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the Manna | May 2013
Columns 07 | Signals 09 | On The Air
19 | A Gateway To The Gospel Songs with a message of hope.
20 | Empty Calories Or Food For The Soul?
The debate over music.
12 | Musical Treasure
Are we entitled to feel safe?
What our preferences reveal about our heart.
14 | Freedom Songs
Stay in Touch
23 | Deliver Us From Evil 24 | First Responders A calling to encourage.
People are more important than opinions.
16 | Between The Lines The beauty beyond the music.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | May 2013
the Manna | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Creative Director: Joe Willey Contributing Writers: Phil Bohaker, Josh Millwood, B.A. Timmons, Karen Tull & Mary Tyler Media Client Liaison: Adam Riggin and Randall Stapleton
Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!
Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.
Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.
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Signals Music Opinions abound as to the appropriateness (or not) of music within the Christian worldview. In preparation of this issue, many articles and reference materials on the subject were reviewed, most of which were so negative towards the concept of individual style in music that it was tempting to walk away from this month’s assignment. The opinions most readily available stemmed from what we would currently call haters. But their dislikes ran the gamut: there should only be strings; there should be no drums; there should be no emotion; there should be no beat. There was even one article that suggested that Christian music should have no motive to draw unbelievers to Christ and suggested that to use music to attract the “unholy and regenerate” would be an abomination. Seriously!? Where is the grace? What ‘s with the self-righteousness? Is there a limit on the tools we use to fulfill the Great Commission? The Apostle Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” and “do all to the glory of God.” The chaff occurs when one person doesn’t accept that another person is, in music, doing what they do to the glory of God. Richard D. Phillips writes In his article “No Room for Indifference”, (Tabletalk Magazine July 2010) about the Reformed concept of adiaphora - things indifferent, those topics, usually social, upon which the Bible is silent - “Salvation does not come through faith in Christ plus modest dress and alcohol abstention, but through faith in Christ plus nothing.” That statement could
read “Salvation does not come through faith in Christ plus agreeing with my tastes in music, but through faith in Christ plus nothing.” It’s that simple. We might disagree on what is edifying, what is worshipful. Each of us speaks, sometimes through music, from the heart in a different way. We each must aim to express our hearts in a manner that is edifying and gives glory to God. We must strive to express our love of God in a manner that focuses on Him - and not ourselves. Likely God loves a traditional rendition of Amazing Grace as much as He does a newer version of the same song. Likely He accepts the adoration expressed through a Phillips, Craig & Dean praise and worship song as well as a gospel tune from the Blind Boys of Alabama. Likely He enjoys the harmonies with a good ole Southern Gospel tune. He is pleased to hear Handel’s Messiah and is diggin it when Lecrae raps truth into the heart of a would-be urban thug that ultimately turns to Him. We are made in His image. But it’s pretty likely He’s more diverse than our human brains can imagine. So each of us takes what He gave us and, led by the Spirit, puts forth the beauty of music in our own unique style. The style He gave us. Our challenge is to appreciate that artistic diversity among us with respect and use it to His honor and glory! Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | May 2013
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On the Air Finishing Well Singer-songwriter Bebo Norman has had an incredible musical career throughout his 17-year discography. Bebo has announced that at the end of 2013 he will officially retire from everything music. This announcement and decision comes after much prayer. “For those closest to me, this really has been a decision that was years in the making, but after a lot of prayer and continued conversation, my wife Roshare and I made the final call back in December,” shares Bebo. “And honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would be done right away, or what the exact timetable would be, but ultimately I decided that I really wanted to honor my label and publishing commitments through 2013 and tour this new record for at least a year from release just to make sure I finish well.” In October 2012, Bebo released his last full-length studio release, Lights of Distant Cities, on BEC Recordings to much acclaim, as with all of his releases. Pushing the fear of the unknown aside, Bebo knows he is following his heart just as he did 20 years ago when he entered into a musical career. As many may know, Bebo has often called himself an “accidental” musician as
he turned away from his plans for medical school to a season of music. “The reality for me is that I don’t have any one specific calling moving forward,” he says. “I feel pulled in quite a few different directions, but none of them musicrelated. I don’t know that I really feel called to something else as much as I feel called away from music. I’m still not even certain how I got here, how I landed on this particular course as an artist, but I do know that it wouldn’t have happened without the willingness of people all over the world to be a part of this with me. I will be forever grateful.” To celebrate his career’s end, Bebo has released his final radio single, “Sing of Your Glory.” He will also be touring throughout the summer and fall with his longtime friends and musical collaborators Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves. Rodney Baylous is Program Director of Joy! 102.5. Visit www.wolc.org.
Listen Now! Check out our Program Guide at wolc.org
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | May 2013
Happy Memorial Day M a y ,
2 7 t h
Musical Treasure By Phil Bohaker
s my family strolled through the lobby of our local library after one of our regular visits, our ears met the unique strains of a mandolin woven together with the melody of a flute. We followed the music to a large meeting room, where a local Celtic music group was giving a free concert. Intrigued, we sat down and listened. One of the band members introduced a song she was inspired to write during a trip to Ireland. She had asked a local musician there what kept him playing year after year, to which he responded warmly, “I don’t play the music; the music plays me.” Music has long been of great interest to the fields of psychology and medicine. Studies have shown a correlation between listening to music and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Researchers have studied music as a treatment for an array of illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, ADHD and clinical depression. But talk to the average music lover and chances are she would not mention the science on music therapy. She would simply tell you how music makes her feel. For the musician, music is the translation of raw emotion into chords and octaves, bars and lyrics. For the listener, good music can echo in words the unspoken longings of his heart. God knows the value of music to His creatures. We know from the Psalms that music was prescribed in the liturgy of ancient Israel. What is more, the Psalmist exhorts all people of all nations to “be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:4). Paul talks about “singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” as an outward manifestation of the inner filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:19). God has ordained music as a mode of worship. It would be disobedient to Him and detrimental to us if it were neglected by His people. We would be misguided, however, to think that all music glorifies God, just as we would be wrong to say that all music is evil. Music, the combination of individual notes into a structured whole, is inherently a neutral medium. It is when words accompany the tune that the heart of the composer is exposed, whether it be a hardened, unregenerate heart or a new heart exuding the redeeming love of
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Christ. In a characteristically blunt rebuke of the Pharisees, Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:34-35; cf. 15:18). Treasure seems like a strange word for Jesus to use in that conversation. Even more strange is His reference to “evil treasure.” What does treasure have to do with speech? Everything, Jesus would say. We speak the most about what we treasure the most. Or contextually, we sing about what we most treasure. Music is a powerful medium of expression. It can be used to praise God, enhance romance, spread hatred, or propagate political messages. In a sense, music can never be evil, for it is only a testimony to the heart condition of its designer. Music is only a vehicle by which we communicate good or evil purposes. It cannot be evil, but it can convey evil. One might say music reveals as much about its composer as it does about its subject matter. In Christian music we have an opportunity to change that tendency. We have the opportunity to turn the attention away from ourselves and toward our great Creator and Savior. A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Perhaps a fitting corollary to that truth would be, “The most important thing about the music we make is what it says about God.” The beauty of God-glorifying music is that it does not follow a recipe. It is diverse and varied, just as God’s creation is diverse and varied. There is one God, but there are many ways to voice His praise. We may not all be musicians, but God has enlisted every one of us to exalt Him in song. And God is far less interested in our talent than He is in our focus. “What is the music that is playing me?”, I might ask. Is it my love of Christ, overflowing and bursting forth on display to the world? Or is it another message, which deflects attention from God and diminishes His worship? As Jesus reminded us, the answers to those questions come from the search within our hearts to see what kind of treasure we have stored up there.
hy does it bother us so very deeply when someone doesn’t like a song or band that we absolutely love? Music has a special power over us. Songs, songwriters, melodies and voices connect with us in what scientists would probably say is a biochemical reaction, forming an emotional, sensory-induced memory. I prefer to think in more romantic terms: music can touch our hearts. Which, to a scientist, would just seem like nonsense because the heart is a blood-pumping muscle. Music is as incredibly diverse as any of God’s great creations. There’s a style for everyone! An instrument can be a finely-tuned ton of strings, mahogany and ivory or a simple upside down bucket. Notes can be played with mathematical precision or casual irreverence. As great a variety as there are in musical styles, there’s even more variety to the human reaction to music. In fact, each of us reacts to music in our own special way. It’s just another of God’s bountiful gifts to us. Because we are all different, there are going to be times when we disagree on what constitutes good. I’ll never forget the first time I heard one of my mentors listening to Bob Dylan. I followed the sound through rows of offices trying to track it down. Finally I found Tom, with his feet propped up on his desk and a look
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of complete contentment on his face as Dylan strummed and wailed. He looked at me, expecting me to applaud his great taste. A snarl formed on my mouth, “What is this @#$* (or racket or awful noise)?” That turned his smile upside down. There was a 35-year age gap between us. To Tom, Bob Dylan was the voice of a generation. He spoke with poetic insight into the values of his people. He sang with melodies handed down from on High (pun intended). To me, Dylan sounded like someone who was beating a cat with a cheap acoustic guitar. After all, I was younger and more in tune with what was good. Like ska. Now there’s a musical style that will never get old. Fortunately for our relationship, Tom and I found common ground in a love of Johnny Cash. Our thoughts and feelings about music sometimes run even deeper than political stances and sports team fanaticism. That’s true for all of humanity, but is especially true for followers of Christ. Often we associate certain songs or artists with spiritual landmarks in our lives. Maybe it’s the first song we heard after committing our lives to Jesus or a worship song that gained new meaning during a particularly trying season of life. Those songs become permanently entwined into our walk with God. The flip side of a transformed life in Christ is that
Freedom Songs By Josh Millwood
some songs that were our anthem pre-conversion suddenly become a source of shame—a reminder of who we were without Christ. Often it is such a visceral reaction that we demand that those around us be as hyperconvicted about it as we are. You would think that something so trivial, like styles of music, would be a non-issue for the Church, but left unchecked, enforcing opinions can sow discord to such a level that the Bible actually nips it in the bud. The Church in Corinth had to deal with this issue of violated conscience, except instead of musical styles, the members of this church were in an all-out battle royale over meat. Some of the new believers fully embraced the freedom that was in Christ. They started enjoying discount meat sold outside of pagan temples because: A. It was delicious and B. It was all on sale! They understood that there was no other god but the one true God—so to them, it didn’t matter that the meat had been consecrated to an imaginary deity. Others in the Corinthian church used to be worshippers of those false gods and even though they now knew the truth and were just as saved as the meateaters, they felt convicted about eating meat that had
been blessed and consecrated to their old gods. Even if the meat was cheap, they didn’t want to help finance the religions that had led them astray for much of their lives. News of the Great Corinthian Meat Wars got back to Paul and, through the Holy Spirit, he got to the heart of the matter: “...you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble...when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). The thing about freedom is that it is less important than people. At least according to the Bible. We are free to our opinions, but when our opinions cause a brother or sister in Christ to hurt, stumble or sin—well, we caused that with our determination to be right. Paul was willing to go vegan for the sake of the weaker Corinthians! Are we willing to shelve our convictions over musical styles for the sake of peace within our own churches? Something to think about the next time the battle between hymns and praise choruses escalates to an all-out blood feud. But seriously, Dylan is just awful.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | May 2013
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hat is the most beautiful music you have ever heard? One of my very favorite pieces is classical and was composed specifically as a film score. I can remember sitting in the movie theater as the music played and feeling as though my heart would explode (in a good way). Needless to say, I promptly purchased the soundtrack and have since listened to it over and over to recapture that feeling again. Of course, what’s compelling to me may not have any effect on you—and vice versa. But there is a reason why certain music is beautiful to our ears. We may think it’s the melody or the violin part or the vocal harmonies or the atmospheric guitar riff. But beyond the surface level,
the music is beautiful because it communicates something to the soul. It lifts our gaze higher. American composer Leonard Bernstein was deeply impacted by the music of Beethoven. Here is how he described it: “Beethoven...turned out pieces of breathtaking rightness. Rightness—that’s the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeeds the last is the only possible note that can rightly happen at that instant, in that context, then chances are you’re listening to Beethoven. Melodies, fugues, rhythms—leave them to the Tchaikovskys and Hindemiths and Ravels. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right in the world. There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law
consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down.” Indeed, the music is not what holds the meaning. When we’re exposed to beauty— be it in the form of music, art, or the grandeur of nature—our hearts tell us that true meaning is still out there, that something or someone far greater is behind it all. Bernstein once said that he knew there was a God when he heard Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. God, the Creator, is a God of order. He made the world accordingly and He made us in His image. The arts are generally analyzed in terms of simplicity, complexity, proportion and harmony. Whether we realize it or not, when we find these attributes in art, we find beauty. This “rightness” speaks to our God-given nature. C.S. Lewis explains that when we experi-
ence beauty we yearn “to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” But wonderful as it is, beauty always leaves us wanting. As sinners, a chasm separates us from our Creator, the source of all goodness and beauty. Enter the glorious news of the gospel message—that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died for sinners and redeemed us by His blood. The chasm has been restored. We can now be in right standing with God, our Maker. When we put our faith in Christ, we will one day behold Him as He truly is (1 John 3:2). And, the most amazing, goosebump-inducing music that exists could never accurately reflect what that will be like, as Jesus Christ is beauty itself.
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A Gateway to the Gospel By Brittney Switala
he car can be a most sacred space. Sure, there are Cheerios crumbs in the backseat where the car seat usually resides and an old water bottle lies on the floor; and yet, for 20 minutes it is a sanctuary. Except for the occasional annoyance in the form of a red light or inept driver, the time in the car may be the most peaceful part of a busy work day. It is a precious limited commodity of alone time. There is no homework to help with yet. There are no meetings to attend, no meat to be defrosted or loads of laundry to be folded. The only expectation is to drive from point A to point B without incident. During that time of solitude, God often has a unique opportunity to speak into people’s lives. Many people who have been hurt by the Church will not darken the door of a building they associate with rules and condemnation. Some folks will not choose to watch a sermon on TV. They cannot hear God’s Truth over the flurry of phone numbers and requests for donations streaming across the bottom of the screen. Yet the commute offers a safe place to question, wonder and even discover Christ. In solitude a person can hear speakers and melodies woven together to share Truth attractively. The friendly voices on the #1 preset button of the car radio are there. The DJs don’t care how a person dresses or what one does for a living. They play nice music that talks about a Jesus who is loving and accepting. The tunes are catchy and over time the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates the heart. Many who tune into Christian radio on any given week are those who do not identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. They may be spiritually curious or openly antagonistic to the faith, but they are listening. The car is similar to the Las Vegas commercial—what one listens to in the car stays in the car. It is private. No one knows whether a Buddhist is enjoying the positivity of a Christian station, an atheist is checking out the opposition, or a hurting wife is flipping by “chance” to the station when she chooses to live another day. That was Michelle’s story. Michelle was an emotional
prisoner of depression and physically a prisoner in her own home. At the age of 14 she began to struggle with suicidal thoughts. As an adult she was in a physically abusive relationship and never left the confines of her home. Two thoughts inspired her to keep going from day to day: “Good mothers don’t kill themselves” and “You can always take your life tomorrow.” One night she bravely left her house, went out to her car and turned on the ignition with the intention of taking her life, only to find her son had the radio tuned to a Christian station. She was captivated by the music and listened to song after song. The message she heard gave her courage to choose physical and spiritual life. That is the power of Christ moving hearts through Christian music. Music makes the heart pliable and open to hear Truth. Quiet refrains of hope and joy-filled choruses tap into the emotions. A song gets stuck in the mind and the repetition of the Gospel prompts curiosity about the things of God and draws those who know Him into an even deeper faith. Pastor John Piper once said, “It is unmistakable. The dominant theme of these songs is God—the character of God, the power of God, the mercy of God, the authority of God, and the fatherhood of God. And the hoped-for effect of relentlessly addressing God directly in the second person is engagement—genuine, real, spiritual engagement—of the heart with God.” The Psalms of David the King/musician flood our churches and our airwaves today with the admonition to worship. Psalm 103 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” Taking Scripture from the New Testament, Kristian Stanfill’s (Passion) “One Thing Remains” reminds us of the truth of Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Word of God will not return void whether it is read, heard in a sermon or enjoyed through music on the car radio while juggling breakfast. The Lord is using Christian radio to move hearts so they will worship Him. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | May 2013
aybe you’re part of a contemporary Christian band in your church. You might simply enjoy listening to the music sitting in the pew or in your car. But perhaps you can relate to this post from a guitar player on the Christian Guitar Forum who wrote, “I play guitar and sing in my church’s youth worship band and I really enjoy it. But I have a little problem. As much as I love worshipping the Lord and leading the people in worship, I find I don’t really enjoy playing those songs. Honestly, I don’t even really listen to very much Christian music simply because I find it boring! The same words, expressions, and chord progressions are repeated throughout most contemporary Christian music.” The writer goes on to ask, “Am I just weird? Or are there other people out there like me?” Sadly, there are probably people who feel like they shouldn’t listen to secular music and want to turn to today’s Christian music but find it “boring.” In an article for ABC News, Andrew Beaujon delved into that very issue. He writes, “For many years, the Christian music industry responded to any innovations in pop music with a “diet” version of whatever had become popular. Like Toto or Air Supply? Check out WhiteHeart or Petra. Like Aerosmith or Bon Jovi? Actually, you could check out WhiteHeart and Petra again—they changed their sound with pretty much every album.” Is contemporary Christian music simply diet versions of mainstream genres? Lisa Robinson of Credo House Ministries says, “It was familiar criticism because the same words have left my lips in relation to CCM offerings: lacks substance, too simple, boring, not theologically sophisticated. Basically, the gist of such criticism is that such music is
not worthy of time or attention, with an indirect implication that God cannot be honored with such banal worship nor can the worshipper be enriched because of it. This sentiment comes with the notion that only music packed with doctrinal significance and consistent theological articulation is pleasing to the Lord.” There are countless stories of people who have had their lives impacted by today’s Christian music. Recording artist Johnny Diaz recounted a story of a woman who had been struggling with depression and self-esteem issues. She was sitting in her car when his song “More Beautiful You” came on the radio. She said the song and message behind it changed her life. Can the lyrics of that song compare to some of our beloved hymns? Maybe not. But the end result was a life changed because of the simple message conveyed that Jesus loves us just as we are. Christian rapper Lecrae says, “Sometimes I’m too churchy for the world. I’m too worldly for the church and so I exist in this weird dichotomy, but there are a lot of people like me and a lot of people who resonate with that.” When we look at today’s CCM, we need to keep in mind that it’s still relatively young compared to many music genres and it’s still developing. Based on recent sales, it’s also still growing in popularity. In a story for Religion News Service, Kim Lawton writes about TobyMac’s latest album Eye on It, which was the first Christian album since 1997 to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s all-genre chart and the only Christian album to do that. “I definitely have my ear to the ground as far as sonically what is happening,” TobyMac said. “I’ve always been a pop artist, you know. I rap, I sing, I scream, whatever gets the point across.”
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Empty Calories or Food for the Soul? By Mary Tyler
Lawton writes, “Many experts say that thanks to artists like TobyMac, the contemporary Christian music industry is experiencing a revival, with strong sales, record-breaking tours, and new success in the mainstream charts.” Not all CCM artists, however, make it as big as TobyMac, and many are simply worship leaders at their local church who feel the call of the Holy Spirit to share their music. They write songs from their hearts without a TobyMac budget for production or even bandmates. However, what they lack in compositional ability or theological depth, they make up for in their willingness to take their message of Jesus’s love into places too small for massproduced artists. Jason Bare recently played to a crowd of about 40 people in a small-town church with one acoustic guitar player as his accompaniment. Husband and wife team Dan and Lauren Smith donated most of the proceeds from their latest release to the efforts of a struggling Pennsylvania city. Dan still plays with a guitar his father gave him as a boy learning the instrument. That is the heart of contemporary Christian music. Even in the big leagues of CCM, artists say their main goal is to be led by the Holy Spirit to share a message in a way someone might not have heard before. TobyMac says, “That’s why I have faith in God, because I know I can’t conjure up a lyric that would do that. But if God breathes something through me when I ask Him to, maybe some good could happen.” Still, some remain critical of CCM as lacking content. Joshua Law, in his article “A Closer Look at Christian Music,” says of CCM artists, “They need help and guid-
ance. Let us not praise and raise contemporary Christian music on the highest pedestal. With an open mind, let us learn to accept them and develop them to include a balanced and rich theological content. Let us not dwell solely on the emotions but move on forward to more wholesome verbal substance that teaches, admonishes, and enriches the church. Let us depart from the musical clichés (well wornout pop-rock idioms) and go on to higher musical grounds.” As consumers and listeners, we have the power to encourage the genre to grow and develop. And since many of the artists entering the industry come from a background of worship-leading, pastors and church leaders are also in a position to influence. While criticism exists of CCM offerings, we might consider the words of Mark Powell, author of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, who says, “Granted, I am not going to print the words out to this song and prize them as some profound theological statement worthy of comparison to Bonhoeffer, but something about that song on the car radio just touches my heart. In some mysterious way, it bonds my heart to Jesus and helps me love Him more. It does so in a way that theology books rarely do.” Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do? To reach hearts for Him. That message might come in the form of a four-chord song with repetitive lyrics that a listener or worshipper can remember. Even if that song might not be critically acclaimed here on Earth, our Father might have a different measure of what makes beautiful music.
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Deliver Us From Evil By Karen Tull
n the past five months alone, national headlines have brought unthinkable news. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The multiple stabbings at Lone Star College in Texas. The infanticide committed by Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. The bombing at the Boston Marathon. Not only are Americans facing formidable threats from other countries, it’s hard to feel any sense of security right within our own borders. Are we really, as some believe, progressing toward peace? Theologian Dr. James I. Packer writes, “The popular idea of faith is of a certain obstinate optimism: the hope, tenaciously held in the face of trouble, that the universe is fundamentally friendly and things may get better.” Christians know that things, in fact, are becoming increasingly worse as the day of Jesus’s return grows nearer. But even with this awareness, it’s still hard not to wonder why God allows such atrocious acts to happen. “Evil men have often been permitted to do what they please,” explains author Elisabeth Elliot. “We must understand that divine permission is given for evil to work. To know the God of the Bible is to see that He who could have made automatons of all of us made instead free creatures with power and permission to defy Him.” What part does evil play? Mysteriously, it clearly has its place. In Scripture we can see that Jesus allowed evil to run its course at the appointed times. Jesus said to His captors in the Garden of Gethsemane: “‘Why didn’t you arrest Me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your mo-
ment, the time when the power of darkness reigns’” (Luke 22:53). Later, Jesus tells Pilate that He alone has all authority, though He does not prevent His own crucifixion. “‘Why don’t you talk to me?’ Pilate demanded. ‘Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?’ Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over Me at all unless it were given to you from above’” (John 19:10-11). Satan was defeated when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Yet, Satan still has power; but that power does not cancel out God’s will, as it has always been and will always be in place. We don’t know why God permits evil to have free reign at certain times and what purposes it serves in His overall plan. We may never know why. We aren’t entitled to be privy to God’s reasons. He is God. He has revealed all that we need to know. If we stand on His Word and believe who He says He is, we know He is good—whether or not the circumstances around us are calm or frightening. “Letting go of what the world calls safety and surrendering to the Lord is our insurance of fulfillment,” writes Elliot. “Christ knew His Father and offered Himself unreservedly into His hands. If we let ourselves be lost for His sake, trust the same God as Lord of all, we shall find safety where Christ found His, in the bosom of the Father.” Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for My sake, he will find his true self. Matthew 16:25 NEB
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couple of years ago, my father-inlaw had some serious issues with his health. He comes from a large family, spread across the country. They were eager for updates on his condition. During that first week of his illness, we found a page on the hospitalâ€™s web site on which we could post updates and receive comments. The family checked it with astounding frequency and continually posted encouraging notes. Eight days into it, we posted, in essence, these thoughts. The post was an effort to draw attention to that which we found most helpful during such times. I share those thoughts now in light of the current state of affairs in our world. The advent of social media has exponentially increased our ability to contribute to various conversations. All of us have a tremendous
opportunity to offer hope. It is for such a time as this to which we are called to live, and called to respond. Our perception of a situation is shaped by the information we receive about the circumstances. The privilege of disseminating information is an awesome responsibility. We were keenly aware of the power we held in our hands in how we related news about my father-in-law. We could unintentionally bring hopelessness and despair into the hearts and minds of those we were updating. We also held the power to do something quite the opposite. We knew from the beginning that we were to minister hope. We didnâ€™t try to hide the circumstances. We did not stretch the truth. We just relayed the situation through the hope we sincerely sensed in our hearts. It was not
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necessarily a hope that everything would turn out the way we would have liked. But it was a hope that the Lord would be with us and sustain us throughout the ordeal. God called many encouragers into the situation. But the term “calling” comes with pre-conceived ideas which imply that one is called to something, and then must work to follow that calling – and work to fulfill it. But this was not our experience. There was no perceived work on our part. Rather than being called to follow a calling, perhaps the Lord places one in our hearts. He just dumps it in there. And then we just walk it out. We just live, and it appears that we’re doing something. But we’re just expressing what we are feeling. We’re just expressing what the Lord dumped in there. We all have some calling. We have a
tendency to get all hung up on what we are supposed to be doing for the Lord, for the Body of Christ, for the unsaved, for those around us. It isn’t nearly as difficult as we make it. We just live out what the Lord has placed in our hearts. But wait, there’s more. It isn’t quite accurate that The Lord places a calling in our hearts, and then we walk in it. It’s that He places a person within our hearts, and He walks in it – He fulfills the calling. And He uses our voices to respond to the situations in which we walk. Yes, that’s more like it. And in that—in His responding to the situation at hand—people are encouraged, wounds are mended, and fears are calmed. Every need is met.
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