Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Have a Goodly Heritage...

Psalm 16:6 says, " The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; Yea, I have a goodly heritage."

My niece, Luanna, who is almost 14, is coming with me and my parents to the Inter-Church convention in Dayton, Ohio next week. This is a big thing for her, and I hope she has a wonderful week!
I started thinking about some events which happened when I was her age...let's just say that has been a "few" years ago! The summer after my 13th birthday, my brother Michael and I, accompanied my Grandpa and Grandma Heer on a trip up to Hot Springs, South Dakota. We made a stop in a town located in western Nebraska for them to have a missionary service. They had a very strong love and heart for the American Indians and traveled extensively for Wesleyan Indian Ministries. Michael and I assisted with the service by providing some music. My grandpa didn't make it to South Dakota that year as he was stricken with a heart attack while we were still in Nebraska. Thankfully, we were staying with the pastor that night, and his wife was a nurse. She accompanied us as we drove my grandpa to the hospital several miles away. We made it and he was admitted and stayed for awhile, perhaps 10 days or so, to receive care. After a few days had passed, my grandma took Michael and I, and we proceeded up to Hot Springs to attend the annual camp meeting being held at Brainerd Indian School. Eventually, we made it back to western Nebraska, my grandpa finished his recovery, and we drove on home to Overland Park. The next year brought dietary changes as he walked and tried to improve his health.
The next summer, when I was 14, Michael and I once again accompanied them north towards Hot Springs for the annual gathering at Brainerd Indian School. On the way, we stopped at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to assist Frank and Kathy Johnston and their family with a VBS. That was as far as we got. On Sunday night, my grandpa began to feel badly and went out to rest in the recliner located in the living room of the mission home. It was there, his spirit winged its way to his reward with the Lord as he once again suffered a heart attack. He was eventually discovered, and an ambulance came to get him. Three Indian men came and took him to the hospital, but he was already gone. It was so appropriate that he passed this life on an Indian reservation amongst the people for whom he carried such a burden. He so longed to see them receive Christ and have new life.
Soon, the Johnston's oldest daughter, Caroline, accompanied us as we drove home to Overland Park to prepare a funeral and burial. This was very difficult for my grandma to lose her husband so unexpectedly and without a chance to say goodbye. He was only in his 60's.
I am so grateful for these opportunities I had to spend time with my grandpa. None of us knew when we sat out on that trip, it would be our last opportunity.
He was truly a man of God. He spent his life preaching, teaching, pastoring, traveling in deputation, and praying that God's work would be accomplished. Truly, I have a "goodly heritage!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Music, does it really matter?

Recently, I raised a fire storm on Facebook by posing a simple question. Here is my question, "what sort of music do you REALLY want to hear at church on Sunday morning??? Screaming guitars played by guys in jeans or a choir dressed nicely in either robes or dress clothes singing hymns??? This is a fairly serious question...please give appropriate answers!" So far, there have been over 100 comments, you can see that this is a very volatile issue.

For the serious Christian, the bottom line should always be, what does the Bible have to say about music? It is my understanding, that most of the approximately 600 references to music in the Bible, are speaking of praise to God. If this is the case, we can be quite sure, that music should lift us in praise to God. Can we glorify God while listening to other styles of music besides religious? I believe so. Try listening to a CD of Bach music and tell me if it does not cause you to give honor to our Creator who could not only create music, but bring into being individuals, such as Bach, who would be enabled to write such magnificent music!
We could give that test to other types of music...why don't you try it some time? Can you praise God while listening to headbanging rock music? Can you praise God while listening to something sensuous and self serving?

Speaking of our Creator, if we believe Genesis 1:1 that God created the earth, do we not believe that He created music also? That He created humans with the gift of writing music and creating wonderful arrangements of tones which can draw our hearts to praise Him? If He created music, and I believe that He did, then, would it not stand to reason that He should have the ultimate authority over our music?

Mr. Richard Peck writes in his book "Rock, Making Musical Choices," about a way we can "test" music. Here is part of his outline involving the letters in the word "test."
T-Test-Is the message true according to scripture? John 4:24, II Timothy 2:15
E-Exalts Christ or man? Psalms 89:1, Psalms 147:1, Acts 2:25-21
S-Separate from the world? I John 2:15, II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:17, Galatians 1:8
T-Teaches and builds up the body of Christ? I Thessalonians 5:11, II Timothy 2:2, Colossians 3:16.

If unsure of a certain song or musical style, try applying Mr. Peck's "Test" to it and see how it measures up. Let's try an example and see how it measures up.
What about the very well known hymn, "How Firm a Foundation." Here we have the first verse..."How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord. Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He hath said? To you, who for refuge, to Jesus have fled."
Test-is it true? Yes, the Bible is our firm foundation and there we find that God is our refuge in time of trouble, Psalms 46:1
Exalt-Does it exalt Christ or man? Clearly, it does exalt Him as our refuge!
Separate-Is it separate from the world? Yes, this musical style is certainly acceptable and does not promote a love for the world.
Teach-Does it teach me something about God, His character? Does it build me up? Does it build up the body of Christ? Yes to all of these questions. It shows me that God's character is trustworthy, even in times of trouble, it encourages me to seek Him in times of trouble, it encourages the body of Christ to trust Him.

I would challenge you to respond to this post with some "test" observations of your own. Even bring your hard cases!

Keep in mind also, "The New Song Principle." We see this in Psalms 40:2-3 where the Psalmist is praising God for bringing him up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, placing him on the solid rock, and establishing his goings. This amazing "salvation experience" brought the Psalmist such joy! He was given a "New Song" to sing! The meaning of the word "new" here is "fresh, new thing." Can you honestly say that all musical styles would be acceptable as "new" for a newly saved individual? Or a saved individual who has been around for awhile? One who has just come from the pits of sin? He is set up out of that, should his old music styles remain? Should he endeavor to use a style of music which was written PRIMARILY AS A MEANS TO STIR UP SENSUALITY, as his worship mode?
Garen Wolf writes of the "New Song Principle" in his book, Church Music Matters, in this way...{The New Song Principle} connotes music making that is of a higher or renovated character that always renders praise to God-not man...part of the old things that pass away is the 'old song' and the old self-engrandizement and worldly musical performance practice." He also quotes II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
According to Wolf, the nature of the new song is "to praise...God that is of a higher renovated character. New song in the Bible means 'new character,' not just something produced now."
So, we cannot say that we must only sing newly written material. No, this is clearly speaking of a newness in character which should characterize ALL aspects of the Christian life, not just music. Good music can be hundreds of years old, or just days old. The important thing is to determine if it is appropriate, based on the Word of God, for the child of God to sing. Is it fresh, new?

These are just some thoughts that I hope will stir others to evaluate their musical choices in a new way, and be open to making changes as the Lord leads! I welcome comments!