Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whats in a Lyric? Part 2 ("Religious" music)

So the first part of this post was geared toward lyrics in secular music.  The question was, How much do we really consider the message in the lyrics of a song in relation to whether it pleases God or negatively/positively affects our Christian witness.  The next issue is "religious" music.  When listening to or singing along with contemporary christian music or praise and worship music are we really thinking about the message in the lyrics?

The first concern should be, is it biblical.  Now we can nitpick this a a lot and ruin a song, however it is very easy to enjoy songs who's content is based on bad, possibly unbiblical doctrine or bad theology.  Admittedly, I don't have a lot of examples because I have not researched for specific lyrics.  However, I have read and heard many concerns expressed in regards to this idea and recall thinking it about lyrics in the past. I will say this.  I think that the concern can be over or under analyzed.  I certainly think it is a thought process worth allowing to hang out under the surface.  If nothing else it will cause us to really think about what we are singing and if the content is biblically sound it will enhance our worship experience.  This leads me to the second concern.

Do we really think about what we are singing.  As a worship leader I can tell you of times when the lyrics of a song combined with the move of the spirit have totally taken my worship experience to another level.  However, I can also speak of times when my worship experience has been dry and unmoving when some of the same lyrics were being sung.  The same is true of solo experiences when singing special music.  The extent with which we engage our brains toward our worship affects our experience.  We must bring a sacrifice of praise.  That usually means intentionally engaging in worship even when you don't feel like it.  I have sung some songs several times and all of a sudden one day the real meaning of the words hit me and I had a WOW moment because the meaning of the song came alive.  So I would encourage you, whether it's a hymn that is loaded with doctrine or a simple praise or worship song that repeats the same idea over and over that you come to it each time with an intentional, positive attitude, considering what you are singing and who you are singing to or about.  Jesus is worthy of our best effort each and every time.  That is going to look different each time you worship depending on what is going on in your life but you and God know if you are giving it your all in that moment.  

It struck me the other day as I was listening to a teaching about Paul and a reference was made to his stoning in Acts 14.  Then they referenced 2Corinthians 4:8-9.  The ESV translation of this vs is "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies".
Sound familiar?  Those are lyrics from the song Trading my Sorrows.  When you think about those lyrics in relation to Paul's stoning it seems silly that we are jumping up and down singing "yes lord".  Don't get me wrong, I understand the  idea of rejoicing in the sustaining power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to carry us through every trial and tribulation.  But lets face it.  How many of us have had to go through what Paul went through.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul describes the sufferings that he had endured to that point.  Most of us think we are suffering if someone takes our parking place, or we have a hard busy stretch on the job.  Maybe even if we go through a difficult illness.  The lyrics that Trading my Sorrows use reference suffering for the cause of Christ that a very small percentage of American Christianity knows anything about.  Other countries however, where you may die for your faith or see family members die for their faith the very same day that they except Jesus, now those people know about modern day suffering for the cause of Christ.  

I think if we studied and considered more deeply the context in which scripture was written and on which some scriptural lyrics are based we would more greatly appreciate the Savior we are praising.  This process would bring a much deeper meaning to our praise and our worship.  See, it's not enough to not indulge in or meditate on worldly things, behaviors, or thought processes as mentioned in the previous part of this post on secular music.  No, we must pursue Christ. We must pursue all things Christlike and develop a hunger for them in our hearts, minds, and how we live our lives.  We need to always be thinking of whether our day to day worship is pleasing to God.  Whether it be the songs that we sing, the songs that we listen to, or the things that we do or don't do.  If we are truly going to have Christ centered lives then everything that influences our lives and that our lives influence must center on Christ.

I close with these two scriptural thoughts. Philipians 1:27 says to "let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ".  Romans 12 which I quoted at the end of the first part of this post states the idea that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.  These thoughts encompass the essence of the expectation for purity and holiness that God desires for our lives.  Anything less is unacceptable to him.  So strive to rise to the challenge of meeting that expectation.  Cry out to Him for the grace and strength to succeed in this effort.  Not because you have to, but because you want to please your Heavenly Father and honor his Son for the sacrifice He paid so that you could have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Glory Be To God!


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