Sunday, December 7, 2014

Worship leaders, don't take your lead from Kanye.

Not too long ago, Kanye West was performing in Sydney, Australia.  At some point during his performance, he stopped the concert and refused to continue until everyone in the audience stood up and danced.  Most of the people stood up, but Kanye spotted two people in the audience sitting and called them out and refused to go on with the show until they stood up.  Turned out, one person was wheelchair bound and the other had a prosthetic limb.

I know what you're thinking....  "How insensitive!  How egotistical!  How mean!"  For you Old Testament readers, maybe you thought "How Nebuchadnezzar of Kanye!"

Trust me, I'd be a liar if I said the same thoughts didn't cross my own mind.  That is until the Holy Spirit seemed to use this report to get me thinking about how we as worship leaders will sometime approach the congregations that we're leading with insensitivity because we measure the affect of our leading based on a system of spiritual measure that relies solely on our seeing our congregation's outward responses.  Don't get me wrong, it's a huge encouragement to a worship leader to see the congregation that they're leading be so abandoned in their worship of the Lord with hands raised and voices lifted; but it shouldn't be a unit of measure by which we measure the spiritual temperature of our congregation's entering in to enjoy the presence of the One they call Lord and Savior.  

I'm a hand raiser the majority of the time.  I spent so much of my life worshiping the devil (not in black masses or something crazy like that), but through the intents of my heart and my rebellion towards God that even when I don't feel like raising my hands, I see the redemptive quality in the act that I once used my talents, and resources to worship anything but God that I want to demonstrate that I am reaching out to God through the act of raising my hands; and am not ashamed to worship Him publicly this way.  Its a reminder to this man that I'm alive in a way that would not be possible apart from the redemptive work of the cross and resurrection; and free in a way that is not possible apart from knowing Jesus.  Plus, He's the King of all Kings.  Respect the Crown!

Having said that, if you're not comfortable raising your hands, don't feel excluded or anything.  You're not any less spiritual if you don't.  Just don't call the act un-Biblical.  It's in the Bible.  Check out Nehemiah 8:6 for at least one reference.

But my point in the matter is this - you don't know what the congregants are walking in with.  One congregation member might have just received a report that they have cancer.  Another might have discovered that their husband has been using pornography.  Another might be a single parent and barely got her kids out of the house and into church on time.  Another might have lost a loved one.  The variables go on and on.

We as worship leaders are responsible to model personal worship in a public way.  We're to help people along and guide them by our example.  We're to select songs that share the truth of the Gospel.  We're to camp out on singing a bridge or a chorus repetitively if the Spirit of God prompts us.  We're one of the vessels that God chooses to use in a worship service to prepare the way for the Spirit of God to touch hearts.  The Spirit will minister to them in a personal way.  Frankly, at times, people need to be able to quietly contemplate the words being sung and an act of raising their hands might distract them from what God is doing in their hearts.

But please, don't measure the effect of your serving or the condition of the people's hearts by their physical response, or outward expressions that are visible to your physical senses.  Leave the results to the Holy Spirit and trust that He is working if you are serving God faithfully through your song selection and being sensitive to His promptings.

The act of leading people in worship is not an exclusive act; it is an inclusive act.  I believe our sensitivity to this in our worship leading will free us up even more to be used more effectively in our serving; and transcend right down to the congregations that we lead producing greater exchange, and participation in the act of worshiping God through song.  If we have a mindset of measuring spiritual condition of the worship, the congregants will pick up on it.  We'll express our dissatisfaction of their response somehow.  Please fear to tread that path.  We're talking about the Bride of Christ.  We're to love His Bride, not judge or measure His beloved.

So, if you get in a mindset of measuring, remember Kanye.  Those two folks were injured enough already.  They didn't deserve further injury.  Neither do our congregants.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What are you doing with what you've been given?

A few days ago I was jogging through downtown when I saw a person I recognized coming out of a coffee shop.  He was carrying a guitar case.  I had seen him a few times over the past month sitting at various benches throughout the city playing an acoustic guitar.  I approached him, reminded him of our having met a few years ago, and proceeded to ask him questions about his being a musician.

He shared his musical history with me, influences, and a few examples of original instrumental songs that he had written.  As we talked, I was able to share with him that I was a Christ follower and that I write songs that are expressive of my faith in Christ.  As we talked more about his original songs, he mentioned that he was afraid to demo his songs and share them with others without having a formal copyright in place.  I encouraged him not to allow the formalities of copyrights to restrict his sharing his gift with others.  That his gift could bless others and encourage younger musicians and writers to invest themselves into developing their musical creativity.  I encouraged him to continue writing and expressing his gift.  At the end of the conversation I had shared that the God of the Bible is creative, and that when He places gifts in us and we give our best effort to grow and develop in that gift; that it pleases God.

While I was talking to my new friend, I realized that I was talking to me through me.

As I began to jog again I asked myself, "what am I doing with what I've been given?"

I believe that God gives each of us gifts.  And generally, when we take time to invest in developing or giving expression to those gifts we feel alive and satisfied.

So my question to you friend is the same question that I asked myself.... "What are you doing with what you've been given?"

I don't say that to condemn you.  I say that to encourage you to live a life without regrets.  A life where you give it your best shot.

I had a conversation with someone last year, where I recognized that not only was this person given an incredible gift, he had taken the development of his gift very seriously.  He recognized a responsibility to be a steward of his gift and committed to develop it to its greatest potential.  He felt that this God given gift was a blessing and should be viewed and treated as such.  I believe that because he took this personal view and took time to develop his gift, is the exact reason that God has opened up many doors for him as a professional session singer, worship leader, instructor, and life coach.  His stewardship of his gift has created an ability to influence others and inspire others in the stewardship and development of their own personal God given gifts.

Which brings me to the final thought.  As a Christian, we are instructed to use our gifts to the glory of God  through Jesus Christ.  Its express purpose is to point others to Jesus, that others may come to a saving knowledge of Him through our gifts being expressed.  I am personally convicted when I see the hours of dedication someone will put in to advancing their development as an actor or pop singer which most of the time has no intention in trying to advance the Kingdom of God.  Especially when I'm having trouble just picking up the Bible, or sitting down to rehearse a 4 song praise and worship set...

Though my encounter with my guitar playing friend might have seemed like he was left with the encouragement, it was really me who walked away encouraged and taught.

It's never too late to get more invested in the development of your God given gifts.  Start today, and stay committed and watch how God will use it!

Take away verses:
"Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom." Psalm 90:12

Matthew 25:14-27

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I saw the recently released "Noah" a few weeks ago.  I'm a little late chiming in.  Nevertheless, here's my "chime".

Before you read on - there's two things that you should be aware of.

1. I'll try not to be overtly explicit, but chances are there'll be "spoilers" in this blog entry.  If you haven't seen the movie yet, but plan to and don't want any of the movie's contents to be "spoiled" for you, stop reading now.    

2. This blog entry will not posture itself as a rigid defense of theology or historicity of the Biblical account of Noah.  I'm sure there's plenty of resources out there on the internet that point out the inaccuracies of the film in relation to what is canonical versus what is errant.  If you're looking for that type of defense here, you won't find it.  There are much smarter, and more educated people on the subject than somebody like myself.

Having said that....  

As I sat in the movie theater and the ending credits rolled, and people exited the theater....  I reflected, I cried, and I prayed.  Yep.  I did.  There was a lot for me to process following  the film's conclusion.

I want to be careful to note here to you the reader, that I am not providing an endorsement.  I'm also not saying that the movie is a resource used to elicit spiritual responses from the viewers.  What I am saying is that somehow, I was confronted to consider aspects in direct relation to my faith in God that caused me to respond.  These aspects....  

1. "Were it not for grace..."
Were it not for the grace that God has shown me thus far - I would be utterly lost.  The movie shows that when the sinful inclinations of men's hearts are left unrestricted - they lead people to incredibly dark and damaging places.  With a PG-13 rating, the level to which this is illustrated visually in "Noah" is not as explicit as it could have been; it was nonetheless visceral and not palatable when shown.  But upon reflection, it was not palatable to me because I was confronted with the truth that I, left to my own devices, could reach a degree of expressed depravity that goes beyond what I convince myself I would not do.  It's part of my sinful nature to rationalize my shortcomings by using peer comparison, and distorted justification. As much as I have a hard time admitting it, I know that were it not for grace, I had the potential to go to much darker places of the human experience had Christ not intersected my life.  Self righteousness is a tragic veil;  but grace is the most remarkable offer.   

2. "Legalism takes us up the wrong mountain..."
In the most controversial plot development in the movie, Noah almost puts his newborn grandchildren to death.  However difficult the personal sacrifice, he believes that he is carrying out God's will.  Thankfully, he comes to his senses and doesn't do it.  But he's left with an overwhelming sense that he failed God.  I think many of us, like Noah's portrayal, have the best of intentions in trying to follow God's ways.  Unfortunately, we will never accomplish living a perfect life here on earth.  Those who devotedly follow Jesus will grow in God's grace; a grace that teaches us to say "no" to temptations leading to sin.  A grace that counsels and inspires us to do what is good.  A legalistic approach to God in relation to finding acceptance will always lead to feelings of failure, and confusion.  We did not receive acceptance into God's family by our works.  We received acceptance into God's family by grace through faith.  Legalism takes us up the wrong mountain and encourages us to pitch our tent there; the mountain where Law was handed down.  A Law that shows me all the reasons why I am a moral failure and cannot be welcomed.  But grace takes me to the mountain that shows me, I didn't have strength to be accepted anyway.  I had to rely on God, to be strong enough for me, in my place, to find acceptance.  

3. "till a garden..."
At the end of the movie, Noah helps his wife till a garden.  Adam and Eve lived in a garden, and in that garden they met with God.  In the garden, there was a culture that existed that fostered healthy relationship. I believe our lives are a lot like gardens.  There are things we can add to our lives that enrich its soil; we can protect its contents; we can create an environment that is healthy for its development and growth.  We can also not tend it; we can let weeds get overgrown; we can not protect it.  I wondered - which one am I today?  When looking at my life as a garden - my wife, my son, my relationship with God, the gifts He's given me, the desires He's put in my heart - am I tending the garden or ignoring it?  Am I protecting it or am I letting in the parasites and not protecting it against the cold nights?  The first job God gave anyone was the job of a gardener.  It's my job now too and if I do it right, I'll yield crops of good relationships towards others and towards God.

So there you have it.... My personal "chime" on Noah.

Now where's that fertilizer???

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sharing my faith

If this is your first time reading my blog, WELCOME!  My name is Ian Zumback.  If you'd like to know more about this blog, you can find a short introduction HERE.

In the not too distant past, I came to faith in Jesus (2005).  Upon giving my life over to God's will, I began a process that is referred to as sanctification.  If you're not familiar with this word, let me catch you up a bit...

I got tired of trying to do life my way.  At that point I chose to admit that I couldn't figure out how to live life without causing pain to myself or to others.  I also admitted that I couldn't find an influence on my terms that would guide me to live life with less pain and make better decisions.  Desiring to change, I called out for God to change me.  God's response was that I had to trust Him, leave my old way of living, give Him control of my life, and follow Him.  Oh yeah, I had to let Him know that I was sorry for disobeying Him and turning my back on Him too, and really mean it.  In Christianity, this is called repentance and faith.  It's also called salvation, or 'being saved.'  In other words, I was in a mess and needed someone to rescue me.  That rescuer was God.  And by the way, God's response to me was not a set of criteria that He was forcing or imposing on me; though it was inherently clear to me that adherence to follow God on His terms was necessary to begin a journey that would lead me to live a full and better life. 

Now in order to be 'saved', a change of heart needs to take place that is not based on your intellect, your abilities, your strengths, your talents, your social standings, or your efforts.  It is an act of God that takes place in the heart of a person, and really is an act that is not really explained through physics, psychology or other measurable sciences.  It is an act that is initiated by God in response to our act of true repentance and real faith in Jesus.  Real faith in Jesus being that we believe He is (a) the Son of God & co-equal with God, the Father; (b) He personally exchanged places with me by receiving the punishment for my sins and allowing for my sins to be placed on Him, (c) He died for me in my place, (d) He was buried after dying, (e) three days later, He rose from the dead, (f) He ascended to Heaven and will some day come back a second time as God's righteous Judge to render God's judgment on sinners, and render pardon by grace to those who trusted Him as their King, Savior, and Lord.  (g)  To those of us that trusted in Jesus, He gives the gift of eternal life.

Pause... Right now, you're either intrigued, calling me a fool, or agreeing with me.

Trust me when I tell you that I am no theologian.  But I am infatuated with getting to know Jesus.  So far, from what I can tell through personal study, prayer, and trusted resources - my explanation of real faith in Jesus (criteria listed as items a-g) are the core, closed fundamentals of the Christian faith that are fixed and cannot be altered.  All religions have a core set of beliefs.  These are mine that I now hold dear and true.

So we explained true faith.  What is true repentance?  True repentance acknowledges that I have a problem that exists in me that I can't seem to overcome on my own, and desire to be rid of.  That problem is called a sin nature.  It expresses itself in the lives of every person.  For some people it expresses itself through participating and spreading of gossip.  For some it expresses itself through lying.  For some it expresses itself in the form of jealousy and prejudice.  There are many forms of sin expressing itself in a number of ways, but  whichever way you slice it, everybody's got something going on in their life that seems to make more messes than brings blessings when expressed.

The main problem with sin is that its basis and usage is founded on pride.  Pride that chooses to deal with life based on its own standard and knowledge that typically seeks to benefit one person - me.  The problem is there is a standard that is left out of the equation that is very important to living a healthy life - God's standard.

God has a standard.  And it's really high.  In fact, it's impossible to completely live by His standard, even as a Christian.  Want to test that theory?  Click here to read the 10 commandments and ask yourself if you've ever broken even one of them 10 commandments 

But the good news is that you don't have to live to God's standard of perfection.  He is merciful and gives grace to those who humble themselves before Him and ask Him for help.  That's the whole point of Jesus.  He exchanged His perfect life for our sins to pay a penalty that was rightly due us, and to clear up a debt for us that we could never pay off.

The apostle Paul wrote to Titus,  "For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds."

At the beginning of my explanation on true repentance, I described it as acknowledging that I have a problem that exists in me that I can't seem to overcome on my own, and a desire to be rid of it.  This describes only the desire.  The action step requires us to turn away from our desire to be god over our own lives, turn to God and ask Him to be God over our lives, and then put our faith and trust in Jesus to live in our hearts by His Spirit to begin the process of putting our lives and will in His hands so that we can live a fuller and better life which leads to as Paul writes above; totally committed to doing good deeds.  (Catching breath... that was a long sentence.)  

Now, this day to day process of learning to live God's way is called sanctification.

I am in the process of sanctification.  And thank God, from what I've experienced to date, God is the One helping me to have the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

If you read the introduction blog entry that I linked to above - I shared that this blog involves a lot of 'doing life' together.  Much of my 'doing life' is found in the sanctification process.  Part of my sanctification is a growing desire to share my faith in Jesus with others.

There are people that are reading this blog, that may never have the opportunity to meet with me directly that I may share the Good news with them in person.  There may be people that may not have the opportunity or desire to go into a church for various reasons. But I do hope that in the privacy of your home, office, or wherever - that you, the reader, would consider what I've shared.

If you count me a fool,  that's ok.
If you count me intriguing,  I hope you come back and read again.
If you count me agreeable, I'm glad and rejoice with you!

If you are still interested in hearing more about Jesus - here are two video resources from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association sharing real stories of hope and healing ranging from a professional football player to a heavy metal singer.  If you need someone to talk to about this - head over here for live chat with a real person that can help answer your questions or pray with you

THE CROSS - Billy Graham's message to America

DEFINING MOMENTS - Stories of Hope

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pray for NY... Get a free music download... Explained

"Pray for NY... Get a free music download"... What does this mean???

Here's my best explanation as briefly summarized as possible.

In 2012, after a seven year study by the American Bible Association, it was determined that the area of Albany-Troy-Schenectady was the 2nd least Bible minded city/area in the US. Furthermore, New York state accounts for one third of the top fifteen cities/areas in the US that are least Bible minded with Albany, Plattsburgh, Buffalo, NYC, and Syracuse in the top 15.  You can see the link here TOP 50 Least Bible Minded Areas 

Having lived in New York state my whole life up until now with two thirds of that time living in Albany area - I feel a connection to the capital region and to the state as a whole.

Between personal experiences and direct ministry involvement in my community - there are a lot of people going through life without a sense of hope.  Proverbs 13:12 says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."

In 2005, I gave my life to Jesus.  Since that time, I am fully committed to the belief that Jesus Christ is the only lasting Hope that exists for the world.

Since, I am committed to this belief, then I believe the only answer for those going through life without a sense of hope would be for them to meet the One who I believe would be their only real Hope - Jesus.

I am further committed to a belief that the dire spiritual case in the state of New York cannot be improved by efforts, approaches, or plans birthed, resourced, and executed from a place of human intellectualism - even when it is birthed within the walls of our church buildings, denominational headquarters, or even from the pulpit.  The spiritual case can only be improved when the effort, approach, and plans are Heaven born, with God alone as the resource, and executed with and under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon is quoted as saying, "Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.  If you may have everything by asking in His Name, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is."

God does not expect us to come up with a solution to reach others by our own clever inventions.

God does expect us as His people to ask for the solution; and then by faith to patiently receive from Him the wisdom, the strength, and the ability to put into practice that which He, by His unlimited knowledge and foresight, sets into motion by His sovereignty and design leading to the outcome and effect for which we pray for.  Which in this case is knowledge and acceptance of the Hope of Jesus Christ to sweep across the state of New York influencing a "change of heart" leading to life.

So, in an effort to stimulate prayer to God for the state of New York, I am making a song that was written by my wife and I as a prayer, with New York in mind, available as a free music download.  In exchange for the download, I am asking you - one time only - to pray this prayer for the state of New York.

"God.  Great and worthy are You.  The state of New York is losing hope.  And we need You.  We need Jesus.  So we humbly ask You to forgive us of our sins, and help us.  Help us to forgive others.  Help us to live for You daily, and to have the strength to say no to doing wrong.  And we ask this with Your Kingdom, and Your honor in mind.  In Jesus' Name, we pray." 

If you prayed this prayer - Thank you for partnering with me and asking God to help change the spiritual landscape of the state of New York.

You can get your free download of "Arise" at

If you would like to raise awareness for this campaign, you can do the following:

1.Link to this blog.
2. Share the following tags on your twitter account: #NYCarise, #Albanyarise, #Plattsburgharise, #Buffaloarise, #Syracusearise
3. Share below images.
4. Stop in to my official facebook page and leave a comment

God bless you from Susan and I!


Friday, December 13, 2013

It's the Happ - Happiest Season of all!

I love the Christmas season!  So many experiences to enjoy!  In fact - I would concur with Andy Williams that "it's the most wonderful time of the year."

One of my favorite experiences during the "happ-happiest season of all" - are experiencing the sounds of Christmas.

There are so many reasons to enjoy Christmas songs.  They're familiar.  They're singable.  They have a way of warming the soul and inspiring reflection and consideration of blessings.

Though all of these reasons are causing a cooperative effect leading to an enjoyable personal Christmas experience; there's an aspect of the sound of Christmas that is both challenging me and inspiring me as a songwriter.

Christmas lyrics.

Christmas lyrics (apart from and or complimentary to the hymns) provide some of the richest theological, finest articulated, and precisely communicated presentation of the Good News that exists through music.

"Silent night" is clear in it's presentation of the sign that God in flesh would be born of a virgin.
"O Holy Night" conveys our hopelessness in relation to our sins; it informs us of our hope and solution appearing in Jesus Christ; and it encourages our only reasonable response - to receive God's gift of righteous pardon and to worship the world's Savior.
"Joy to the world" calls the listener to prepare oneself with open heart for the coming of One, Who has highest rule and authority; of which all of creation submits itself to with rejoicing - encouraging the listener to join in.

It is clear to me that the lyricists of the familiar Christmas songs that we sing during the holiday season were not writing jingles.  They were submitting "an account for the hope" that was in them through song by offering Good News to their audience.

Would you pray for me as I continue to grow as a songwriter, that I would prove faithful "to holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain" ????

Now go and enjoy the sounds of Christmas!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Where does my help come from?

I was able to share a song I had written with my church family two weekends ago.  The name of the song is 'Where does my help come from?' It will probably be one of the songs I record in March.
If you'd like to hear it, here you go>> LISTEN to 'Where does my help come from' HERE <<

I penned the song, inspired by personal events taking place in my life, and a Psalm that God led me to on a day that I really needed to read it. If you'd like to read the Psalm, here you go>>PSALM 121<<

Without getting into all the details, my family was going through a really difficult time.  We were in the middle of our trial (roughly 3 years in - I think).  Over the course of our trial and challenges, God proved Himself faithful to send the help that we needed to get us through our challenges.  Furthermore, God not only has gotten us through, but is giving us the grace to overcome and have victory.

As I've contemplated the help that God brings to those of us that ask; and His manifold grace - I could write a book on the many ways that God helped my family and I over the past 6 years (and maybe someday I will!)  After sharing the song, and some of the story behind it - I continue to reflect back on what I'm about to share.

During our family struggles, at times I had the same mentality that Naaman had.  (Read Naaman's story)
I wanted God's help on my terms and in the way that I had thought would 'bring Jesus the most glory.'

But God had and always has His own terms.

What I found through my experience was that God brought the help in a way that was different than I had "planned" or expected Him to.  I had a predisposition about how God brought help.  Looking back now, I'm pretty sure that at times my predisposition actually got in the way of God getting my family the help that we needed.  But God showed us grace and was patient with me.  Now I'm learning to receive God's help on His terms day by day, and moment by moment.

So... if you're reading this... do you need God's help today? (trick question.. :)...) Seriously though...

If you do need help, and are asking the Lord for it- are you predisposed to how He should bring it?  Furthermore, are you predisposed at how you're willing to receive His help?

I leave you with this..  I didn't realize how much my religious predispositions were able to influence my ability to receive the Savior's help.  According to the gospels, there were a lot of men who had religious predispositions, and were unable to receive the Savior's help too.

God help us to receive your help and healing on Your terms, and in the best way possible.  Your way.