Music to His Ears :: by Mike Maxwell

“Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!  Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” Psalm 150:1-6

Consider the following words to one of the greatest hymns ever written:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.

My chains are gone I’ve been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns

Unending love, amazing grace”

These lyrics, sung from the heart, with an intended audience of One, can bless both the singer and listener. I’ve heard this song done as a blues number, in a contemporary style and the traditional ballad we’re all familiar with.

I’ve heard this song sung by a punk/metal band called Entombed. Did I like it sung by them? No, not my style. I don’t know much about the band Entombed. I know they are a secular punk/metal band. Idon’t know what context in which they sang the song. It could be heartfelt, it could be blasphemous. It depends on their intent.

The Bible says that God inhabits the praise of His people. Now, would you dismiss what this song is saying simply because of the musical style that houses the lyrics? I wouldn’t. It speaks of God’s amazing grace when I had no hope whatsoever. I was lost, now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see. Amazing lyrics.

But, some may say, what if it’s sung where the harmony and/or rhythm are dominant? What if it was sung accapella with just a layer of drums behind it? What if the harmony was dominant vocally and the traditional melody was absent?

Does that nullify the lyrics? Does it nullify the praise we lift up to God? Of course not! Contemporary Christian Music or CCM (separate from but could include Christian rock), is a powerful ministry today. They meet a hurting world right where they’re at;  many of the songs aaddress messy subjects such as  drugs, abortion, starvation, suicide, and self-esteem. Do Christian bands extol or promote those things simply because of the STYLE of music they play? NO!

Aren’t Christians allowed to address those issues through music?  Are Christians allowed no creativity whatsoever? People go through these things. This ministry reaches people where they are in their lives.CCM reaches out by addressing these topics. Where’s the hope? The songs will tell you. From Christ, of course.

Listen to John Elefante’s song (former lead singer of  the band, Kansas) “This Time”. Listen to Cry Holy’s “Masquerade Ball” or Third Day’s “I Need a Miracle”.  Those are songs that address abortion, homelessness, hunger and suicide respectively. Lyrics matter and they are more than just “added veneer of gloss” to a song. They reach out with a message of hope for those who hear. A musical style cannot void the lyrics or the heartfelt praise intended by the singer. A person may prefer one style over another, but  the lyrics say what they mean.

What about the style of worship used in third world countries? What of the songs they sing to the Most High God?  Drums commonly dominate the worship in these countries, with repetitious rhythmic patterns.

Is their praise nullified because the rhythm dominates? Does God only accept man’s narrow definition of worship? This is not mentioned anywhere in God’s Word. Does man define “worship” that is proper or is it an act that God accepts because it is offered from the heart?

The Bible says that heaven will be filled with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. If people don’t like variety in worship, then perhaps they should hope earplugs are available in heaven!

Let’s revisit this verse from the top:

“Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” Psalm 150:1-6

Praise God where? In His SANCTUARY! Praise God how? Praise Him with the trumpet, lute and HARP (plucked but today struck by hammers, also known as a piano or keyboard)! Praise Him with STRINGS (guitar, bass guitar) and LOUD  CLASHING CYMBALS! (drums which include cymbals). Notice how God requests cymbals, twice! And not just any cymbals…LOUD CLASHING ONES!  God is telling us in this and many other passages of scripture how to worship!

It’s has been said that an entire church’s fundamentals have been tossed out the window because the worship music is contemporary. A charge leveled like that says one thing: the style of music is not pleasing to the listener, therefore it’s not pleasing to God.

If a person’s idea of “acceptable” Christian music is only a single person sitting at a piano belting out “Bringin’ in the Sheaves”, that’s fine, and it is their personal preference. But to say that that’s the only music God will accept is confining that which God will accept to man’s definition.

I’ve attended both kinds of services; one with a single piano player with a few backup singers and those with a large full on worship band with guitars, drums, keyboards, and bass, with the words displayed on large video screens. Both ways work for me. I like the intimacy of the first  kind of service and the dynamic worship of the second. The real question is: is there just one way it works for God?

Some say that praise music played in the style of CCM will never reach the lost. That could be true. I wouldn’t expect an unbeliever to raise their hands in worship if they don’t know the Lord. Praise and worship music is meant to connect the worshiper with God, but CCM connects with the lost, what they’re going through and points them to God’s Word. Will it bring them to the Lord? No, only God’s Word and the Holy Spirit can do that. But the music points to His Word. It reaches out to a lost world.

Debating that CCM in and of itself is evil because of the form it takes is akin to saying someone who is not in the ministry and holds a secular job is evil. I work for an airline. That is a secular job. But, I do get a chance to talk to people at my workplace about Jesus. Oh, but it could be argued, the way I do that is through a secular job, any attempts to witness to people is null and void because of the form of job I have. Of  course that’s not true, but the comparison is the same. The “form” of job I have does not nullify the “content” of what I can speak to fellow co-workers about. We minister where we are. The form of a song’s composition shouldn’t nullify it’s content.

Is the internet full of the most horrendous things you can think of? Unfortunately, yes. It is also used as a tool to get the gospel across to a worldwide audience, such as Rapture Ready does. Is Rapture Ready’s message void because it uses a medium that has been used for evil purposes? A resounding NO!

It should be noted that there is a distinction between someone who is a “Christian musician” and a “musician who is a Christian”. A Christian musician is someone who is a Christian and sings Christian music, whereas a musician who is a Christian is someone who is a musician  by trade but who happens to be a Christian.

The music industry is a big machine and there are layers upon layers of people involved in a musician’s success, beyond the musicians themselves. This includes managers, drivers, caterers, photographers, and stage hands. They are all a part of the whole. To be put in a position as a Christian to have access to people to speak to them about the gospel is an amazing opportunity to reach out with the message of the Gospel.

When Satan fell, music did fall with him. But he’s not the author of it. God is. It’s important not to compartmentalize God in a narrow, musical box and say that there is ONLY one form of music acceptable to God. Like the last verse of  Amazing Grace says:

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’ve first begun”

Obviously, singing God’s praise will be a big part of the life to come. What form will that take? Will it be singing with no instruments, or will it be with every instrument known to man? I do know this: it will be pleasing to God. There will be no division over it’s “form”. It will all be in praise to our Creator, which should be music to anyone’s ears.

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