Desiring God

As a tribute to the old days of blogging, here is a post that I wrote about four years ago that, for whatever reasons, never got published. Let the past stay in the past; it’s time to begin anew: shawnbaran.ca

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Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the English Reformation during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. He suffered much persecution for his beliefs during the 14th century (which was a very tumultuous time for the English Church… and the monarchy, for that matter, but that is a different ).

He is an interesting historical figure for a number of reasons, particularly for his series of recantations of belief (due to his persecution), and then recantations of his recantations (which led to his eventual martyrdom). Because of this, I feel like there is a very human element to his legacy. He was not perfect; he was not a rock of unmovable faith (as seen in his recantations and then recantations of his recantations), but in a lot of ways, that’s what makes him a hero. He strikes me as an “Everyman” who buckled out of a desire to save his own life (as we all can sympathize with), but was unable to truly abandon his convictions and, in the end, faithfully faced the fire that would take his life. He was not faithful all the way through, but was faithful until the end.

It is what drives his theology, though, that draws me in to his story. For Cranmer, he believed that guilt, fear, shame, duty, and pride had no power to enable you to “say no to sin”. He rightly understood that what moves people is desire. What our hearts desire, our wills choose and our minds justify. Or, to put it another way: we do what we want.

If the only fuel that our obedience is running on is guilt, fear, shame, duty or pride, than it won’t take long for the deeper desires of our hearts to hijack our piety and lead us to sinful/selfish actions which our minds will then attempt to justify. I’ve seen this in myself time and time again, and I’m sure you have too.

Because he believed Desire to lay at the heart of what we do, the whole thrust and goal of his ministry was to help people desire God; to love Him more than sin. Because if we love God more than the gratification that sin/selfishness/disobedience (in whatever form they take), we will have the strength and desire to choose obedience to His will and His commands.

For Cranmer, loving and desiring God was the key to experiencing the life change that the Bible talks about. It was Cranmer’s desire to help people desire God that led him to write the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer which the Church of England has used to structure and inform their worship for centuries.

I think the reason that the life and passion of Cranmer has resonated with me so much lately is because this is my desire, not just for the Church, but also for my life. Every time I get up to lead worship my prayer is to help people grow in their love and desire for God. This is why we sing and why we set apart a portion of our gatherings to praise; to engage the heart by seeking the face of God. Knowledge alone cannot motivate one to pursue holiness. It is only when the the heart and mind are unified in the singular desire to love God above all else that the Christian life is truly lived.

May our praise and worship lead us to see Christ more clearly, and may the seeing set our hearts aflame to burn up any desire that doesn’t lead us to Him.

(Thanks to the fine folks at the GodPod for introducing me to the life and theology of Thomas Cranmer… check out their podcast on iTunes, it’s brilliant).

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The B/S Show: Episode 22 – Moar on Playing as a Band

Thanks for the great response to last weeks episode (“The Voice is an Instrument Too”)!  We thought that this week we would continue to unpack what it means to make music in a band.  This gave us a great opportunity to hopefully offer some handy tips and perspective… but mostly it gave us a chance to talk about how awesome we are (though we don’t really mean it… well, we kinda do, but not really really…).

The B/S Show: Episode 21 – Sing, Sing a Song, or the voice is an instrument too

It’s another week, and wouldn’t you know it, we got a question from a listener! YAY! In this week’s episode we attempt to share our perspective on the question “is there more that the singers can do on a worship team?”. Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes. Now that that is out of the way, listen to us ramble for a while!

Singing in Church is Like a Pizza…

This is an article I wrote for our church’s monthly newsletter.  The picture makes me really hungry… man, what I would give for a Little Caesars stuffed crust hawaiian pizza…

If you were to ask me what my favourite food is I would without reservation say “pizza”!  As far back as I can remember pizza has always been the one food that I would eat morning, noon and night (I blame the influence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for this).  No matter how common a menu item it is, or how often I eat it, it never ceases feeling like a treat.

I remember one time as a kid trying to convince my mom that I should eat pizza for breakfast.  “It’s the perfect food,” I said.  “It contains all of the food groups: grain, dairy, meat, vegetables”.

She didn’t go for it (probably because of the other food groups it contained: grease, fat, salt, etc.)

One of the reasons I am so passionate about music and corporate praise as a form of worship is because, like pizza, it contains so many of the different elements that make up the bigger picture of what worship is and all in a universally appreciated package.  In other words, music/corporate praise is one of the most holistic ways to worship God.

When we get together to sing on Sundays we have the opportunity to praise God with our lips, to hear and lift up his Holy Word, to deny ourselves by doing something we may not want to do out of obedience, to serve others by embracing worshipful expressions that aren’t necessarily to our personal liking (eg. music styles), serve by blessing others around you with your voice (no matter what you think of it)… not to mention singing songs that are prayers for the world, confessions of our sin, and expressions of surrender to his will.

And that’s just our response.

Music/corporate praise is also one of the ways that the Spirit of God visits us and softens/changes our hearts through the awakening of our spirits.  I am rarely more open or desiring to being shaped and formed by God and his Word then after spending time praising him… even if some of those times begin with me just going through the mechanical motions of singing.

Music/corporate praise can bring emotional healing.  I can’t count how many times I’ve shown up to a mid-week rehearsal or a Sunday morning burdened, drained and/or despairing and been lifted out of my darkness just by making music with other people who have Jesus in common.

Music/corporate praise can also bring physical healing.  Andy Park tells a story in his book “To Know You More” about a woman from his church:

“Brenda… had stomach problems for years.  She had experienced lots of pain, seen lots of doctors, adopted a special diet and taken medication.  Many years ago she freely expressed worship for the first time and wonderfully experienced God’s presence.  As she was singing the words “His name is as ointment poured forth,” God showed her a picture of the finger of Jesus applying ointment to the rough, red, sore lining of her stomach.  After the meeting she wondered if she should dare eat a regular lunch or play it safe, take her medication and stay on her restricted diet.  She decided to eat a normal lunch.  She was healed and never had another problem!”

So, in this one act of singing songs together we have the opportunity to praise God, lift up and reflect on his Word, sacrifice, obey, serve, pray, have our hearts changed, experience healing, unite not just with other churches and believers worldwide, but also heaven in the exalting of Jesus Christ… and all of this while participating in a medium that is not only universal across all languages and nations, but can be found and traced throughout all of human history.  And on top of all of that, it’s fun, enjoyable, engaging and easy to participate in, regardless of skill or experience.  Good grief!

May we never take for granted gift of music or the opportunity to make it for God week after week.

Spam this!

On WordPress there is a program called Akismet that filters out comments from spammers.  Every once in a while I like to look at some of the captured spam comments because I think they are hilarious.  Technology has come far enough that these auto-spambots that freely scatter spammy comments onto blogs do so in a way that makes them almost seem legit, like they were written by people who had actually visited the site, but there is always something just a little… off about them.  The first problem is that they always seem to post on my “about me” page and they usually thank me for my great content because they “are doing a report on this very topic”.  Really?  You are doing a report on me and you found the content I wrote about myself very useful?  Awesome!

All that being said, I find many spammers to be super encouraging. In fact, they make me feel like the best blogger ever. So, here is a collection of some of the most uplifting spam comments I received this week:

“Some really interesting information, well written and loosely user friendly.”
(posted on my “about me” page by Min Bilbao from usedcarloans.guublog.com)

“I envy your piece of work, regards for all the interesting posts.”
(posted on my “about me” page by Ronni Barcomb from worldhdtvshop.com)

“ohhh nice information”
(posted on my “about me” page by best poker site for us players)

“The closing paragraph tells it all in my opinion. I need to say that I agree with it, and essentially the most great factor about it’s that you just left it open ended…this exhibits that you’re prepared to attract in new and different opinions and that you’re ultimately very interested to see individuals getting involved in the subject. So, any various opinions?”
(posted on my, you guessed it, “about me” page by Burton Haynes from a blogspot site).

Thank you spammers for all your constant, if not vague, encouragement. You’re the reason I do it… not.

Love Shawn