The Path of Life: “Tuning”

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Artistry: Humility


On Stage
In the few minutes just before the concert, the stage is alive with the sounds of a symphony orchestra warming up. Each player has a routine involving mouthpieces and reeds, bows and resin, buzzing brass, and tapping tympani. They flex their fingers and lick their lips getting ready to make music. After the warm up comes the tune up. The oboist plays the standard pitch: “A.” All the other players listen carefully and then match the sound of their instruments to that standard.

The conductor strides to the podium to the applause ot the crowd. He bows, accepting their acclaim. He shakes hands with the concert master, steps to the podium and lifts his baton to the air. He has the attention of everyone, concert-goer and concert-player alike. He gives his preparatory beat , the baton goes down and the music begins.

On the Platform
Warming up and tuning up are apart of life in church music, also. The worship leader doesn’t come to the platform (For some reason stages are often called platforms in church.) to the applause of the congregation or shake the hand of the lead guitarist, but there is a warm-up-tune-up routine.

Worship music requires an additional step—a spiritual warm up and tune up.

It is important that Christian singers and players get warmed up to the Lord and in tune with the Holy Spirit before they try to make the music of the Kingdom of God. There is a spiritual dimension to this type of music making that cannot be ignored. It is as important to the success of our spiritual music making as the musical elements are to the professional orchestra.

Heaven’s Standard Pitch
In the late 18th an early 19th centuries instrumental music came into its own. The symphony orchestra came to maturity as more than an accompaniment group for choirs, soloists, and opera.
The Age of Inventions—the Industrial Revolution—produced brass and woodwind instruments that could be effectively tuned with the strings. To help with the process of tuning, a standard pitch was developed. While the exact vibrations varied somewhat, A440 was the standard.

In the making of music in the courts of the King of kings, there is also a standard pitch—humility. Calvary, like the Industrial Revolution, has redesigned us from the flaws of sin and made it possible for us to make an offering to please the Lord—one of humility.

Proud hearts cannot tune.
Musically, a technical problem with an instrument or a shortcoming on the part of the musician can interfere with the tuning and spoil the performance. In the same way, on a spiritual level, attitudes and improper motivations can spoil the music of worship. In more than 40 years of leading Christian singers and players, I have found my greatest trials and challenges have come from the hearts of my musicians, not their voices and instruments. Now, I am teaching and writing and my primary mission is to teach the next generation of Worship Leaders. In this capacity, I find myself preaching a gospel of humility, humility with excellence. I am on a crusade against pride in the music ministry.

  • I have seen it ruin too many anointed ones.
  • I have seen it destroy too many creative communities within the church.

The scourge of pride has come to our worship teams, choirs and orchestras, and our drama and arts companies threatening to dismantle by distraction the work of the Kingdom. It is time to speak against pride on the platform. Proud hearts cannot tune. They cannot match the pitch of the Holy Spirit for they are at cross purposes with God. They are proudly building their own kingdom, not God’s.

Where does this pride come from and how did it get into the music ministry? It came from people’s hearts and came into the music ministry when people came in. It is the human condition. Music ministry doesn’t have a corner on pride; it rears it ugly head in every field of ministry. It is an ugly dissonance (clashing tones) that cannot resolve by itself.

Conflict and Resolution
Music moves in divinely determined patterns—that is one thing that makes it a comfort to us—no matter how far the song may go away from home, it will return there eventually. There are two terms that describe the roaming and returning aspects of a piece of music:

  • Dissonance is the clash of notes sounding together. Far from being an accident, it is a deliberate device used by the composer/performer to create tension. (Of course it also happens by accident!)
  • Consonance is the agreement of notes sounding together. This serves to resolve the conflict of the dissonance, relieving the tension.

Pride makes people sound bad together. O, their voices and instruments may be beautiful and well regulated, but their hearts are not in tune. God Himself is resisting them because of their pride. The dissonance of hearts must be resolved if the music is to attract the Lord and be blessed by His grace.
Humility holds worship teams together. Conflicts happen, like dissconant chords in a song, but they are quickly resolved to consonance. A good musician learns how to step up and play the music demanded when the time comes for it to be played. A worship musician needs this skill, but also the ability step back and get out of the way. The neat thing about our humility is that when we step out of the way, Jesus can be more clearly seen.

When we are getting ready to make the Lord’s music, let’s tune our hearts to Heaven’s Standard Pitch.

Psalm 57:7 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.

Psalm 33:1-3 NKJV
Rejoice in the Lord , O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

James 4:1-6 NKJV
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:”God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Malachi 3:1-3 NKJV
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.

Song of Humility
Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord
Composer: Bob Hudson

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
And He shall lift you up (higher and higher.)
And He shall lift you up.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

The Path of Life: "Tuning"


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