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Suggested Reading ...

As requested by a number of you, herewith a few books that I strongly recommend.

The Case for the Psalms:Why they are Essential - N.T.Wright

Journey to the Common Good - Walter Brueggemann

Gagging Jesus: Things Jesus said we wish he hadn't - Phil Moore

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God - Bob Kauflin

The Writings of the New Testament : An Interpretation - Luke Timothy Johnson

These titles I have been able to source through Loot.co.za- happy reading!

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Drawn to Sacrifice: Session Two. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Monday, 27 January 2014 05:50

Let's get to where the proverbial 'rubber meets the road'. It has become clear to me that the main reason most worship teams struggle to improve, is because no-one ever tells them how it really is. What normally happens is a person, a Christian (obviously), who might have taken Christian Worship as their major, or perhaps even trained at the Berkeley School of Music or somewhere similar, is called in and feels that it is not their place to speak the pure, sheer, unadulterated truth to those they have been tasked to assist in this wonderful gift called worship. So, to not offend anyone, because of course Christians don't do that, proceed to hold a conference that leaves the team at the end of it perhaps being able to harmonize a little better, know what 'light and shade' means and perhaps when they might use it, and a couple of neat chords and pads, but really no better as worshipers and worship-leaders, (why) because they have chosen to simply withhold the truth and haven't been real.  I guess the reason I started giving conferences is because I have been part of those times, learnt nothing, and left feeling that it was quite honestly, a waste of both my, and God's time. So let's get really real! Is that okay? If you're really serious about what you have been called to do, hang in there with me. If you have a bad heart please take your medication at this point (kidding!), but prepare yourself nonetheless.

As worship musicians, vocalists, dancers, and leaders, you need to understand, if you don't already, that this isn't something you do on a Sunday and act all holy, and then live like 'hell' during the week. Whilst no person who calls themselves a Christian should live in that way, your life and your lifestyle should be extra -exemplary, blameless, godly, holy, and righteous. Why, you may ask? Well you are God's 'vessel', you are his hands, his feet, and his voice in leading his people to a place of intimacy with him. It is huge. This is the highest responsibility ever. So let me get in your face here; if you think being part of a worship team is so that you can get some 'stage-time' (I kid you not, those words have been uttered to me before), or to show people how good you are or how well you think you write, or to have a 'jol', or to throw a couple of chords and songs together, and that then, you can live, act, speak, think, no different to how you were before you became a Christian, then, my friend, choose to do something else until your heart and your life is right. And, during that time, ensure that you pray so hard and spend all the time you have in God's presence, that you get calluses on your knees. Really. Look; this isn't playing in a pub three nights a week. This is the greatest privilege and honour of it all, to lead and be part of a worship team that is leading God's people into an intimate place with the sovereign, holy, awesome, indescribably mighty God who holds the universe and everything in it, including you, in his hand, and he deserves your absolute best offering of praise and worship.

Where are you in in the scheme of all of this?  Perhaps you need to search deep within yourself and ask for God's help whilst you're doing that. You need to 'count the cost'. Why? Because there is one. This all starts with your lifestyle and your spouses (if you are married) heart and lifestyle. So extremely important in the context of which we are speaking. Sad to say, I have witnessed some real horror stories (in the past ten years or so) happening right before my eyes. Again, this is not something your average worship conference leader will say to you. But I have witnessed gifted worship musicians, vocalists, and leaders literally rendered inept because of a spouses thinking, biblical understanding, lifestyle, actions, things they've said, and intervention. Count the cost. Hear this from my heart to yours, your spouse needs to be on the same page as you and must understand the enormity and importance of what you have been called to do. I will say it again because I do not want you to miss this; Your spouse needs to be on the same page as you are, also living gratefully, gracefully, prayerfully, blamelessly, godly, holy, rejoicing always, and resonating with God as you do. Refuse to be yet another statistic. Next, we will look at how we resonate with God in this ambit, and also how we delve deeper into honing your abilities. See you on the flip-side of this!

 
Drawn to Sacrifice: Session One. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Saturday, 25 January 2014 05:44

Now for those who have been gifted by God with musical and vocal abilities, it is an absolute privilege to be called to lead his people into a time of praise and worship. It really is! Whilst there have been books written about this, some really good, and some not so helpful, likewise many will give you their five-point formula to becoming a successful worship team which you can find on blogs, websites, and articles which are only a click away on Google, many miss the point, and, because of the smorgasbord of ideas on offer, none different to how popular Christianity has changed some folk's idea of the faith and God, people are more confused than they were after trying some of these methods and applying the so-called  'secret-formula'. You see, seldom in these books, blogs, articles, websites, and pages, do you find what God has to say about praise and worship (when he is the only one who understands completely), and, importantly, how important your relationship with Jesus is. Listen, I have met folk in the past ten years or so who can play an instrument phenomenally well; some of these guys have even arranged orchestras, put concerts together, and even played in them, but, as you look on, it is clear that they lack two of the most important aspects of all. One, they lack an understanding of 'biblical' praise and worship, and, two, the heart of worship (thanks Matt), the spiritual side of worship. So, in truth, the only value they can add is in arrangement, which, of course, is necessary, but they need understand that once they've played their role, they need to step aside from a spiritual and a biblical perspective, otherwise it simply becomes a performance, and the 'heart of worship' becomes conspicuous by its absence.

I have been part of worship teams since 2004 who clearly base their approach to praise and worship in their own church to concerts that they have watched, either live or on DVD, and seem to think they can take that format into the church setting where you have around half an hour (I have been known to be a little longer at points, and encourage the teams in any church I have been part to do so, of course only if the Holy Spirit leads it that way) and someone has to preach after that. So what happens is that we tend to start out in a melancholy manner, speak a lot (when that's really what's going to happen in half an hour when the person preaching takes over, so you need to know it is not your job as a worship-leader, speak yes, only when you're led to do so), and we proceed to move in and out of praise and worship, and then try and bring it down to a place of worship at the end somewhere. The result? Well the person who has to preach faces the possibility of 'preaching to toffee'. In a church setting we hang on to the true biblical understanding of praise and worship. In a concert setting it is okay to go light and shade and be a little all over the place because there isn't any real need for anyone to preach after that, and they have over an hour to get there if there is.

So what we're going to look at over the next while is how we can better understand our responsibility as praise and worship teams and leaders within the ambit of worship in a church environment. We are going to look at the absolute need to hone our abilities in order to give God our best possible offering. Also, we are going to spend most of our time delving into the absolute necessity of drawing closer to God, and this doesn't only come from reading the Bible more, or praying more, but to a place where we understand how important it is to 'practice the presence of God' and are truly "tuned-in" to him. As I have shared with many different churches, denominations, church traditions, and individuals I have mentored over the past ten years, you simply cannot lead God's people to a place that you have not been, to a person you don't know intimately yourself. Look, many try and manipulate it, I guess both of us have experienced that before, whilst we will continue to pray for them that God opens their spiritual eyes to see, refuse to fall into that rather sick trap. True praise and worship leading can only come from a relationship with Jesus, we are merely his hands, feet and voice, and the call is for us to step aside and let the Holy Spirit in to do his work in the hearts of the people we are leading. So, hang in there with me! See you on the flip-side of this!

 
Drawn to Sacrifice. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Thursday, 23 January 2014 16:21

I don't know about you, but, as I have experienced in the past couple of weeks, it is clear that God is drawn to those who are broken-hearted, and hungry for him. Have you found that? Those times when all else has been rendered naught, and you have no where to turn and no-one to turn to, there is only one way to go, and that is to get down on your knees and sacrifice yourself, your situation, your plans, and your mistakes to him - right there - at his feet. And immediately, he comes in with absolute power! God is drawn to sacrifice. For me, it is when you dedicate something to him. especially at a cost to yourself, that he shows up on that issue or in that place, at that time. As always, he has been faithful at this time too. During this time, he has made two particular things clear - where we will worship in Cape Town, and also my task for the first couple of weeks after our arrival there. Now I have been asked for some time to assist a group of churches in the Western Cape with their praise and worship, and I have not been able to help them because this will take a few weeks at least to get us on track, but as we will be in Cape Town for good soon, I have intimated that we can now get the project going! It is exciting! It always is! I guess what is the most encouraging to me is engaging with musicians, vocalists, and leaders who love Jesus so much that all they want to do is glorify him with their best possible offering, using the abilities and talents that he has poured out on them, and then looking back, sometimes years down the line, and saying "now I see why we did all that"! Look, some folk resist change, even if it is a tweak and something that will just enhance their gifting, but the most important result of all is realising just what our role as a worship team is, and that is leading people into a place of intimacy with God. So with some time on my hands I have been again reading and devouring 2 Chronicles 5:13 - 7:3 and man, it's been great! So what I am going to do over the next few days or so, is share some of the insight with you! Join me and let's have some fun! See you on the flip-side of this!

 
Had to share this one with you! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Tuesday, 21 January 2014 13:13

It is amazing how fast news travels! It must be 'bush-telegraph'! To the guys who have mailed me regarding the concert that I might be part of in Ghana later this year, I will let you know as soon as I have more news. And the answer is "yes, I would love you to fly over and hear a few of the Beyond the Sky and Souled Out ... for Jesus oldies, as well as some of the new material that I am itching to get recorded at Paris' studio in FishHoek as soon as we get back to Cape Town! Here's one that was mailed to me by a mate of mine. Enjoy!

"A man’s car was held up by a broken down car in front of him. He just sat there and sounded the horn while the woman driver in front was desperately trying to start her car. He sounded the horn even more impatiently and the lady walked round to his car and said sweetly, "Why don’t we change places? I’ll sound the horn and you can start the car!" It’s easy to grumble - finding solutions is more difficult!"

 
The Dynamic Tension of Praise and Worship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Saturday, 12 October 2013 19:49

There was a question posed in a mail from a church which was part of a church group I assisted in Dar es Salaam regarding the dynamics of praise and worship and how best to utilise both elements of worship. I enjoy these queries, and perhaps what I enjoy most is, that these leaders are not afraid to put the suggestions in practice and, in turn, grow their worship teams. I have found that in a number of churches pastors and worship leaders are hesitant to change the status quo. They will ferret you out for your input, but are reticent in their implementation.  The result: there is little growth and maturity experienced within their teams. You find that the reason for this can be summed up in one word “rootedness”. Churches become rooted in tradition, a denominational slant, a congregational preference, and/or the fear of change. Now churches have their own ‘flavour’, and if that works for them, well and good. But I guess the question that needs to be asked is; “are we growing in our praise and worship offering and our gifting, or are we treading water and actually ‘going backwards’?” Is that important you might ask? Yes.

A worship-leader mailed me stating that a new pastor had taken over their church, now this is a worship team that are amped to grow, and said that it wasn't necessary for them to hone their gifts and talents and strive for excellence so that they could offer their best sacrifice of praise and better lead the congregation into a place of intimacy with Jesus. Difficult. Psalm 50:23; “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honours me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Think about it. What would happen if our churches really began to believe that it is certain for ‘fire to fall’ when acceptable sacrifices of praise and worship are offered? Praise and worship is more than singing songs, but it is much bigger than that. Praise and worship is the act of giving ourselves to God and his purpose. It is clear; if there is no self-giving, there is no worship. And again it comes down to striving for excellence, that is giving of yourself inasmuch a sacrificing your time, energy, and effort. That is taking yourself out of your comfort zone for God. That is understanding that you simply ‘cannot just throw any old ‘noise’ at God and call it self-giving. The solution? Well if you believe what the Word says and understand God, it would mean that you would need to hone the skills God has given you to worship him. You were made to worship him. You would need to spend hours and hours on them, not as a task or a chore, but in itself as an act of worship. Why? Well, to offer the best sacrifice of praise to him.

Finally, our initial point; the dynamics of praise and worship and how best to utilise both elements of worship. Now this has been prevalent and a question asked in every church I have been part of, and every church group I have assisted since 2003/4. We’ll be brief here. What does the Word tell us? Our praise opens the gates into God’s presence. Psalm 100:2; “Sing yourselves into his presence”. Psalm 100:4; “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” In other words, our praise and thanksgiving takes us right into the presence of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; “The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.” Similarly, when Paul and Silas sang their praises in prison God revealed his powerful presence (Acts 16:25-26). Praise ushers in the presence of God. As we start with praise and adoration we get a sense of the awesomeness of God. The more you realise how great God is, the smaller your problems will become in his presence, and the greater you will experience him. Hence the reason that all those I have assisted in the last 9 years or so if you asked them would tell you “give it gears for the first two or three songs and radical worship will follow”! It’s biblical.

That brings us to the worship element of praise and worship. Radical implies that worship should not be stuck in old patterns and that it is capable of significant change. I mean think about this for a second. The changes Jesus brought to this world were radical; the changes he brings to our own lives are just as radical. Wouldn't you agree that our worship of him should be radical? Radically revelationary worship leads to prophetic worship with an emphasis on intimacy and God’s dynamic activity in worship.

May you as a pastor, worship leader, worship-team member, or worshiper actively choose to respond to God’s love and actively express and surrender your whole being in worship, and may you never be afraid or hesitant to grow, may you never fear trying new songs and perhaps, if your ‘flavour’ has always been, say, ‘80’s praise choruses, or geared solely on singing hymns or the Psalms, that you would allow yourself to consider listening to what has been around contemporary Christian music for the past five years or so and, if you feel led, attempt one or two.

 
Healing: Spiritual and Physical PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 08:23

In our community as in yours, God has healed mightily, both spiritually, and physically. Does God heal everyone who comes to him, physically? No. Does God heal everyone who comes and surrenders their lives completely to him spiritually? Yes. Often we are faced with questions from folk who have not been healed, and from those whose loved ones have passed away, asking things such as "did I not have enough faith"? "Did I, or they, do or say something that offended God, and that's why he withheld their healing"?  Am I making these questions up? No. These are questions asked of me at points during my ministry. Most often this comes out of a misunderstanding often created through incorrect teaching and/or reading of Scripture. Let's understand this. In Isaiah 53:5, which is then quoted in 1 Peter 2:24 is a key verse on healing, but it is often misunderstood and misapplied. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sins, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Now the word translated "healed" can mean either spiritual or physical healing. However, the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 make it clear that it is speaking of spiritual healing. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to (what) sins and live for (what) righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed"(1 Peter 2:24). This verse is talking about sin and unrighteousness, not sickness and disease. Therefore, being "healed" in both these verses is speaking of being forgiven and saved, not physically healed. Now, the Bible does not specifically link physical healing with spiritual healing. Sometimes people are physically healed when they place their faith in Christ, but this is not always the case. Hence the questions you and I get asked by people who have not experienced physical healing. Sometimes it is God’s will to heal, but sometimes it is not. The apostle John gives us the proper perspective: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to (what) his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). And, again, this is another of those verses which we speak really quickly over the first part, and slow down from the; "And if we know that he hears us" part! You need to hear me out here. God is still in the miracle-working business! God still performs miracles. I have witnessed it, and still witness it with my own eyes, sometimes daily. God has given me the gift of healing. God still heals people. Sickness, disease, pain, and death are realities in this world. Unless the Lord returns, everyone who is alive today will die, and the vast majority of them (Christians included) will die as the result of a physical problem (disease, sickness, injury). It is not always God's will to heal us physically. Ultimately, our full physical healing awaits us in heaven. In heaven, there will be no more pain, sickness, disease, suffering, or death as Revelation 21 tells us. We all need to be less pre-occupied with our physical condition in this world, and a lot more concerned with our spiritual condition (Romans 12:1-2). Then we can focus our hearts on heaven, where we will no longer have to deal with physical problems. Revelation 21:4 describes the true healing we should all be longing for: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Gary Rea, formerly of the South African Christian rock band Peculiar People, wrote a song recently which features on his latest album (we sung the chorus only this past Sunday morning when I led worship) writes this in the first verse; “In Heaven there’ll be perfect peace, there’ll be joy in the streets and every mouth will be singing your praise, there’ll no sorrow at all. We will be free from every chain, and our bodies will be whole again, and Your church will be one, spotless beautiful bride, for Your Glory, we’ll see Your Glory”. That is what John saw in Revelation. Incidentally, you can Google that song of Gary's; it's entitled "Heaven is here now"!

 
Worship Dynamics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Grant Nuss   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 17:54

I have been asked by a group of churches in West Africa to help them with their worship-dynamics. They recalled a conference in which my role was to deal with both worship-leading, and the 'light and shade' of worship, the dynamics. So I will be working on it and will update this site once I have concluded it with a summary of this training document.

 
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