a lash until he had no strength remaining to carry it, then pushed, shoved, and dragged nearly unconscious almost a mile on foot to the outdoor site designated for public execution, stripped completely naked, dragged by the arms, his shoulders pressed upon that same wooden beam, then enduring the hideous mutilation of being nailed to it by the wrists, the pain traveling up the nerves of his arms like lightning to explode in His brain, then lifted off the ground, His whole weight tearing on two nails likely dislocating both shoulders, then feeling the wooden beam holding Him dropped into a mortise at the top of a tall upright post already fastened in the ground, then feeling the pangs of His feet nailed into this same ghastly gibbet of horror, His shredded body left to hang there with no end in sight, slowly suffocating and bleeding to death in unimaginable agony when He knew no sin and did no wrong.  What was also packed into more than 6 hours on that cross was the overwhelming mental suffering He endured knowing that all sense of His Father's presence and love had been taken from Him and in its place was nothing but an awful loneliness of mind, a killing sense of abandonment, human malice, callousness, and great spiritual darkness.  Yes indeed, just think of what Christ did for ALL of us ... TO FREE US FROM BONDAGE ... that He loved us enough to take our place and endure in His own flesh the unspeakable torment and agony that sinners earn for themselves for refusing, denying, and turning their backs on God ...

And if, in their foolishness, people don't care what Christ has won for them in shattering the immovable barrier between sinful man and a holy God, that Christ made a path, the only path acceptable to the Almighty Father, through which their greatest problem (the sin problem) can be solved -- if they've willfully rejected the shield that Christ provides by having taken upon Himself the wages of sin and the nightmare prospect of God's retributive justice in their place -- if they have no sense of gratitude whatsoever that Christ fixed the eternal destiny in heaven for any who believe in Him -- and if they've hardened their hearts to such an extent that they refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness, refuse to repent, and, as a result, the Spirit of Christ cannot reach their heart and soul -- then such a person ends up being self-condemned for rejecting God's solution because their note of debt for sin remains, it was never nailed to the cross of Christ, and it's on the basis of the cross of Christ, and this basis alone, that pardon for sin is offered and granted.  It's important therefore to keep in mind that holding membership in and/or providing for the musical needs of a certain body of believers exclusively, whether for pay or otherwise, in and of itself, has no saving power.  Only Christ, meaning a total commitment to HIM -- not to one of many different flavors of "churches," denominations, or persuasions each claiming to be the sole custodian of truth, faith, and morals -- can save us.

It's another fact that, since the first day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, Satan the original worker of iniquity has been laboring night and day to lead astray every house of God on this earth and claim it for himself.  Whenever well-meaning people have attempted to lead and govern God's church by retranslating Scripture to get it to agree with their own ideas, rejecting from it what they want, adding to it, maintaining and teaching others that certain passages don't apply to people today -- implying that one or more of its Spirit-led writers had to be mistaken about a few things, or layering upon it their own conditions -- such as, for example, by taking the sincere language of prayer God desires of us and refashioning it into a prescribed ritual to be repeated word for word, syllable for syllable, many times over and over the same way supposing that it will have a better chance of being heard by God, something that Christ Himself commanded His followers NOT to do (Matt.6:7,8) --  trouble and division, the very objectives of Satan, have been the result.  Thus, when a new pastor begins serving a troubled congregation, the first step to healing that congregation is to see that Christ is truly leading it.  The "church" (Gr. "ekklesia," meaning "called out ones") Jesus said He would build is a spiritual entity composed of believers who are sprinkled among (and also outside of) ALL of the various denominations, persuasions, and faith-based groups we see today.  The vast outreach of God's love makes that a fact -- Christ died for ALL.  That means everybody regardless of their affiliation or non-affiliation with this or that faith-based group.

That is God's plan -- of pardon, redeeming love, and retributive justice -- as revealed in the pages of the Bible.  He created us to love us.  He wants us to be in His kingdom.  He's waiting and longing to have a close friendship and relationship with each and every one of us.  He wants us to know Him, to love Him, and, above all, to love others as He loves us.  No act of faith-based service, musical or otherwise, is too small to escape the Saviour's notice.  Even the slightest or seemingly imperfect musical offering provided by the organist/church musician on a very ordinary day can be a mustard seed for offering praise and thanksgiving to God, rejoicing and expressing the joy of salvation, admonishing those in Christ, teaching the message of Christ, and demonstrating and strengthening the faith of believers.  By humbling Himself to share in our humanity, by living a sinless human life, and then laying down that life of His own free will and accord, taking upon Himself our sin, our guilt, our shame, our filth, our humiliation, our punishment, our hell, to pay the penalty for what a condemned humanity could not -- Christ alone has opened the door for us to heaven.  One can be an atheist, go through the weekly motions of organ playing, and take home a paycheck for it ... but for those organists and church musicians who have Christ, they are His whether they keep serving a certain autonomous church or denomination or quit or shift to a different one.  No one should ever let anything -- not even the piety, fidelity, and loyalty one may feel for one's own religious group -- become a substitute for Christ, for, as Acts 4:12 says, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."

Bottom line:  Christianity is not a religion.  It is not a program.  It is not even a doctrine.  In its true form it is not a personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices, although men have made it that way.  In its true form it is not an exclusive creed, denomination, or autonomous church claiming to be the sole custodian of faith and morals.  It is instead the most awesome experience that can happen to someone in their lifetime.  It is about a Person and the working of a miracle of an instantaneous new birth in the human heart that only God can perform.  It is a divine birth that people desperately need, a new nature within, a state of indwelling of God's Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, with the spirit of the individual, joined and working together in an association of kinship which transcends cultures, peoples, and epochs.  It is Christ in the individual, and the individual in Him, a new creation under construction and growing more like Christ in character every day.  It is so much more than what people think of as a religion, program, or doctrine.  It is a relationship that changes someone and their desires, opens up the natural mind of a man, woman, or child to the knowledge of God and an understanding of His Word, frees them from the burden of sin, destroys the yoke of generational curses, and grants them the power to overcome their own sinful nature, the strength to take on this present evil world and its ways, and the capacity to withstand the deceptions and temptations of the devil -- a relationship that gives purpose to life and, through prayer in Christ, grants us His peace.        

(con't in Part V) 

Mar. 10, 2022

One of the only activities which stimulates and uses the entire brain is music.
If this (photo) is what happens when a pianist plays ... think of what takes place in the brain of an organist.