classical guitar

Jackie and the Better

Beater, Better… Best!

Do you remember the “Beater to Better” guitar project I undertook, completed, preached on and then gave away?

No? then please have a look at THIS POST for details or HERE to see the winning email.

I had the pleasure of handing over the guitar to Jacolene Spangenberg, and wanted to show you some photo’s of the “Better” with her new owner – Jackie!

Jackie with the better guitar


…Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…”

– Ephesians 5:18&19

May the “Beater” and Jackie have many happy years together and thank you to everyone who participated in this very rewarding endeavor!




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The Touch of the Master’s hand

The Bible is full of music from Exodus 15 right through to Revelation 15.  Of course, the book of Psalms is the richest portfolio of songs in the scriptures, and Psalm 139 is among its greatest.

The problem for us when it comes to the music of the Bible is that we are given the lyrics but not the melody, key, or tempo; we have to decide these for ourselves. For example, Psalm 139 can be sung slowly in a minor key as a lament, or it can be sung brightly in a major key as a song of praise. I think that David intended his Psalm to be sung in a major key, but I suspect that many of us hear it in our heads as a lament.

We could interpret the first four verses as “O God, you know everything about me; all my weaknesses and faults, and I am not happy about this… sigh”. But, we could also read it as, “O Lord, nobody knows me like you do, and I am so glad of this.” Equally, verses 5 and 6  could be sung as, “God, you have trapped me and your hand is raised to punish me! I just don’t get it! Why me Lord?” But I am convinced that David intended us to sing, “You go before me to guide me and behind me to protect me. Your hand of blessing is upon me. I don’t understand why you should care for me like this but it’s just wonderful!”

I think that the key sentiment of the song is captured in the words, ‘you have laid your hand upon me’.
When I read this in the context of a song, and knowing that David was a musician, I see Jesus, the Master Craftsman and Maestro Musician taking me up in His hands to play the music of heaven in, through, and with me.

With this sort of understanding of God, it is hard to continue to sing Psalm 139 as a lament. How can we sing verses 7 to 12  as “I just can’t hide from you Lord” when it is so obvious that we should be singing, “Lord, there is nowhere I could go in life that you would not be with me, guiding me and holding me fast.”

David’s song presents a wonderful truth: God created us and cares for us, and nowhere is this clearer in the Psalm than in verses 13-18  I want to use a recent project of mine as an example of how this truth applies to our lives.

Beater to Better

A few months ago I bought the cheapest new Classical Guitar I could find on the internet ($50) and set myself the following challenge: make this poor guitar look better, play better, and sound better, without spending any more money on it.

Sonata front on

Here is what it looked like when it arrived.  At first glance, it looked OK but closer inspection revealed rusted strings, high and tarnished frets, an unplayably high action, and layers of plastic/varnish complete with blemishes and missed spots. I later discovered that it was made of three-ply Basswood, totally unsuitable for a classical guitar. I played a short classical piece on it and someone remarked that it sounded like rubber bands on a cigar box!

Most of us look a bit like this guitar. Some are born into this world with imperfections but many more are beaten up by life itself. Circumstances, other people, or our own poor attitudes and decisions leave us tarnished, pitted with blemishes, practically unplayable, and our life-song sounding weak and toneless. But all this changes when we are in the hands of The Master. When we come to Jesus to receive new spiritual life, He breathes eternity into us but then He does not set us down; He works on us constantly to transform us into His image – so that we will look, play and sound better.

Beginners classical guitar

As I worked on the flawed guitar, I realised I was, myself,demonstrating a small and imperfect example of this transformational process. I stripped and scraped all the gunky paint from its soundboard and sanded it down until the original wood was exposed. Surprisingly, the plywood that was exposed responded to the ever finer sanding and started to look quite pretty. I also knew that the thinner, cleaner soundboard would vibrate more freely and produce a much better tone. I took off the rusty strings, filed down the frets to a uniform height and smoothed the rough fretboard so that the notes could be fingered with accuracy and ease. Then I lowered the plastic saddle and shaped it so that the intonation and action would be improved. The old rosette (the design around the sound hole) had been a cheap transfer that had come off when I refinished the soundboard so my daughter and I fashioned a new one from a piece of Brazilian Rosewood veneer I had. I reconditioned an old set of strings and strung the guitar… then I played … and it sounded even better than I had expected. Here is a picture of the transformed guitar.

Now I am neither a Master Craftsman nor a Maestro Musician so just imagine what Jesus The Master can do when He lays His hands on us!

He creates a new spiritual life within us and then He works on and with us to transform us into His own image. He lays His hand upon us. He takes us up to make something wonderful out of our flawed and battered lives.

There is a well-known poem about an old violin called ‘The touch of the master’s hand’. I found a version set to music and I am sure it will bless you. CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT.

I also discovered a copyright free version sung by Walter Brennan and it is below for you to save and enjoy if you so desire.


If you have found yourself like a flawed instrument, battered by circumstances, and singing your life-song in a melancholy minor key, then turn to Jesus, the Master, and yield to His hand. He will give you new life. He will take you up and play the music of heaven in, through, and with you.

If you would like to hear the whole sermon I preached on this topic, listen  to The Touch of the Masters Hand HERE, or click HERE for more images of the “Beater to Better” transformation in PowerPoint.

If you are reading this before June 2016, then have a look at my PREVIOUS POST to see how you can own “The Better” guitar for free!




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Free guitar feature image

Learner Classical Guitar – FREE

Beginners classical guitar

I will be announcing the name of the recipient on the 14th June 2016, so there is still time for you to make a case for why the guitar should go to you 🙂

I am giving away this beautiful classical guitar to anyone who can make a convincing case that he/she will learn to play classical music on it, maintain it well, and practice regularly.

If you would like to know why I am giving away this guitar, I will be posting an audio with visuals next week … so watch this site.


If you are interested in owning this instrument, then COMMENT ON THIS POST and tell me why I should give it to you.

To comment, simply scroll down a little and you will find a handy box to type in. Please double check your email address so we know who you are! Thank you.




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The Musician

The fourth and final part of the Guitar Venture series


In the previous three posts I have written much about the guitar and almost nothing about the musician who plays it. A great looking, fine sounding, and wonderfully playable guitar will, despite its considerable attributes, still sound terrible in the hands of an untrained, clumsy and passionless player.

There is a well-known poem by Myra Brooks Welch about an instrument in the hands of a maestro, and I want to play a verbal variation on that theme, but first, here is the poem itself:

The Old Violin

Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

I have likened the church to a guitar in the previous post and so now I want to extend the analogy to include us as individuals, and replace Myra’s violin with a guitar. My classical guitar is complete now yet I still attend to it almost every day. I tune it and retune it because nylon strings stretch a lot and are also susceptible in changes in humidity. I polish it and deal with any blemishes or scratches I spot. I have even lowered its action and adjusted its intonation twice since getting back from the Guitar Venture. But of course I do more than all this… I play it, and the more I play it the better it sounds and the more of a musician I become.

We are made in the image of God, His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) to be His representatives and do His work in the world. Like a guitar in the hands of a master musician together we make music that has the potential of changing the tune of the whole world. The church, of which we are part, is like an orchestra of guitar players, and Jesus is the conductor. We collaborate with Him in writing variations on His master script and we strum and pluck the instruments of our talents, time, and resources. And all the while we keep an eye on the conductor and an ear open to the melodies of our fellow musicians.

A fine guitar without a fine guitarist is just an ornament or an exhibit. A fine guitar in the hands of a fine musician is a delight to both see and hear. An orchestra of fine musicians under the direction of a master conductor is a miracle of cooperation, interdependence, and glorious melody.

I suppose, given the theme of these posts, I had better end the series with a fine

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Part 3 Some lessons learned from the Guitar Venture experience


I enjoyed most of the 16 days experience of building a classical guitar, but I confess that I was tense to the point of near-fear during parts of it. However neither enjoyment nor stress prevented me from drawing some important life-lessons from the experience.

My first observation is one to which I have already alluded in a previous post – all parts work together. In the case of a guitar, its form, sound, and playability depend on the harmonious interaction of many parts and forces. If the sound-board is too thick then the tone will be seriously affected; if the neck is inclined at the wrong angle then playing the instrument will be difficult, and so on. Yet, each element in itself also needs the cooperation of other components in order to function properly. It’s not just the inclination of the neck that affects playability; the fret positions, the scale length, the string tension, the bridge and the nut heights, all work together to produce a playable guitar. Just so with the church. In First Corinthians chapter 12 Paul has much to write about this, especially in the section that starts with the words, ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.’ (Verses 12 & 13), and ends with, ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it’ (Verse 27). The church was designed to be more organic than organisational and organisms are interdependent in all their parts. When we lose sight of this then we miss an essential essence of church life. My Guitar Venture experience reminded me of this important truth.

I would summarise my second observation as; ‘Get it right and fix it now rather than attempting to compensate for it later’. If the early measurements are off by even a fraction of a millimetre in the early stages of construction then many things go pear-shaped later on. For instance, the centre line that runs down the guitar from headstock to bottom of the bout, is hugely important. If this line is off then the form will look wrong and the sound and playability could be seriously impaired. It is far easier and less costly, at every level, to fix a deviant centre line by redrawing it correctly right at the outset. In church life a similar principle applies. In over three decades of church leadership experience I have learned the painful lesson that problems need to addressed decisively when they occur and not later. I remember, for instance, a pianist we once had who played like she was in a carnival and treated the congregation as naughty children who were not getting into the spirit of the performance as they should. I tried to encourage her to tone down, explaining that perhaps the people were not yet where she was musically. This only made her try even harder and we moved from carnival to a beerhall ambience! Eventually I just had to tell her to stop performing and bullying the congregation. Her response was “Why didn’t you just say how you felt months ago. You have made me look like a fool!”… and she left the church.

By far the most significant lesson for me from the guitar building experience was … well let me first ask a question: How can a 67 year old man, with no wood-working knowledge or skill, and with two arthritic hands build a beautiful looking, sounding, and playing classical guitar in 16 days? I asked Luigi a similar question before enrolling on the course and his answer went along the lines of; “If you really want to do it and are prepared to work hard at it then I will ensure that you succeed.” Will + effort + a master craftsman. And he was right! Now in the Christian life we work with the master craftsman of all master craftsmen – the Lord Jesus Christ. He has all the knowledge and skills needed to create anything He wants. Using the guitar analogy one last time, He has the construction diagram, He knows what the instrument needs to look like, He has insight into all the difficult parts of the process and each critical step that needs to be taken. If we are truly ‘working’ with Him in whatever we do in life then can He not successfully guide and aid us through what needs to be achieved? The answer has to be… yes! But there are two provisions – we need to really want to achieve and we must be prepared to give it 110% persevering effort.

One final lesson that impacted me greatly. During the first week of the Guitar Venture I was so focused on the task that I didn’t adequately recognise the people I was with. Each day of that first week took so much concentration and energy focus that I got a little ‘lost’ in the process. I realised this on the evening of day seven and I was saddened by the realisation. That that night I prayed; “Please forgive me Lord for not caring enough for the people you have put me with that I haven’t even prayed to you about them. I will do that every day from now on Lord… and please give me opportunities to speak to them about you.” From the very next day on I did indeed have opportunities to speak about faith in Jesus Christ, and I still pray for the people I met down in George. I have observed this work fixation syndrome playing out so many times in my life and in what I observe in others. The job becomes more important than the people involved. The ‘ministry’ takes prominence over those who are supposed to be the recipients of the ministry. And the results of this wrong focus are sometimes devastating. Pastors burn out and leave church ministry, wives divorce work-obsessed husbands, and human relationships crack and fall apart like a badly made guitar subjected to excessive heat.

I hope you have benefited from these insights gleaned from the experience of building a guitar, for I certainly have. But there is one final post still to come… so please keep reading and commenting.

Part 3 Some lessons learned from the Guitar Venture experience Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.