Friday, April 21, 2017

Hymns of Grace



After a bit of a shaky start, our new songbook, Hymns of Grace, is now in stock, along with additional resources for your church's music ministry.

For more information, see www.hymnsofgrace.com


Friday, February 3, 2017

"Whatever Happened to the Sherbergs?"


Those of you who have been around Grace Church for awhile remember Jon and Jane Sherberg.  Some of the tunes they wrote ("He Gave the Greatest Gift of All," "Where Your Heart Is") were favorites during the 1980s.  Below is a letter Jane distributed with information you can pray about.
Sharon


An important update on Jon and Jane


Whatever happened to the Sherbergs?
     It has been years since we’ve communicated with many of you. Please know it was not intentional. Life has thrown us some very difficult challenges for the past decade and we have been trying to navigate uncharted waters as best we can. Some of you in Nashville and those who have seen us are aware of the circumstances but many of you who have followed our ministry over the years are not. This is an attempt to bring everyone up to speed at once…grab a coffee and a comfortable seat! 
    First, a bit of history. In 2005 Jon had a wonderful opportunity to record the Old Testament twice for two different companies. Narrating the Bible was something he’d long desired to do, so it was a great joy despite all the months of hard work. In 2006, about six months after it was completed, I began to notice some strange things happening with him but assumed it was related to stress. I was walking through the final year of a ten year journey of my Father’s fight with Alzheimer's disease and was traveling often to Florida to help my mother. Because of that intense focus I wasn’t fully tuned in to some of the subtle changes (I now look back at as glaring) going on with Jon. He began to struggle with things that were second nature to him. It set in motion a three year nightmare journey going from doctor to doctor where we were given no answers and spending all of our resources trying to find out what was wrong as he became progressively worse. I will spare you all the details as it would fill a book and perhaps one day that story will be told. 
     By December of 2009 when Jon was almost wheelchair bound, we finally had our answer through a godly doctor God miraculously led us to. The diagnosis was chronic late stage neuro and arthritic Lyme disease along with co-infections in the Lyme spectrum, exacerbated by exposure to toxic black mold (which we believe occurred during the recording of the Bible) along with high levels of lead and mercury in his brain! A perfect storm of a toxic Neurological assault!! People usually don’t survive chronic late stage Lyme much less the other things added into the mix. We have aggressively treated it since then but it has been extremely challenging as there just isn’t anything to compare it to. We have definitely been trailblazing and that has been difficult in and of itself. Jon has been through so very much. The Lyme disease also went after both hip joints eroding into his hip sockets. After 6 painful years on a cane he was finally able to have hip replacement surgery in 2014 when the Lyme was a bit more stabilized. However, he continued to decline cognitively and grow weaker. 
     Every part of his brain has been affected. Over time the compromised ability to process what he sees (even though he’s barely near sighted) has produced great depth perception and visual spatial issues along with vision field cuts and prevented his eyes from being able to stay fixed on an object, sentence, or a line. This resulted in being unable to work on the computer, read, write, operate the television remote, drive, feel confident walking, etc. Fine motor skills became impaired and his ability to play the piano was challenged along with dressing, grooming and holding utensils.  His speech center was affected by infection-induced aphasia which has progressed over the years greatly limiting vocabulary. He also suffers from an infection-induced form of progressive dementia and has lost an inordinate amount of weight. Everything that made Jon, Jon, has been affected in one form or another EXCEPT his spirit. The Lyme disease cannot touch that!
     We know this has been a spiritual attack as well as a physical attack on his body. The very nature of him being able to create and write songs, play piano, sing, and lead beautiful worship music has been compromised. The ability for him to teach and speak forth the Word of God from scripture has been affected along with being able to use all the creative voices and accents which brought laughter to so many. He is still in there but it is hard for it to come out. 
     There has not been one doctor who has treated him who has ever seen a case like his. You name it and we have probably tried it in fighting this disease from the very pit of hell! Jon’s inner spirit has been remarkable throughout this long journey. Never once has he asked, “Why me, God?”  Never once has he turned his back on God or questioned God’s love for him. If anything, his love for The Lord has only grown. He has endured great suffering with a smile on his face and tried to bring joy to others in the midst of it. I knew he was a special and gifted man but through this trial I have seen just how exceptional and extraordinary he truly is. The essence of who Jon is has come through the Refiner’s Fire unscathed. He is my hero. 
     Now, we are fighting the toughest battle of all. Jon had a bad Lyme flare in early November which affected cognitive judgement. As a result, he had a fall down our stairs which I broke as best I could. No bones were broken but he spent 6 weeks in the hospital and in rehab trying to regain mobility. He lost another 18 pounds during that time, and his body and brain have become more affected due to an acceleration of the disease process from the fall. He came home December 19, on hospice care. We don’t know exactly what it means long-term as it's possible that he may be able to rally. We can’t begin to know what God’s will is in this, whether he will be miraculously healed, or whether he will be transported one day to the loving arms of His Saviour. We certainly continue to believe and pray for healing. I hold grief in one hand and hope in the other. Both are held open before the Lord.
     First, I would ask you to pray for us which is the main reason for this update other than to inform you of what has transpired over these past years affecting life and ministry as we knew it. 
     Secondly, there are several things in process. A friend has set up a Caring Bridge page where updates will be posted for those who want to keep up with us. You can get current information about us here.

     We are also in the process of setting up a Special Needs Trust for contributions for help in obtaining home health assistance. Hospice provides two aides Monday - Friday for about an hour to help get him up and ready in the morning and into a Broda reclining wheelchair. With only weekdays covered, there is a need for additional help on the weekends and in the evenings as I am on my own with him the rest of the time. He is too weak to walk at this point and in order to get him in and out of the wheelchair I need to use a sit to stand lift.
 

     Many have wanted to know through the years how they could help. I will send another email with the Trust information as soon as it is set up. You can help by forwarding that information to anyone you think may be interested in helping out as well as for concerted prayer.  The need to obtain Home Health assistance is what is most pressing. Please note that contributions given on the Caring Bridge website will not go to help us. Even though it is worded in such a way that looks like it might, any funds given on the Caring Bridge site go towards their costs. This has been confusing to some already. The vehicle we will use for contributions will be the Trust that is being set up.
     Thank you to all that have written notes of encouragement, provided a meal, gifts of love, a text, called, or have prayed. For Nashville friends, our door is open and you are welcome to visit. Please don’t let the gravity of the situation keep you away if you are wanting to see Jon. That goes for anyone passing through town too!
    Right now, email or Caring Bridge may be the best way to keep in touch. I want to be able to tell you all the good things that God has done in the midst of this situation. However, please forgive me and understand if I am not able to get back with you. I will do my best. Each day is unknown in this long and arduous journey. 
     Thank you for the love and the interest you have had in us and in our ministry over the years. I am committed to preserving the legacy of Jon's music and writing. In fact, I’ve been going though old recordings over the past 6 months and have unearthed a treasure trove of unpublished songs that are more relevant today than when they were written. These are the songs I wake up with going through my head that are sustaining me during this tough time, so I'm certain they will bless others as well.
     I know I’ve lumped many different groups of folks together in this email. It was easier right now for me to do it this way. Please forward this to anyone you know who may be interested and not have heard what is going on in our lives.  There are some whose emails we don't have as we sent newsletters via snail mail. If this is a duplicate email, or you don’t want to remain on this list, you can use the link below. I will not be offended in any way whatsoever. 
    Finally, let me end with Jon’s words. This is from the last newsletter we were in the process of writing when he became too sick to finish. Its message rings even more true today than when he originally wrote it..
“God is good! He intends wonderful, marvelous things for us. No matter what the circumstances surrounding us, no matter how difficult things may be,
He is still the King of Glory. He holds all things in His mighty hand. There is nothing He cannot accomplish. And, Oh! how He loves us…with an everlasting Love…and sustains us with His never-ending Grace!
How my heart wants to sing it… how I want to shout it out!
He IS the King of Glory and praise is due His Holy Name!
I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not ashamed to say that the Lord has me in a dry, desert time. It’s hot…it’s hard…and at the moment there seems no end in sight. But He has promised to be with me, day and night, no matter how things may seem. He is my Constant Companion. He is my shade in the desert, my Light throughout the darkness, my Hope when my hope has gone, my Provider, my Rock, my Banner over me. 
Do I get anxious? You bet! At times my courage flags, my strength gives out, my resolve dissolves along the way. But my God is right there with me. He has never left me nor forsaken me. And He’s teaching me how to trust Him in the desert. Taking me to deeper places. Showing me marvelous things
that I never knew.”
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and prayers.

In Christ alone and for His glory,

Jane
jojashe@yahoo.com
615.300.1978


'Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 AMP)


Our mailing address is:
Sea Mountain Ministries
PO Box 2222
Brentwood, Tn 37027

Monday, December 12, 2016

Concerts, Guests, and Saved Seats


And now . . . to address the “concert elephant in the room.”

The biggest complaint we get every year is the fact that people come very early in order to find a good seat, but instead find rows and rows and rows of pews roped off in the best sections.  Every year we ask people not to save seats; every year we print this on the tickets; every year our request is ignored; every year the problem gets worse.

Many people have told me that their friends and family will not come to our concerts anymore because they had arrived an hour early but end up sitting in the very back or in the side sections because of saved seats.  What kind of message does that send to our guests?  That Grace Church members are more privileged and important than they?

"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).

Grace Church members and attenders have the opportunity to hear our choir, orchestra and soloists every Sunday of the year.  Shouldn’t they be the ones to sit on the sides and in the back, and let our visitors have the best seats?  When my non-Christian mother was able to attend the concerts, she gladly waited in line like everyone else and chose her seat when she entered.

Frankly, it makes me angry to come in the Worship Center on a concert afternoon and see half the place reserved.  I’d love to hear any ideas on how we can educate our members to sacrificially let our guests have the better seats (short of going around and removing all the masking tape and hymnals, which I’ve been tempted to do).

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3-4).

Sharon (speaking on behalf of myself only)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Christmas Concert Preparation Under Way!


Planning for our annual Christmas Concert series is well under way!  Our choir had their all-day Saturday rehearsal, one of three Monday night rehearsals, orchestra music has been ordered, the Children's Choir has been rehearsing, and the music department is humming.

Plan to attend our concerts on December 15, 16, 17, 18.  Tickets available beginning this Sunday, November 20.  More information may be found on our concert page: www.gracechurch.org/concert


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Singing Prevents a Cold!


The catch: You have to belt it out with other people.
 
Group singing increases levels of SIgA, or secretory immunoglobulin A, the fancy name for an antibody that serves as the first line of defense against bacterial and viral infections.

Studies found that choir singers have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and better moods overall, which probably plays a role in the immune system boost.

"There's something about having to coordinate your actions with those of others that brings particular health Benefits," says Daniel Levitin, PhD, a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and music at McGill University in Montreal.

(source: Readers Digest, October, 2016)

Friday, September 16, 2016

EMBEZZLING GOD'S GLORY

by Dr. Bill Brandenstein, Assistant Minister of Music & Worship

The sensationalism of public “worship” alarms me.  For years, I’ve been concerned and humbled by what I hear as I stand before God’s people to lead music: the congregation’s voices magnifying God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Although one biblical purpose for music is to edify and encourage one another, I find a healthy tension exists between facilitating praise, and feeling out of place while overhearing  the God-directed, heaven-bound collective voice.  It’s one thing, as an undeserving sinner permeated by my sin’s egregious blackness, to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to me and to be delivered into His kingdom of glorious light.  As if that weren’t enough – and it’s way past “enough,” as if God’s grace would somehow be insufficient and less than wondrous if it stopped there – I am called to be not only Christ’s adopted son, but His ambassador.  That is just outrageous and wonderful!  And so I stand, His completely unqualified but gloriously equipped representative, encouraging the saints as we surround His throne with our adoration.  My friends, what a miracle of divine grace this is!  It is also, in a sense, eavesdropping.  Being there in a Sunday service helping people sing is a place of both privilege and blissful discomfort while listening in on what is intended for God’s ears.

Meanwhile, pop culture has transformed much that is called “corporate worship” into a spectacle.  Far too often now, public gatherings are a carefully manufactured music event driven by adrenaline and emotional manipulation, while seeking by any means necessary (artificial or otherwise) to craft it into The Ultimate Experience.   I understand that this is part of the spirit of the age, but just because it’s timely has nothing to do with whether or not it’s biblical.  Much can be said of this, but that’s not my purpose now.  Consider, rather, the so-called “Worship Leader” or the team or the band up front.  Do they, like me, standing between the crowd and the Throne, share this irrepressible tension between necessity and being out of place while eavesdropping?  Shouldn’t we all cringe at the thought of any attention being diverted away from Christ?  So then, do we deflect the glory and attention from ourselves and back to Him?  If we can say that we’ve purposed to make this true of our ministries, are our attitudes followed on by actions that communicate, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?

At our most recent Shepherds’ Conference, Tom Pennington laid out the Blind Spots of spiritual leaders in a wonderful exposition of Matthew 23:1-12 (https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/11835).  His third point was titled, “Embezzling God’s Glory.”  The Pharisees “do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (Matthew 23:5), and the passage continues by furnishing a pair of examples of their behavior.  You can see immediately the dilemma posed to those of us who, in carrying out even the most basic of our responsibilities, stand up in front of a group of people.  Thus we must seek to not draw attention to ourselves even as some degree of attention is necessary.  Pennington built a closed-and-shut case that wanting to be noticed is nothing short of self-worship by contrasting Matthew 5:16 (“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”) with 6:1-2 (“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them...  so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full”).  The Greek word for “glorify” and “honored” in those two passages is identical!

Permit me to quote Tom Pennington at length:
The sincere Christian’s motive is that men will glorify God.  The hypocrite’s motive is that man will glorify him.  Hypocrisy is idolatry – instead of wanting God's name to be hallowed, I want my name to be hallowed.  When we want to be noticed by men, when we want to be glorified like the Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be glorified, men, we are embezzling from God that which rightly belongs solely to Him.  We embezzle the glory that belongs to God when we desire to be exalted in the eyes of our church, or our community, or the larger Christian community, rather than desiring most of all that God would be exalted, even if that means we ourselves are unnoticed and unknown.  We're embezzling God's glory when we perform spiritual or ministry activities with the desire in our hearts or in a way designed for others to notice and glorify us.
By the way, Jesus’ solution in Matthew 6 to this problem is to make a concerted effort to be seen only by God. 

For music leaders to be seen only by God in our work is a practical impossibility.  However, may God help us to stand before His people during corporate worship in complete humility, undeservingly, with an exclusively Christ-exalting focus.  And may we never, ever, ever do the slightest thing to be noticed by others, nor for the sake of recognition, lest we who claim to promote the worship of God embezzle what belongs to Him alone: His glory.

Lord God, I come to You this day,
And ask You: fill me now, I pray.
May all I seek, and all I do
Bring your name glory, as is due;
All praise to You alone today.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Old-Fashioned" Music


You know in the general climate of evangelicalism today, somebody would say when they came to Grace Church, "Wow, these people are really old-fashioned.  Why don't they get with it and update the music?"  Let me tell you something: history matters.  And it matters a lot.  I don't want anybody to think that we have invented Christianity.  I don't want to come up with some kind of form of worship and form of expression that is so inimitable to the culture of today that it appears as if all truth resides in us.  What I want people to understand is that the faith that we preach is the same faith that was proclaimed and preached by John Milton, who wrote the words to that [hymn, "The Lord Will Come"] in the seventeenth century.  It is the same faith that was proclaimed by the Apostles, and the hymns convey that faith from generation to generation, and the music conveys that from generation to generation.  This is not new.  Christian doctrine, Christian truth, the Christian gospel is a treasure through the ages, and we are grateful to say that all that we represent is the same truth that has been represented by God's people in every generation going back to the very time of Christ.  Conveying that is critical, so that you understand that this is not some new, contemporary movement.  This is the true and living Christian faith passed down from the Apostles through faithful men, articulated by theologians, and even by hymn writers through the ages.  We stand on that great faith, and have in our hearts a desire to change nothing.  Of course, we can sing contemporary songs, of course we can update that, but not to the cost of abandoning the greatness of our heritage, that people might know that this is not a modern movement.  Well, that's another sermon.

-- John MacArthur, 10/14/07