Category Archives: Music

When God hates your music

When Amos prophesied to Israel, God was sick and tired of the way Israel was living. Bribes had replaced justice, the poor and needy were oppressed and violence and robbery were commonplace. It was if they did not know to do right.

It was to these people that God sent Amos to speak these words:

Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
Amos 5:23 NKJV

Why did God not want to hear their songs? Read the rest of the chapter and you will find that the people were still acting out worship but were not backing it up with their lives. They were living a double life. For six days, they lived unrighteously and when it was time to worship, they were all smiles.

God saw beyond the hypocrisy of the Israelites and also sees through our own. But we can be thankful that God wants us to repent of our sin and return to Him. While it is possible to sing songs of worship with a bad heart it is also possible to get things right this morning before we enter the church building.

Think about that before you open your hymnal today. Get your heart ready first and then you will be able to sing to the Lord who knows your heart already. Then you can be sure that He will love your singing today.

A Song for Sharon

I started writing a love song for my wife almost twenty years ago. It is finally finished. Click here to hear read the lyrics and to hear a piano version of it. The pianist is Bernie Katzman, someone I hired to play it by ear. I like how it turned out.

Hymn: Ah, Lord Jesus

We sang a beautiful song today at Orwell Bible Church called, “Ah, Lord Jesus” by Johann Heermann (1630). As you can imagine, the language is a bit archaic but the message still touched my heart. I am always happy to be reminded of Jesus’ love for me despite my unwillingness to come to him on my own. My favorite verses were:

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee
I crucified thee

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered
The slave hath sinned and the Son hath suffered
For man’s atonement while he nothing heeded
God interceded

Here is a video of a congregation singing the song:

Thoughts about CCM

There have been many thoughts posted about music recently. One of the recurring ideas is that music is a personal choice based on taste and culture. Another is that the changing culture must be met with a change in ministry method. To some that change requires contemporary popular music styles because it best communicates in the present culture. What I fail to find in these arguments is a definition of music that is acceptable to the Lord.

  • Is my personal taste in music what matters to the Lord?
  • Is it appropriate to choose any music style I like to sing to Him?
  • Does God only care about the heart or does style also concern Him?
  • Is certain music worldly and inappropriate? or is music in fact amoral?

During the discussion, I think we often talk past each other. One person’s definition of CCM may include any form of popular music (heavy metal, rap, jazz, etc.) while others are referring to hymns sung with a country twang. Unless we define what we are talking about, the discussion won’t be very conclusive or helpful.

I think a better discussion needs to take place. And that discussion needs to address things like the way songs are sung, associations, pragmatism, and a definition of good, bad, and better music.

Music: Style and Message

Ask what style of music Christians prefers and you will get a variety of answers. A lot of this is determined by one’s upbringing. But personal taste in music should not be the determining factor in how we worship the Lord and minister to the saints. The Scriptures are full of principles which help us make those decisions. Does the music put a melody in your heart to the Lord and encourage other Christians (Eph. 5:19-20)? Good music is God’s gift to the Church for mutual encouragement and for worshiping the Lord. The combination of good words and good music is important because of the influence it has on our relationship to other Christians and to the Lord. But these are not the only biblical qualifications for acceptable music. We have to compare the message and style with what the rest of the Bible says. Does the music promote worldliness (1 John 2:15-17)? The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life should have no place in the style or message of Christian music. That passage alone should keep Christians from using rock, jazz, swing, or other sensual music styles in our worship. Does the music control me (Eph. 5:16)? Christians are supposed to be controlled by the Spirit and not by wine or any other substance. But some of today’s popular worship styles do just that. They are designed to lead people into an emotional trance where they will do whatever they are told. I have often seen lyrics posted on Facebook that are very shallow but have somehow made a huge impact on that person. I presume that the music produced an emotional experience that made the words seem more powerful than they actually were. This brings up another question. Does the music have a clear, biblical message? Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13) not into a transcendental state of mind. That type of music is often used in a charismatic, feeling-oriented worship service and should be avoided. Both the words and music style together should accurately portray Christian truth to the listeners. If it does not, it should be marked and avoided.

The Problem with Associations and Christian Music

Does God care about associations? Yes, he does. The Bible repeatedly points out the need to be associated with godliness and not with evil. In the New Testament, Christians are told to avoid association with worldliness (1 Jn. 2:15-17), false teachers (Rom. 16:17-18), and unrepentant, disobedient Christians (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6). By avoiding worldly associations we can maintain a close friendship with God (James 4:4). By avoiding association with false teachers, we protect others from error and keep ourselves in line with God’s truth (2 Pet. 2:2). By avoiding association with disobedient brothers, we show them their need to repent (2 Tim. 2:25) and keep ourselves from being influenced by their sin (1 Cor. 5:6-7). From these Scripture passages it is clear that God cares about our associations. But how should these principles be applied to music used in the church?

I believe that most Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) is not pleasing to God because it mixes a worldly musical style with a Christian message. The world’s music is designed to promote the very things that we have been washed from — especially immorality (1 Cor. 6:9-11). So, why would any Christian want to be one with a harlot or the music associated with one (1 Cor. 6:15-17). The choice should be between God and the world, but CCM mixes the two and has done so for so long that many people don’t recognize the problem. While many conservative churches would not condone Christian rock, CCM music is nonetheless creeping into their worship services. And that is where the issue of associations comes in.

According to some, the content and style of a particular musical piece are not affected by who wrote it. If the lyrics and musical style are appropriate, there is no problem with who wrote it. That argument works best for hymns written decades ago by people who no longer have a contemporary influence on us. But for people who are still actively engaged in ministry, their influence has much more weight. Think back to the Scriptures in the first paragraph. God repeatedly indicates that associations are influential on us for good or evil. Applied to music, the association of the composer or promoter is important because of his influence on those who know him.

Take, for instance, The Power of the Cross, a song written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. The lyrics are biblical and the tune is acceptable, but the people behind the song have an association that cannot be ignored. Townend produces CCM that most conservative churches would not deem appropriate for worship. Not convinced? Take a look at his website for audio examples of his music style. Keith and Kristyn Getty are also CCM performers. Visit their website and you may be surprised at the style they personally use to present their message in song.

Is that style of music appropriate for worshiping our holy God? I don’t think so because of its worldly and charismatic/emotional character. Christian music should exalt the character and accomplishments of our great God in a way that pleases him. Mixing worldly, sensual, and charismatic music styles with good lyrics does not please God because it does not match his character or his commands. Instead it promotes an erroneous view of God’s character. Because of that, Christians should not associate with other Christians who promote this wrong style of worship.

Why then are conservative churches using music produced by CCM performers such as Townend and Getty? The idea is that good lyrics and a tame musical score make it acceptable for conservative worship. But what happened to the biblical idea of confronting worldliness and disobedience in other Christians? Do we simply overlook these commands because they finally got a few songs right? Or is it okay to change the rhythm and style of CCM so that it can be used in our worship services? I do not think either is appropriate. It would be better to mark and avoid those who are promoting worldly worship.

Although others have chosen to use this “tame” music, I cannot because of its association with promoters of worldly worship and because CCM in general promotes a sensual, fleshly, worldly version of Christianity. No matter how good the words are, the connection to these sinful desires is detrimental to our worship of God and our testimony to the lost. Yes, there are varying levels of trouble with their music, but they are promoters of the things I described above. They also promote a charismatic, emotional worship that is dangerous.

This is not an issue that only affects pastors and Christian leaders. It is affecting the people in our churches as well. I often see former high school and college classmates posting videos of CCM songs. I am surprised at the acceptance these performers have within conservative Christian churches. What was once considered distasteful is now good. But how is it that a woman crooning about Paul and Silas can be considered spiritually uplifting? How do you look beyond the way the message is performed? The influence of compromise is affecting people, churches, and Christian colleges. And what unifies them in this compromise is the music they choose for worship.

These are my thoughts about the associations versus involvement argument. We may not be personally involved with CCM performers, but by bringing in their “good stuff” it opens the door for people to explore their “bad stuff” (see Rom. 5:6-7). It’s happening elsewhere and very rapidly. I see this as a problem and don’t want it to happen to any other Christians. I don’t expect many to change their minds but hope that any who read this article will compare what I have written with the Scriptures and make informed choices.

Hymn : ‘Tis the Christ

The third verse of ‘Tis the Christ by Thomas Kelly (1769-1854) is significant for Christians who have been saved for a while. It addresses the wrong idea that our sin was not very bad. But when you compare it to what it took to justify the ungodly (including me), God’s perspective is much different.

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the Sacrifice appointed
See Who bears the awful load
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God

Hymn : Satisfied

All my life long I had panted
For a draught from some cool spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.

Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.

Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life, so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His life I now am saved.

Hymn : From Whence This Fear and Unbelief?

We sang this song in church during a September service at Orwell Bible Church. It is written by Augustus Toplady and is included in the hymnal, Hymns of Grace and Glory. After reading the words, you may want to invest in a hymnal that includes such assuring words. Read them and see what I mean.

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?

Complete atonement Thou hast made
And to the utmost Thou hast paid
Whate’er Thy people owed
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in Thy righteousness
And sprinkled with Thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine
Payment God cannot twice demand
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty
Trust in His efficacious blood
Nor fear thy banishment from God
Since Jesus died for thee.

Four Hands Guitar Again!

I love the team work of this couple playing the same guitar. Notice the expressions on their faces as they play and the way they switch parts. At one point she is picking for him and vice versa. It makes for a very entertaining presentation.