In Search of Deep Modern Christian Music


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Modern Christian music sometimes gets criticized as mostly shallow, “Jesus is my boyfriend” love songs. And some are. Yet I turn on Pandora and set it to shuffle through my Christian stations and I easily find music that feeds the soul, lifts me up out of funks, calms fear and anxiety, and reminds me of eternal truth. For example:

While “Dreaming Jacob’s Dream” with Michael Card, he encourages me, “We all need dreams to seek Him.”

We adore the eternal holy one who sits on Heaven’s Mercy seat in “Revelation Song” with Philips, Craig and Dean.

“In Christ Alone” reminds me “Up from the grave he rose again” and that Christ’s victory has caused the curse to lose its grip on me, so I can stand in the power of Christ. The same track mingles in the classic, faith-affirming, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.”

Big Daddy Weave and I pray for peace as we sing Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Hold Me Jesus,” and we invite our king of Glory to once again be our Prince of Peace.

Brandon Heath’s “Your Love” at first blush sounds like it’s going to be everything “wrong” with Christian rock, boiling the mysteries of the faith down to “Your love is enough.” However, the core statement of his song is true and an important affirmation for many Christians struggling with that. The problem isn’t the song, it’s the Church increasingly falling prey to the surrounding culture’s poor grasp of what love truly is. And Heath asserts the power the world’s love denies. God’s love ‘lights up the darkness,’ gives us hope, sight to blind eyes, makes lame feet walk. Metaphorically, God’s love gives spiritual sight to spiritual blind eyes. And it’s our spiritually lame feet that stumble into the flesh’s sin that God strengthens to walk in the Spirit by faith.

“Lord I need you,” confesses Matt Maher, “every hour, I need you.” He affirms Christ as our “one defense” and our “righteousness.” He reminds us, in effect, that grace frees us from sin, that Christ is at work in us, making us holy, He advises us to sing in the face of temptation—I have done it, with another song, and it really does help.

Since this is my Pandora Christian stations on shuffle, “Old Rugged Cross” came up next, but it is a prime example of the meaty, deep, timeless classics. I’d encourage you to give them a chance, if you’re strictly into modern worship.

“Forever Reign” (by One Sonic Society) has a repetition rhythm that can make it sound shallow at first blush. It isn’t at all. The repetition isn’t just musical, it aids memorization of its core theological concepts, which are too many to list, however down-to-earth rather than “high minded” they are compared to most of the hymns. Yes, there’s “running to your arms” going on, but prodigals have been running to their father’s arms for 2,000 years. Excellent message, good sound, and it definitely lifts you up from wherever you are into worshipful mood.

“Just to Know You,” pleads Mark Schultz, as he affirms the core gospel story in depth and finishes off with his longing to respond to Christ’s giving all for us by giving all for Christ, not out of a legalistic works righteousness, but out of a passionate love and a grateful heart.

“Hosanna” shouts Hillsong United with the people as the King of Glory comes, the earth shakes, and mercy washes away sin and raises up a generation with selfless faith, and stirs rival as we pray and seek on our knees. “Hosanna” also features the “dangerous prayer” that at least six other bloggers have commented on at length, “Break my heart for what breaks yours /Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.” And my longer excerpt doesn’t cover half of the full prayer. If we pray it with them and mean it, it’s potentially life-changing, beloved.

Mind you, this is only scratching the surface, only the first ten or so songs that came up at random. Well, unless you believe God controls Pandora’s “shuffle” feature. Don’t know about that, myself, I needed to feed the stations it’s shuffling through with good seed songs. However, just the song or songs I needed at that moment do come up frequently.

If you haven’t read any of the commentaries on “Break my heart for what breaks yours” and are curious, here is my (likely partial) list of those bloggers’ articles:

Marilynn Chadwick

In Other Words . . .

Go Beyond (Omar Garcia)

Sam at Recklessly Alive

For the record, I recommend the “most dangerous prayer,” along with praying for patience. However, they do require a courage faith, a bravery derived from a complete trust in our Lord. He knows what we need to grow, and he’s the source of our strength to endure the heartbreak and trials of life. They’re gonna come regardless of whether we’re praying to have a right heart in the face of them. God is a good father who gives us fish and bread, not snakes and stones. Nothing God directly sends us directly as a result of prayer will ever be to our harm.

[tweetthis]In Search of Deep Modern Christian Music: lists 10 songs & 1includes #mostdangerousprayer[/tweetthis]

The Parable of the Computer


Brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness is plentiful and free. Grace and mercy are equally extended from the Lord to all. All we must do to receive it is humbly acknowledge we need it. As God’s children, we all know this well. So why do we ever pridefully insist God is wrong and any number of pet sins are right actions for us?

Look at the machines we have made. What computer program would dare say to its coder, “You have coded me wrong. I will ignore your instructions and do what is right in my own eyes”? Today’s machines have no ability to disobey us even when we have erred and don’t want them to do exactly what we told them to faithfully. Aside from user error, when it does stop performing as expected, its buggy, broken, corrupted, fragmented, hacked, infected by a virus, etc. and it is in need of repair, cleansing, or to be thrown away and replaced.

Brothers and sister, don’t we know God is to humanity a “user” who never errs? Don’t we know we are corrupt and buggy? Aren’t we grateful God will never throw us out, that instead God’s in the process of repairing and cleansing us? Don’t we know God is working for our good, not our ill? In any area, are we resisting the process?

Would it be right for a bride to tell her bridegroom to change who he is, deny his character and alter his personality and what he believes and loathes to please the will of a controlling person who will not love him for who he is? This is what we’re doing to God when we act as if we’re God and hence are the experts on who we truly are, as if our creator does not have the right to decide what his creations are.

How God designed us to operate is a reflection of his very nature. When we question God’s judgment on what is sin and make ourselves the determiners of right and wrong, we’re remaking God in our images.

Be alert, brothers and sisters. The enemy attacks our mind with lies and half-truths to provoke doubt in God and pride in ourselves and to convince us an issue in our lives that is particularly difficult to overcome is a crucial, integral part of how God designed us to be.

No matter how much we struggle in the flesh, no matter how weak we are, whatever we’re battling is not any part of who we are in Christ. Phil 1:6 promises God has began debugging us and the latest that he will get around to delivering us from this battle is Heaven.

To the one who’d ask, “Isn’t it unloving (and therefore against God’s character) to say behaviors we deem integral to our identity are sin?” Beloved, this question assumes we have a right to self-determination that God must lovingly respect. We don’t, not with God at least. Demanding it is us being unloving and rebellious towards God. Look again at our machines. Many of us fear machines gaining the ability to rise up and rebel against us. At the first rational sign of such a thing coming about, wouldn’t we at once judge them and seek to either forcibly bend them back to our will or else destroy them?

God is love, though, so God is slow to wrath and patient, giving us undeserved blessings and benefits. He seeks to show us he is worthy of the trusting, obedient, faith our computers mistakenly have in us. He even sent his own son to pay the penalty for our wrongdoing and enable us to be reconciled to him and function again as he designed us to. And our creator does let us choose for ourselves whether we’re staying as-is but going in a rather hot trash can or whether God will be performing a system-wide restoration. It is a generous, strong act of love for our creator to give us that choice and the choice whether to obey or rebel, considering humanity tends to give its creations (our machines) no free choices at all.

Let’s each freely choose this day to not contend with our maker, but to confess our sin, humbly ask God’s forgiveness, be reconciled to the Lord our God and Father, and worship in spirit and in truth.

Original draft written on Nov 22, 2011

[tweetthis]The Parable of the Computer[/tweetthis]

True Love Marries.


First, my apologies for the meme’s attention-grabbing nature. True love for God does wait for marriage to have sex, and it is best to be prepared to enter into marriage before doing so. However, it seems we need to start preparing kids to marry at younger ages. If the reports are true that upward of 80% of Christian evangelical young adults are having premarital sex, that is a rather strong indicator we’re delaying marriage longer than most have the self-control to wait.

Based on my experiences, for a young couple deeply in love, following the cultural trend of delaying marriage until nearly thirty and also delaying sex that long would be unbearable torment. I applaud the single folks who do remain celibate successfully into their thirties, their forties, or even for life due to a personal calling. However, for those who are struggling, the clear biblical solution is to stop delaying marriage and tie the knot before you fall into sexual sin (or to repent, get a clean slate, and marry before you fall again.)

God has called us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and trust him to keep his promise that he knows our need and if we trust him and honor him first, all these things we worry about shall be added unto us. Frankly, many of the worries Christian parents have boil down to, “but if our children marry right out of high school, what shall they eat, where shall they live, what shall they wear?”

It is written I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread, and God’s word will not return to him void even if we defy the wisdom of this age and choose to marry young rather than fall into temptation and sin against him.

We need to have our hearts set on eternity’s definition of starting out right rather than the world’s definition. My husband and I were only 20 and 21 on our wedding day, and he lost his job not long after we were married, but God took care of us and saw us through it.

If the couple both attend a college with married housing, being married college students isn’t any poorer financially than being unmarried college students spiritually impoverished due to falling into sin and sleeping together out of wedlock. I recall hearing married college students tend to do quite well academically, too.

Regarding non-college students with jobs, it is more expensive to maintain separate households, so a budget wedding followed by combining households is cheaper financially. (Save the fancy dream wedding for a vow renewal down the road.) This approach is also more profitable spiritually than the world’s shacking up solution is. The biblical counter offer to that, however, doesn’t apply to those couples who are willing and able to maintain separate households while they’re delaying marriage without falling into sexual sin.

By the way, when I first heard about this issue afflicting the Church, I was tempted to judge the sincerity of the faith of the 80% of young believers who fall into sexual sin, but God checked me. That is not always the case. For many, cultural expectations that are unreasonable for those individuals set them up to fail. If that’s you, admit it was wrong, apologize to God, receive grace and strength to stop sinning, and resume practicing celibacy until marriage.

Many fear marrying young dooms those couples to divorce. The truth is, marriages at any age fail today because at least one spouse is irresponsible, self-centered, and not committed to keep promises no matter what. So, Church, let’s do our best to teach children better than that, gradually begin to treat them like responsible adults when they physically become adults, and support them as needed. With such tools in their hands, they’ll have better chances of staying married to one person for life, having no sexual regrets, and remaining in right relationship with God most importantly, whether they head off to college as husband as wife or leave it as such.

More of our high schoolers might find temptation easier to withstand if the finish line of the marriage bed was somewhere anywhere close to in sight. If I recall, at that age, college seems an eternity away, let alone turning twenty-five or even thirty. Again, I’m not advocating we force teens into shotgun weddings unprepared; I am saying let’s prepare them for adulthood and for marriage and give them the tools needed to marry and stay married at the ages where their bodies are urging them to date/find spouses and open minds to the possibility of a personal calling to marry young.

When true love can’t wait anymore, it marries, and it needs to learn how to stay married with the support of its family and/or its church.

(Original draft written on December 16, 2011 at 11:03pm)

[tweetthis remove_url=”true”]True Love Marries[/tweetthis]

God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers


manwomanbeachverseThe Pharisees confronted Jesus over divorce in Matthew 19 asking if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. Jesus answered in part with a line that would become part of many marriage ceremonies, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) The Pharisees raised a reasonable legal point and asked, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

Jesus responded, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  (Matthew 19:8) The certificate of divorce was a protection for the woman. American history shows how this “hardness of heart” could play out  many centuries later in the life of President Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel. She received a notice of divorce from her first husband and thought she was free to marry Jackson. Only later did she discover the divorce wasn’t final and her first husband used this to attack her as a bigamist. Jackson’s political opponents used the same attacks during the 1828 campaign, and she was driven to her death by them. A simple certificate of divorce protected the divorced wife.

Yet many had interpreted the ability to write the certificate of divorce as God’s blessing of the practice. If the Pharisees had paid attention to the prophets, they would have seen this was clearly not the case.

In Malachi 2, God announces that he’s not honoring people’s offerings because they’ve covered in his altars in tears and he explains how they did this:

…Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.  (Malachi 2:14-16)

The Old Testament law contained no specific prohibition against divorce. It contained a mechanism by which divorce could lawfully be obtained. Yet the men of Judah’s treatment of their wives had invited the ire of God.

foreversunsetUltimately, they made the same mistake we’ve all made. They assumed God was primarily concerned about our ability to follow all the technicalities of the rules. We can look at the commandments of the living God as if we were a corporate lawyer combing the latest pages of regulations from the Federal Register, seeking a loophole to keep our clients in good standing.

Yet God is concerned about our hearts. We often approach situations with impure motives. (ex: Is it technically adultery? Would God really punish me for this? Can I still do this and go to Heaven?) As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.

God wants us to be faithful, loving, and kind. Jesus gave us the Great Commandments to Love God and love our neighbor. The goal of the Christian life and the cry of our heart should be for our hearts to be faithful, kind, and loving so that we would fulfill these commandments rather than hoping to find a loophole to get away with it.

[tweetthis]God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers: Guest post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.” Quote by @idahoguy [/tweetthis]

The Children and the Persecuted


Jesus and children

Recently, via the media, American Christians received a terrible taste of what the word “persecution” means to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world. People marching into some place you ought to be safe and ending your mortal life to express their direct objection to your faith. Of course, it also means churches meeting in secret, since it is illegal for you to gather with other believers for worship, being restricted in how you earn your living, risks of your home and business (of any sort) and church being torched because of your faith.

It is rare for people in my area of the world to face a direct choice between Christ and our lives. The most common threat we face is being threatened with losing our job/business on discrimination charges if we don’t by our deeds, if not our words, give our approval of certain sins. The world’s demands Christians actively participate in the celebration of sin, quit our jobs, or face legal or civil charges has only begun. And some of us are already terrified and ready to either cave in and compromise or go to the opposite extreme.

At its deadliest, sin becomes a core part of our identity like our ethnicity is. When that happens, we see the disapproval of the sin as a rejection of who we are and we see no difference between a business refusing to help us celebrate us and a business rejecting customers over skin color. If we’re all walking in the flesh, then the war is on. Whoever starts it, when we as Christians seek to stand for the truth that X behavior is a sin (that Christ died for) we can slip into deplorable behavior that is also a sin. When we get in trouble for said wrong, we play the “I’m persecuted” card to justify it, thus undermining our defense when we simply didn’t want to exalt sin.

For a theoretical example of deplorable behavior: an adoptive father gets his five-year-old son enrolled at a Bible-based private school or an activity like scouting. Little Johnny is welcome there until the Christian administrators realize he’s been adopted by two dads with a state marriage license. Then the Christian leaders perceive a threat, a wedge intended to silence their message and pressure them to teach the kids that Johnny’s parents’ sin is okay. So they kick the child out. He is hurt and confused that Christians he’d come to trust are suddenly angry at him and at his family and not letting him go play with his friends and learn about Jesus and other cool stuff.

Before you say this would never happen, consider that the only Biblical alternative is letting Little Johnny stay, look into his young eyes, and continue to teach Biblical values despite those values not being practiced at his home, to patiently, gently, kindly give age-appropriate answers to Little Johnny’s honest questions. Some defenders of Biblical values may well seek to justify the path of least resistance as the best path to defend Biblical values on.

Once, the twelve disciples thought the best path for furthering Christ’s mission was to turn away pesky, intrusive, insignificant children whose parents had brought them to be blessed. Matthew 19:14 tells us, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

He didn’t say, “but only let the little children of heterosexual, legitimately married, morally upright religious parents,” but since the children he was immediately addressing probably were, let me also remind you Ezekiel 18:20 says in part, “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Whatever circumstances a child was born in, or lives in, please don’t bar that child from coming to Christ. Don’t turn that innocent baby away, no matter how much more challenging his home situation may make things for you, no matter what ulterior motives his parents may have. It is better to suffer for having done right than to suffer for the wrong of rejecting a little child. (See 1 Peter 2:20, Matthew 18:6.)

[tweetthis]The Children and the Persecuted: let the children come no matter what it might cost.[/tweetthis]