MUSIC: WHY THE CONFUSION?

LIVING FOR CHRIST

Music opens doors in our hearts. It can move us to a whole new world or even rob us of our ability to listen keenly and judge reasonably. But still it has the ability to shape our lives, morals and value systems.

Can Christians also listen to secular music? Should Christians be restricted to only a specific style of music? If so, then why do we have secular music in the first place? These and many other questions triggered me to research and read wide about Christian Perspective to Music.

Well, you too might be having similar or maybe exactly same questions. This will probably answer you.

In determining the kind of music to listen to, I will take you through three key factors to consider, from a Biblical point of view. These are The purpose of music, The style of music and The content of the lyrics.

The purpose…

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Never forsaken those who seek You!

LORD, You have never forsaken those who seek You! – Psalm 9:10

The promise of the Lord never to forsake the soul that trusts in him, looks familiarly and kindly forth upon us, from many a page of Scripture, old and new. But we have here an historical statement to the effect that he has never forsaken them that seek him. This is a bold averment. History is a very large affair. Ten thousand volumes were but a small part of its library. It is startled by the challenge contained in our text; and takes down volume after volume, saying, ” I will easily, with my voluminous records, levy an army of many thousand facts to confound this statement.” Unbelief nods assent, saying, ” The statement needs modification: We have often been forsaken of the Lord.”

The promise is not that we shall always have a sensible manifestation of the Lord. – That we shall always have a soul-gladdening consciousness of his presence. – That we shall always be able to understand his dealings with us. – That we shall be kept from disappointments, and from anguish of spirit.

The promise is not that we shall never be cast into a den of lions; – never into a fiery furnace, – never be a fugitive by the brooks Cherith, or under the juniper tree – never be brought before Nero. Look for the token that the  Lord hath not forsaken you, in the right place. Look for it in the den of lions, and you will find it in the form of an angel. Look for it in the burning fiery furnace, and find it in the form of the Son of God. Look at Elijah under the juniper tree. He seems to have been surprised into a loss of faith, when he heard that the queen had sworn to take his life; to have imagined that the Lord had forsaken him; to have fled in dishonourable alarm; and to have cast himself, way-worn and anguish  stricken, under the juniper tree, with a feeling that it was about as well to die, seeing that no degree of intimacy with the Lord would secure a man from being forsaken of him. But it was not the Lord that had forsaken him; it was he that had forsaken himself; and this he now discovered. Afterwards the still small voice came, saying, ” The Lord is in me, but thou canst not hear me nor discern Him, if thou hearken to the voice of an angry queen; it is the privilege of faith to hear me even amid the thunders of God’s most agitated providence.”

– From “Daily Meditations” by George Bowen.

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Consider the work of God!

It puzzles me; but, Lord, Thou understandest,
And wilt one day explain this crooked thing.
Meanwhile, I know that it has worked out Thy best–
Its very crookedness taught me to cling.

Thou hast fenced up my ways, made my paths crooked,
To keep my wand’ring eyes fixed on Thee;
To make me what I was not, humble, patient;
To draw my heart from earthly love to Thee.

So I will thank and praise Thee for this puzzle,
And trust where I cannot understand.
Rejoicing Thou dost hold me worth such testing,
I cling the closer to Thy guiding hand.
— F.E.M.I.

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Looking unto Jesus

” Looking unto Jesus” is the secret triumph over the fascinations of the world. And if we habitually so look, then the sweetness that we shall experience will destroy all the seducing power of lesser and earthly sweetness, and the blessing, the light of the sun will dim and all but extinguish the deceitful gleams that tempt us into the swamps where we shall be drowned. Turn away, then, from these things; cleave to Jesus Christ; and though in ourselves we may be as weak as a humming-bird before a snake, or a rabbit before a tiger. He will give us strength, and the light of His face shining down upon us will fix our eyes and make us insensible to the fascinations of the sorcerers. So we shall not need to dread the question, “Who hath bewitched you?” but ourselves challenge the utmost might of the fascinators with the triumphant question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ”

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Help us, O Lord! we beseech Thee, to live near Thee. Turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, and enable us to set the Lord always before us, that we be not moved.

– From “Music For The Soul”, devotion by Alexander MacLaren

Unto the end!

Recently I had a chance to visit a fellow Christian who has been suffering from certain physical ailments for the last 10 months. He has been under tremendous discomfort and, occasionally, in severe pain. Though there were times it looked like he was recuperating well, his health relapsed quite a few times. After being pummelled repeatedly by sickness, he has become very weak now. When I met him, it was one of the bad days as he was suffering from intense pain.

We all started to pray for him and it was a potpourri of prayers. Few of them were commanding the demonic powers to leave right now; some were commanding that, by faith, his pain has gone away at this very second. And then a third group was pleading to God with tears, that he has suffered enough and he cannot take anymore; so the LORD must have mercy on him and deliver him at this minute.

Did you notice one common thing in all these prayers? Instant deliverance. Right now. This second. This minute. Guess the instant-noodles mentality has pervaded the Christians more than they know.

Anyway, as the prayers were continuing, this believer was shaking his head vehemently and everyone assumed that he was doing so in pain. So, the volume of prayers increased and the intensity of commands multiplied. As I was watching this, I realized that he was trying to say something. It took a while to calm everyone a little and asked him what he wanted to say to us. And what he said sort of shocked all of us.

He said, “No, don’t pray that my sufferings end right now. Instead pray that I may be tried unto the end.” Realizing that he was quoting Job 34:36, I asked him the reason. And he told that the Lord has told him that He has chosen him for a specific purpose and that he needs to go through the furnace of affliction, so that after the testing, he can come out like gold. (Job23:10) He told that through all these sufferings, he has learned so much about the grace and love of God; that certain evil things were hidden deep inside his heart were flushed out; and, he wants to be tried unto the end so that the purpose of God be accomplished in his life. And he was saying all these with tears running down as the pain was quite intense.

But what surprise me the most was when we started to pray, those who were praying so intensely had trouble praying. They are so used to pray for instant deliverance, commanding the demons and other evil forces to go away, they actually had no idea how to pray for the will of God be done in someone’s life. For them, suffering and afflictions can never be the will of God. I mean, these are not believers who are prosperous and affluent. Yet, it is so deeply ingrained in their minds that it cannot be the will of God for Christians to endure sufferings. Looks like the cross has been eliminated from Christian living.

Anyway, if you are a Christian, please pray to our LORD, that His will be done in the life of this believer and may the grace of our LORD sustain him, so that he may be tried unto the end, and may the purpose of God be accomplished in his life. Amen.

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23 years on…

It was on this day, February 6th, 23 years back, I received my baptism. I still remember my walk from the Prayer Centre to my college. After 3 days fast, all my friends were exhausted and they took the bus, but I could not control my joy. So, I walked the entire way, a nearly 10 km path, and all the way, I was singing and jumping. I was sure that my sinful life had gone and that I would not be committing anymore sins my life. Little did I know what indwelling sin means in the life of a believer.

For many years, I was told by “experts” that the chapter 7 of the Epistle to Romans was about what kind of life Paul lived before his baptism and it does not apply to a Christian anymore. But over the years, when I realized that there were sins lying dormant in my life, I had to struggle with my salvation. There were times I was shocked to see what kind of sins were indwelling in me, sins I had abhorred, sins that I had condemned from time to time… When I was a kid, I was known for one thing. That I would not tell a lie, no matter what. But after baptism, I had become an expert in lying, at times those who were with me, who knew I was lying, would be confused if I was telling the truth. This is just a tip of the iceberg.

Now, when I turn back and look at these 23 years, all I can see are the years that I had wasted, the ways in which I have hurt my Lord again and again, the compromises I had made with this world and, how I gave in to the lusts of flesh, lusts of eyes and the pride of life. Instead of being filled with joy today, I am filled with remorse.

And what adds to my sorrow is how faithful the Lord has been to me in all these years. There were so many times when I ended up being depressed and decided to kill myself. Suicidal thoughts had become a part of in between for few years. There were certain failures in my life that were so devastating and humiliating, that even after so many years, I am struggling to come to terms with those failures. Yet, through all those times, the LORD was with me and helped me. And those were the years when my life was not even pleasing to myself. I was not the prodigal son during that time, I was the pig in the pigsty. Yet the Lord showered so much compassion and was long-suffering.

As I was getting ready for my baptism, I had one problem. From childhood, I was raised a Catholic and had not been to any other churches or denominations. And where I was studying at that time, they were fiercely supportive of their Catholic beliefs and many of friends even stopped talking with me, when they realized I was going to get baptism in the Lord. I had no one to turn to for any spiritual advices. So, I went on my knees and asked the LORD for help and He promised me that “He will never leave me, nor forsake me.” (Joshua 1:5)

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And 23 years later, as I turn back, with a broken heart and deep sense of unworthiness, I can tell that the Lord has kept His promise till this very moment. Though I tried my best, or worst, to leave Him, that He would hate me and forsake me, the Lord remembered the covenant He had made with me in the wilderness, and till today, even in His discipline, I can see only the loving hand of God, my Father; in the eyes of Jesus Christ, His Son and my Saviour, I see only compassion and grace. Oh, unworthy I am, Lord, unworthy… yet You are faithful and loving!

What can I say, LORD? Time and again, I have failed You. Even now, I am scared that I would fall again and would disappoint You… all I can say truly is, Lord, with all my shortcomings and faults, along with Your apostle Peter, “Lord, You know all things and You know that I love You.” (John 21:17). Yes, Lord, that is all I can truly say to You. I love You, Lord, I love You.

The Ragi Flour Cake Mentality

Today we were eating a black cake, which was delicious. As we were making slices, one of the believers was there, so we gave her a slice too. She really enjoyed it and quite innocently, she asked us: “Is this cake made of Ragi flour?”

Cake

We ended up laughing so hard, she was quite embarrassed. Then I explained to her, that when she does not know what something is, she should just ask what it is, instead of trying to associate with something she knows. I don’t know if she understood what I meant.

But it made me thinking. She is quite uneducated and all she knew was the pulses that are typical Indian. So, when she ate something that looked black, she assumed it to be made of Ragi flour. While it was funny, I also realized something.

I am reading the Book of Job now and as I am reading, I saw many verses there, which have arguments defending God Almighty. And, I had used the same kind of arguments in the past to defend God, and in one case, I had used literally the same words. But the sad thing is all those verses were used by the friends of Job, who ended up accusing him of being wicked and then being reprimanded by our Lord.

By the grace of God, I don’t use such arguments anymore. But I realized that I too had a Ragi-flour-cake mentality. I did not know how great our Lord is; I had not understood how vast His love is for us; and, I had no inkling of what grace really meant. Whatever I knew little, whatever I had known from my little experiences, I had tried to defend the Lord. And now, I am ashamed how shallow I had been.

Lord, forgive me for all those instances where I tried to defend You with my “ragi-flour-mentality.” Instead of letting Your Son and His great sacrifice at Calvary take the centre stage, I let my little understanding and knowledge to explain Your ways. I deeply regret those who were hurt by me. May Jesus, Him crucified, be all in all in my conversations. May Your grace and mercy guide me in all my conversations. May Your Name alone be magnified. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

The LORD Who is Compassionate

Many years ago, as I was leading the worship in our church, there is this elderly believer who would make me very angry. She would be on her knees, with her hands clasped together and head bowed down… except she would be sleeping. Even when the believers are asked to stand and praise the Lord, somehow she would manage to fall asleep standing. Never once, I had seen her lose balance and falling over. To be honest, I wish I could do that.

When I spoke about her to other believers, everyone pounced upon this chance to condemn her. Apparently, everyone knew about her sleeping problem, and for some reason, some of the believers who were sitting next to her, blamed her for all their unanswered prayers. She was even blamed for the stagnancy of church growth – how would God answer our prayers when she is sleeping through the entire service? Some even compared her to the wayside land in the Parable of the Sower. While I did not share in such sentiments, I could understand the resentment of the believers.

One Sunday, I was leading the worship and saw her asleep yet again. I was so angry, I shut my eyes and kept leading the worship, and asked the Lord about her and other believers. I was expecting a pat on my shoulders for my zeal towards the Lord. Instead, the Spirit of God moved gently in my soul and asked me to open my eyes and take a look at her and other believers. Nothing had changed. Now the Lord asked me to look at them, the way He is looking at them. And I could not understand what that meant.

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Then the Lord explained me, right there during the worship: all those who were sleepy or not worshipping happily are women. Women, who work for 6 days a week. They get up at 5 am, so that they can prepare everything for their family. Then they go to work and come back. Most of the time, they eat only one meal a day. And when they come back, they cannot take rest, as they have to get the food ready for their children, wash the clothes and clean their homes. No one would do that for them. The Lord asked: Whenever Jesus saw such a crowd, He was moved with compassion. Even now, He is compassionate towards them. Are you going to be angry at them?

Now, I am not very amenable. Yet, at the moment, the Spirit of the Lord broke my resolute nature and for the first time, I had compassion towards them. Slowly things changed. Honestly I don’t remember when she stopped sleeping during the worship service, but now just looking at her face, listening eagerly to the spoken word, praising the Lord with a smile on her face… it is such a blessing. Not just for me, everyone is talking about her child-like faith and her eagerness in listening to the Word of God. Once everyone wanted to throw her out; now she is being shown as an example to every new believer. Oh, how compassionate our Lord is! Why am I talking about this elderly believer? God willing, I will write, in another blog, more about two things that the Lord had done in her life, and may His Name alone be praised. Amen.

Children who will not lie

Two years back, during worship, I was talking about Jesus is the Truth and no falsehood is found in Him. I asked our believers to take up a challenge: that for one week, they would not tell a single lie. They may choose not to speak; but whatever they speak, it has to be absolute truth. To my utter dismay, only 6 people were ready to take up the challenge. When they came the next week, only 4 of us had not told any lies at all in a week. I explained to them that devil is the father of all lies and whenever we tell a lie, we become his children (John 8:44), and hence exhorted our church believers to desist from telling lies.

Yesterday, January 15th, 2017, the worship was based on Matthew 1:21, wherein the angel says to Joseph in his dream, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The emphasis was on “He will save His people.” And I cross-referenced that verse to Isaiah 63:8: For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Saviour. When I explained that this is how the Lord sees us, as His people, children who will not deal falsely, the church was so excited; everyone were clapping their hands and shouting “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

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Then I told the church that one of the translations (NKJV) actually says that “children who will not lie.” So, I asked the church to raise hands if they had not told any lie since the beginning of the new year. I was expecting quite a few hands to be raised as it has been only 15 days, right? And to my utter chagrin, it was the same 6 people who raised their hands this time too.

It is really sad that Christians do not consider telling lies as a sin; it is a peccadillo at the best. Oh, God won’t punish you for small lies; He understands them. It is the big sins He is after – idolaters, sexually immoral, people who are into witchcraft – these people, yes, the Lord will deal with them severely. But, liars, you know, it is just a weakness. I heard a preacher consoling one of the believers when she was convicted in her spirit, when I spoke about lying.

Revelation 21:8 says: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and ALL LIARS shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (NKJV, emphasis mine). Oh, may the Truth of God prevail among Christians and we truly become “children who will not lie.” Amen.

Ahab and Ben-Hadad – 5

1. Ahab and Ben-Hadad – Our Lord is merciful and compassionate

2. Ahab and Ben-Hadad – Jesus Christ is our Brother

3. Ahab and Ben-Hadad – We are seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realms

4. Ahab and Ben-Hadad – Behave worthy of your call

If we look at the history between the kings of Syria and Israel, we see only enmity between them. And most of the times, it was the Syrian kings who emerged victors, inflicting severe damage to the Israelite kingdom. But, because our God wanted to show that He alone is God, He gave a decisive victory to Ahab, the Israelite king, who summarily defeated Ben-Hadad, the Syrian king. Now, there was no love lost between these two kings who were sworn enemies. Yet, Ahab not only let Ben-Hadad live, he had his defeated foe share the victor’s chariot along with hum.

Ever since Adam sinned, the sinful nature of our flesh has been warring against the Spirit of God. If that is the case of someone like Apostle Paul (Romans chapter 7), then imagine how much our fleshly nature would rebel against the Sovereign Lord. Yet, our Lord not only saves us through His Son and our Brother Jesus Christ; He also makes us sit in the heavenly realms with Jesus Christ.

We should never forget that this is the grace of our Lord and it is His grace alone. There is no place for our works here. No matter how much works we do with our fallen nature, by default, it is not worthy to be placed with Jesus Christ, in the heavenly realms. It is the exceeding riches of His grace that allows us to share in the glory of His Son Jesus Christ.

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(God)… raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:6-9 (NKJV)

Yes, our Lord God is gracious. When we look into our fallen nature and how much His grace has elevated us, we will be really awestruck about how gracious He is. So, let us make sure we hold to this grace by our faith, and never boast about us. It is not about us; never about us. It is the grace of our Lord. And all the honour and glory belongs to Him. Praise be our Lord! Amen.

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