I like sad songs. I don’t mean sappy love songs or My Chemical Romance or anything like that, but more somber forms of instrumental or sacred music—take the Agnus Dei sung after Samuel Barber’s Adagio, for example. I know that makes me a minority, but I think there’s good reason for the evangelical church to depart from its quest to happify everything it touches and reclaim some of the more somber, minor, reflective songs in its worship. Here are five reasons:Continue reading “Five Reasons to Sing Somber Songs in Worship”
Doug Wilson has said that virtues, like vices, come in bunches. Continue reading “Fighting Sin in Bunches”
In reality, there are a thousand, thousand good reasons not to sin, to be holy, to pursuit purity; and there are no good reasons to sin. Our sin problem, then, concerns the word “good.” “Good” is a word concerned, here, in the making of moral value judgments. However, that faculty within us which makes those judgments is broken. This, therefore, gives us a problem with the second word, “reason.” “Reason” has to do with rational decision making. You and I are, sadly, incapable of true rational in this process because we love sin, our faculty for making moral value judgments being broken. Continue reading “Fight Before You Fight”
Psalm 47:6 says “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!”
I hate Christian radio, on account of it’s terrible. Lately, therefore, I’ve taken to listening solely to secular radio. This has been a good summer for hits anyway, so why not?
But in reading Scripture and praying, I’ve been convicted that I deprive myself when I only listen to secular music. Now, I think that all non-sinful secular music is game for Christians (e.g. “Ten Thousand Hours” is OK, “Blurred Lines” is not), and I’m not talking about Christian versus secular. Listen to non-sinful secular music all you want. But not to the exclusion of Christian music. Singing praises to God is important, and wonderful, and something strange happens to the soul when we sing truth about and to God, something that doesn’t always happen when we talk about him, or pray to him, or preach him. Singing is like the calcium channel in “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves.” (First person to understand that reference gets a blog post written in their honor.)
But this understanding of singing praise to God doesn’t make Christian radio any better for people like me. How can I worship God without feeling like “if it’s bad, it must be good for me?” I think there are a few ways.
1) Sing to yourself. I’ve made singing hymns, songs, and spiritual songs a regular part of my devotions. In reading and praying through and meditating on a verse or passage of Scripture, if a song comes to mind, I sing that song. It makes every morning a little individual worship service. I love it.
2) Make up songs. If you have talent, write songs. If you don’t (like me), then just sing new lyrics to songs you already know. They don’t have to be good, and no one except the Lord will hear them. But they are an exercise of singing truth to the Lord in a new song.
3) Use internet radio. Spotify has a ton of Christian music for the hearing. There are good Christian artists out there, and with a little effort you can sort through the bleh and find music that makes your soul sing.
I realize that not everybody is a musician, and not everybody loves music in the same way or to the same degree. But don’t let a lack of good music keep you from praising God through song. There’s no good reason for it.
I was reading Psalm 32 a while ago, and I saw something amazing I want to share with you.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)
Reading that the other day, I was struck my how great a gift confession and repentance are. I have not ever really thought of repentance as a blessing, more of a necessary evil, but look at the Psalmist! First he groans and wastes away from the sickness of his sin, but when he confesses and repents- God forgives him. The Psalmist evidently thinks this is such a relief that he tells everyone to do it in the next verse- “therefore, let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found” (Psalm 32: 6). Man, if confession is this good, then everybody should do it!
In his book The Disciplines of Grace, Jerry Bridges relates the words of one Mutua Mahiani, who said “repentance is one of the Christian’s highest privileges. A repentant Christian focuses on God’s mercy and God’s grace. Any moment in our lives when we bask is God’s mercy and grace is our highest moment” (Disciplines of Grace, p. 27).
How amazing is that! Repentance isn’t drudgery, because any Christian who comes to God honestly confessing his guilt will be forgiven! We can rejoice in our repenting, because God is so willing to forgive!
I’m returned from my trip about a week and a half ago, and since I didn’t write down any of the ideas which came to me while I was away, I have forgotten all of them. Would Socrates be proud or ashamed? Probably he would feel vindicated.
That’s not the only reason I haven’t blogged since my return, however. It seems that, while I was away, I developed a case of what I have begun to call grid poisoning.
I have a laptop and a smartphone, and I think that they are both gifts from God for the work of the kingdom and for my enjoyment. However, I occasionally go through phases where I am checking my social media and favorite internet haunts more often, and this sometimes produces a bit of an internet addiction. When this happens, I become incredibly attached to my phone, checking Facebook and Twitter constantly, looking at different meme sites throughout the day, and salivating like Pavlov’s dog whenever I hear that little notification ding.
Now, that’s not exactly wrong, in itself. I don’t think of the above paragraph as a description of grid poisoning, necessarily. Grid poisoning takes a step further. It is characterized by two things in particular- a need for novelty, and an unhealthy dependance.
When I get this addicted to being plugged in, I develop a need to see, hear, or read new things constantly. They don’t have to be good, or funny, or profound in any way- they just have to be new. I will scroll Twitter endlessly, just looking for things I haven’t seen before. Old things, things I know well, don’t satisfy. This is a problem because “things I know well” is a list that includes such items as close friends, my Bible, and all my interests. These lose their appeal because they aren’t new enough. That’s what I mean when I say grid poisoning (for me) is characterized by this need for novelty.
Possibly worse than that is the unhealthy dependence on the grid that I develop. When struck by grid poisoning, my phone is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night. It is my go-to when I am bored, or have a single moment of down-time. No thinking, no praying, no meditating- just the beautiful unearthly glow of the screen. It’s truly unhealthy.
Can you identify with me? I know I’m not the only believer who struggles with this.
Obviously (I hope it’s obvious) this is a problem, one I am prayerfully trying to deal with. So far, I have a few solutions that I have come up with. None of these gets at the heart issue; that’s a different post. These are just tiny logistical things, but ones which can helpful, if done in a spirit of prayer and reliance upon God. Here we go:
First, I have deleted my Facebook app from my phone along with that most pervasive of evils, Angry Birds. Twitter isn’t as much a problem, and I see a lot of good stuff on Twitter, but it knows that it is on probation, and will delete it if it becomes a time-sucker.
Second, I no longer sleep with my phone right next to my bed. I still use it as my alarm, but I place it on the other side of the room, and sometimes turn on airplane mode so I won’t receive any notifications at night.
Third, I have resolved that my Bible will be the first thing I read in the morning, and the last thing I read at night. This way, my addiction to the grid helps me, because when I wake up and the first thing I want to do is check my email, I know that I need to read my Bible first, and usually upon opening it I find it so much more satisfying than my phone, so the spell is broken.
Like I said up at the top, I think that the internet, social media, and these electronic devices are good, and are given my God for the promotion of his glory and the good of his people. But like all good things, they can be twisted. I don’t want that to happen, and I confess that it has happened too frequently.
If you’re with me on this, then I hope these suggestions have been helpful. And if you have any more logistical tips for breaking the addiction, leave them in the comments below- thanks.