Monday, March 28, 2016

Music 14 - Six Thoughts on Filling the Vacuum

20160319_133120[7]When you finally come to the place of admitting the truth about your rock music – that it has been opening up the door of the occult in your mind, that it is soaked in sex, advocates rebellion, breeds idolatry, and is physically damaging and addicting – well, then a wise man throws it away. But since he understands that nature abhors a vacuum he does not just throw it away; he replaces it.

Humanity in general and you (with a high degree of probability) in particular are inherently musical. You enjoy hearing, playing, and singing music. Such a fact leads to this corollary: part of the reason people like rock music is that their flesh delights in it sinfully, but part of the reason is simply because people like music. If all we do is tell them to get rid of the bad music and we do not at the same time teach them how to replace it with good music they will become musically frustrated. The musical part of them will starve, and in hunger reach blindly back for the pig slop in the mire they just left.

To the point then, here are six practical suggestions worth your consideration regarding this matter of replacement.

First, ruthlessly purge the wrong music from your life. Go through your CD collection and pitch anything remotely resembling rock music. Artist by artist, song by song, go through your MP3 player and make liberal use of the delete button. Pull up your Pandora/Spotify channels and erase those that feed the flesh. Zero out the radio presets in your car. Granted, you do not always have control over the televisions and audio systems in your environment, but to the extent you do make regular use of the mute button. If the music is wrong – whether it is an internet stream, a television commercial, the background on a YouTube video, or a radio bumper intro – silence it.

Second, learn how to sing church songs. When it is time to sing at church turn a hymnbookhymnbook_thumb[2] to every page announced, no matter how tedious. If the song is unfamiliar to you just listen on the first verse, try to sing a basic tune on the second verse, and belt it out on the third. Open your mouth, literally. Open it up. Words flow better from an open mouth than they do from lips compressed together. Throw your voice at the notes for a while until you get the hang of it. If you look down your row and everybody is mumbling their way through the songs find a new row. Sit with people who like to sing and their joyful contagion will infect you.

Third, begin to sing or hum or whistle church songs throughout the week. If you learned a good song on Sunday sing it to yourself in the shower Monday morning. Hum it to yourself on the train. Whistle it while you are walking down the hallway to your office. It does not matter if the tune is slightly mismatched or you forget half the words. In this context, what matters is that you are feeding the right kind of music to your musical self.

Fourth, gradually begin to surround yourself with good music. In my youth this involved the laborious process of borrowing someone else's cassette tapes, recording them on reel to reel, and then transferring the resultant mix to 90 minute cassette tapes. Now all you have to do is find a few good internet music stations. For your consideration I offer Faith Music Radio, KNVBC, WBLW, and Canaan Radio as a starting point. Each of these have smart phone apps as well. In the independent Baptist realm most of the best music is produced by Faith Music Missions and various Bible colleges. If you are the type to purchase CD's buy some. If you are the guy who wants to own your digital music then buy some CD's and digitally store them. If all your wants are satisfied by streams then bookmark some of the internet radio stations I have listed above. For that matter, even Pandora has some excellent instrumental hymn channels.

2012-ipodshuffle-gallery3-zoomFifth, pour the good music into your life like you used to pour in the bad music. Put it on your iPod. Listen to it on the way to work. Play it around the house. Put it on while you are cleaning out the garage. Whatever you do, do not isolate it to only Sunday morning as you drive to church. It is not church music; it is good music.

Sixth, build in those whom you influence an appetite for good music. From the time my children were old enough to sleep in their own rooms they have gone to bed listening to good music. We own hundreds of CD's. My older children own MP3 players and I expect them to be used. Mandy and I play music constantly in the car and around the house of an evening. This is partly because Mandy and I are musically inclined ourselves, but even more so because we want to develop in them a deep taste for the right kind of music and an instant aversion to the wrong kind of music.

Will such things alone ensure that my children grow up to only appreciate and use good music? Of course not. Yes, I seek diligently to develop within them a taste for good music but I must pair that with patient explanation in order to develop in them a clear understanding of the difference between the right and wrong kinds of music. Yet even this is not enough for Jesus must capture their heart. The battle for music is fought in the mind but like all other spiritual battles can only be won in the heart. But all righteous weapons are fair in spiritual warfare and thus I use the right kind of music without apology on all who come within my influence.

As you approach within about twenty feet of my church building you will begin to hear576884_559697814062211_902161536_n music playing. It plays from above our front doors fourteen hours a day 365 days a year. Hundreds of neighborhood children walk by our building to and from school each day. Each one hears for a few moments the only good music they ever hear – but hear it they do. In our neighborhood we are known as "the church that plays music." If you walk into our auditorium for a church service whether you are sixty minutes early or two minutes late you will hear music. The former is a rotation of a thousand songs on an MP3 player and the latter is enthusiastic congregational singing. The moment the last "Amen" is said at the conclusion of every service the music is turned back up and stays up until the lights go off. If you try to escape the music in the auditorium you will find it following you into the foyer. If you venture into the basement you will hear it there. Someday I will realize my dream and it will even follow you into the bathrooms. =)

Why? Because music is enjoyable, emotional, artistic, and powerful. If your life is filled with the wrong kind ruthlessly eliminate it. But do not stop there, beloved. Fill up the empty space with the right kind of music. It will be sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Music 13 - The Doctrine of Replacement

No, I do not believe the church has replaced Israel in God's prophetic timetable. I reject such a position for ecclesiological, eschatological, and hermeneutical reasons. In titling today's post "The Doctrine of Replacement" I run the risk of drawing Reformed gadflies to my blog by the gazillions. Boy, won't they be surprised when they discover it is actually about music…

The scriptural foundation for the doctrine of replacement is found first in Matthew 12. This chapter is one of the key hinge pivots in the arc of Jesus' life, and one I have blogged through elsewhere. At one point in the conversation Jesus likens Israel to a painstakingly clean yet empty house that had subsequently been invaded by evil spirits. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. 

Old Testament Israel constantly struggled with idolatry. The earthly cure for that was the Babylonian Captivity. But in the intervening centuries since Israel's return from the Babylonian Captivity though she had not succumbed again to idolatry on a wide scale she had succumbed to something even worse – a rule-obsessed, outwardly focused religion with no love for God or others in her heart. And in that condition she was actually worse off spiritually speaking then when she was idolatrous.

The interpretation involves the theological bankruptcy of rabbinic Judaism but the application is wider than that. I can sum it up in four words: nature abhors a vacuum.
Just a moment ago I gathered my three children in the kitchen to replicate an experiment I recalled from my high school days. I placed a tablespoon of water into an empty pop can and then placed the can on a stove burner. After boiling the water out of the can I picked it up with tongs and plunged it immediately into a pan filled with cold water. As the can hit the water it instantaneously crumpled to the astonished ooh's and ah's of my children. Why? Because as the steam in the can rose it pushed the air out. Plunging it immediately upside down into cold water condensed the steam back to a liquid creating a vacuum. The external air pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch did the rest in the blink of an eye. As I said, nature abhors a vacuum.

This is as patently true in the spiritual world as it is in the physical world. If you kick the bad out of your life and do not replace it with good all you have done is make yourself a target for something worse to take its place. In other words, the doctrine of replacement instructs us that a wise man will not only eliminate the wrong influences from his life; he will immediately turn around and replace them with the right influences – because if he does not he will wind up worse off then when he started. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (II Peter 2.20)

This is a key principle especially for young people or new converts to learn. For example, they must needs rid themselves of the evil influences in their life such as immoral companions, but once those have been lain aside they must be replaced with new friends, friends that will point the soul in the direction of God and right.

This principle is found repeatedly from one end of the Bible to the other. For instance consider these:
Psalm 34:14 Depart from evil, and do good;…
Psalm 37:27 Depart from evil, and do good;…
Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Romans 12:9 …Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
1Peter 3:11 Let him eschew evil, and do good;…
3John 1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good…

In the past four months I have spent nearly 25,000 words on this blog diligently seeking to persuade you to identify and avoid the wrong kind of music. But if that is all you do you will fail. Parent, you are right to throw out your children's rock music. You are right to police their mp3 player and their Spotify stream. But if you do not now lead them to replace that evil music with good music all you have done is create a vacuum – and nature abhors a vacuum. Do not be surprised if your attempt at musical purity collapses. It is guaranteed to do so if you do not learn to practice the doctrine of replacement.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Music 12 - Seven Arguments Against Me, Answered

Let's face it. The bulk of my first eleven posts on music have aimed to establish the fact that rock music is a bad thing. I freely admit it. I also freely admit that the vast majority of people do not agree with me, including the majority of American Christianity. They object to many of my characterizations and conclusions. Today's post is dedicated to dealing with a number of the objections that I have received.

1. Classical music at one time had all the same stigmas.
51S542MWP8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_That is simply not accurate. Yes, classical music has had a number of wicked composers, men of dissolute morals and a reprehensible lifestyle. But that is true of every subset of music because it is true of humanity in general. If I studied it out I'm sure I could find the same thing amongst composers and performers of Celtic music too, for example. There is no one particular style of music that produces moral perfection. What there is, though, is overwhelming evidence that one particular style of music (and its sub-genres) has its roots and its present deep in the occult, and is explicitly paired in historical fact and the popular mind with drugs, sex, and rebellion. That style is not classical; it is rock. Yes, there is a popular book out subtitled "Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music" but is noticeable specifically because it goes against the grain of classical music's generally accepted culture. In other words, the book's very existence is proof that such a position is the exception to the rule, the Prime series not withstanding.

2. You are just reactionary.
A reactionary is one who clings tenaciously to a conservative tradition and is automatically against something because it is new. I am for a music that flows rather than rocks but not because rock music is new and classical music is old. For one thing, at this point, rock music isn't exactly new. For another, I am not reacting against rock music out of some mindlessly robotic attachment to Handel's Messiah, for instance. The truth is that I am not against all new music. Scripture does reference a new song six times in Psalms alone, once in Isaiah, and twice more in Revelation and all of these references are in a positive sense. In point of fact, one of my church members is a wonderfully gifted man who routinely writes new songs and then teaches them to our church. I welcome them wholeheartedly. Rock isn't wrong because it is new; CCM isn't wrong because it is new. Reactionary I am not.

3. I have Christian liberty; I can and do disagree with you about rock music and I'm at peace with it.
You may be telling the truth when you say that but sincerely holding a pro-rock music position under the guise of Christian liberty is zero indication of said position's spirituality. Liberty isn't license. Yes, you have Christian liberty. No, it doesn't mean you can live how you want and enjoy whatever you want. Furthermore, the presence of peace in your heart or the absence of conviction is not any indication of the righteousness of a particular position. There are billions of people in the world living wicked lives without experiencing a shred of conviction. Such an absence of the Holy Spirit's aggravation in your life is a lousy reed to lean upon to establish the scriptural validity of your spiritual position on music. Our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; using it as a guide is foolhardy at best.

4. Not every rock song or rock star is as bad as you make it sound.
Usually this contention is followed by the lyrics to one particular song which has been used in the life of11247822_1 the listener in a positive way. Alternatively, I am pointed in the direction of Bono and all the charity work U2 does, or some version of this. Such positive influences are a clear indication that my attacks on rock music are simply a broad brushed legalism at best.
If you were physically present at my house in Chicago I would respond by walking you back to the alley that runs behind my house. I guarantee you that within fifty feet of my garage door I can find enough food to eat a meal. And it would all be free and easily available. That's because our alley is lined with trash can after trash can. But just because I can find occasional edible food by digging through my neighbor's trash does not mean I should. Nor does it mean that eating out of the garbage is a good thing instead of a bad thing. Are there occasional good influences in rock music? Yes. And there are occasional good meals to be found in the alley too but it is still better by far to avoid eating out of the trash altogether.

5. I've listened to rock music for years and I've never had sex outside of marriage, used drugs, or been possessed by devils.
So is your experience to be the guiding light for your conscience or is it supposed to be the Word of God? Any kind of a Christian at all knows the right answer to that question is the latter not the former. Then don't try to defend your preferential music style with the shield of your own experience. It isn't about experience, positive or negative. The determination for the spiritual validity of my music cannot be my own life; it must be the Word of God.
Furthermore, I contend that while your objection may be factual it is all the more dangerous. If you can permeate your heart and mind with the demonically connected, sex-soaked, rebellion-inducing music of the world and still live morally clean I say you are playing with fire. Can you get away with playing with fire? Perhaps. But Siegfried and Roy had Bengal tigers under control for years until in one minute they suddenly didn't anymore.

6. Your arguments are not convincing.
Let's put the shoe on the other foot. Convince me with your arguments that rock music is acceptable then. I dare say you cannot, can you? So if you can't convince me does that mean you are wrong that rock music is acceptable? No. You may very well be right. In other words, my lack of being convinced by your arguments does not mean that you are wrong.
Now put the shoe back on the first foot. If I cannot convince you that rock music is wrong that lack of being able to convince you does not mean that I am wrong and you are right. It could just mean that you are stubborn, eh? Lack of being convinced is not a valid form of debate. Anyone can be stubborn on either side of this issue. If I can't convince you and you can't convince me that doesn't make either of our positions automatically invalid.

hqdefault7. My music is not any of your business.
It is God's business, though, mi amigo, it is God's business. You won't answer to me and I won't answer to you but we will both of us answer to God someday. Everything we are and do and allow and love and enjoy and reject is His business.