Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lyrical Manipulation: Part 2

As I continue in this series of examining lyrics, let me remind you that the intent here is not to find "appropriate" artist and those to put on the "shun list." We are simply trying to guard what is poured into our thoughts by being able to discern what we are listening too. 
You do need to understand though, that just because an artist is called a Christian, doesn't mean they are 1) pursuing their career with the intent of glorifying Christ and leading you to the Gospel with their talents, 2) theologically sound and able to clearly apply truths in their lyrics, 3) teaching Biblical truths and not polluting scripture, 4) actual believers who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
I know this sounds judgmental, but you want to have the right resources and facts before allowing your mind to meditate on what you are hearing.
That all being said, today I am going to focus on two songs by the band NeedToBreathe. After we break down the lyrics, and compare the points of view, we will see what the artist see themselves as and the music they are making, which is very popular in both the secular side as well as the Christian Contemporary side.

"Something Beautiful"

In your ocean, I'm ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin' on my feet
It's like I know where I need to be
But I can't figure out, yeah I can't figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There's only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is risin' quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can't be sure when it will subside
So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn't live like this
I wouldn't stop until I found something beautiful
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won't have what I need

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

From a Biblical world view, we can possibly infer the ocean as life and preparing to be overwhelmed, the singer is looking for something to save him and be by his side as it overtakes him. Yet, other than the phrase "down on my knees" it is very hard to find a spiritual tone. This song actually has less to point towards God than some of the others being played on secular stations right now.

As for the secular world view, this song has the imagery found in popular songs dating from the 60's and frequenting today's music scene. Imagery doesn't really need to make sense or point to a definite theme, so this song can just flow from the verses into the chorus and finish with a repetition of finding something beautiful in our lives.
I really enjoy Bear Rinehart's voice and the way he folds the words over onto themselves. He is a very talented singer and the style they play accents their abilities making it no surprise why they are popular in both music sides. And 
whew, what an interesting use of visualizations in a song without a clear meaning. 

Now for their second song.

"Lay Em Down"

Come down to the river
Come and let yourself in
Make good on a promise
To never hurt again
If you're lost and lonely
You're broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down

All you sinners
And the weak at heart
All you helpless
On the boulevard
Wherever you are now
Whatever evil you've found
Bring all of your troubles
And come lay 'em down

We're all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We're all dirty like corrupted small towns
Bring our troubles
Bring our troubles
Lay 'em down

All you rich men
And the high above
All those with and without love
All you burdened broken down
Bring all of your troubles
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down

Come all you burdened
Come all you helpless
Bring all your burdens
Just lay 'em down

Come all you broken
Come all you helpless
Bring all your troubles
Just lay 'em down

Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down
Come lay 'em down

This song has a catchy "clap" beat that is really... catchy? I have even seen a congregation of normally immobile members start swaying and clapping while singing this song. 

As for the lyrics...

Biblical: Their is an obvious call to laying down your burdens in scripture and this song highlights the various types of people in the world, all of whom have burdens that weigh them down. The Gospel is definitely filled with hope for those who are burdened and want to be set free of their chains. But any follower of Christ should be able to identify the part of laying down your burdens that is missing from this theology(*1a). And I am sorry, but picking and choosing scripture to make a happy feeling song should not be acceptable. We can find great joy in taking up Christ's yoke, and to exclude that part of the lesson is taking away too much truth and keeping the song from being a great call to the burdened.

Secular: This song, as it is, can point to so many personal joys or escapes from the troubles of the world. Honestly, it could be about drinking your troubles away or the like. Without a definitive target to lay down your troubles to, it is up to the listener to pick what fits best for them. Sad that a song with this kind of impact and influence  is missing a mark that could lead many who hear it in the secular music side, to come to know the truth of Christ in this act.

I said we would look at the band's own words, so here they are. (Emphasis added)

"One thing we’ve had to come to terms with, as a band is that we need to play the same show, whether it’s at a club, or at a Christian festival the next day. We’ve figured out as a band there are certain things you can say from stage that will help you sell more CD’s. The difficult thing for us was coming to grips with who we are, and being consistent even if it means not all of the Christian audience 'gets us.'  - Bear Rinehart

Regarding the band's religious beliefs and how they play into their songs, Bear Rinehart told "Christianity is something that is important in our lives. It's not the only thing that's important in our lives, but then we wouldn't be relevant to society if that was the only thing we talked about. I don't think the band struggles with it that much. Sometimes the thing we struggle with the most is the Christian media." - Bear Rinehart

I will just let those words speak for themselves and invite you to learn about the music and artist you listen to. Even if you decide to continue listening and feel no conviction by it, you should still be aware of what is behind the music.

In His Name. 

(*1a) Matthew 11:28-30English Standard Version (ESV)28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lyrical Manipulation: Part 1

I am sure the phrase "What are you listening to?" or a variance of this, has been or will be heard from different pulpits.The basic premise is that we are not listening to lyrics that are very edifying. In fact, quite often, we are listening to the exact opposite.

I am beginning a series on lyrics and my intent is not to sway your listening habits, that is between you and the Holy Spirit, but that I might encourage you to be a better student of what lyrics are in the songs. My main focus is in corporate worship, but this very much applies to your everyday listening.

We have all been influenced emotionally by certain songs. Whether they elicit tears and sorrow, or extreme happiness; from feelings of rage and anger, to peace and relaxation. Music is very powerful and can be a great way to glorify God. It can also cause us to rebel against God.

Often, we are influenced by songs that have a catchy melody, guitar solo, drum beat or a line in the song that impacts us emotionally, yet the song is not intended to bring us in contact with the Holy Creator of the universe. Not trying to put down any artist out there, but often times they are using this exact influence to manipulate their target audience and are not motivated by bringing you to the Cross. Again, I would not necessarily put the same degree of dissection on every day listening as I do corporate worship, but wouldn't it be easier to identify these things if we are conscious of them in our everyday music as well? Pastors as a whole are missing the mark by not challenging their congregation and parents of their youth by not addressing this in more detail.

So I bring you part 1 of Lyrical Manipulation.

When I am pickings songs to play, I take a page from the book of Bob Kauflin and read the lyrics as I listen to the song. If I am not doing this, I can easily be distracted by the music and melody and skim right over a verse that is unclear, clumsy or worse, heretical.

To begin, I am going to list the song lyrics for recent popular song that we will dissect. I will do the same each part of this series and would love feedback or request for other artist and songs. Again, let me stress that I am not implying these artist are intentionally misleading, or that you should avoid listening to them. I am just showing how we allow ourselves to be manipulated and why song selection is very important.

"Lift Me Up"
The Afters

Waiting for the sunrise Waiting for the day Waiting for a sign
That I'm where you want me to be

You know my heart is heavy And the hurt is deep
But when I feel like giving up You're reminding me
That we all fall down sometimes But when I hit the ground

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

You lift me up with your love You lift me up with your love
You lift me up with your love You lift me up

I know I'm not perfect I know I make mistakes
I know that I have let you down But you love me the same

And when I'm surrounded When I lose my way
When I'm crying out and falling down You are here to

Lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

I can see the dawn is breaking I am feeling overtaken with your love
With your love
I don't know what I can offer In this moment
I surrender to your love To your love

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go

You lift me up when I am weak Your arms wrap around me
Your love catches me so I'm letting go
You lift me up when I can't see Your heart is all that I need
Your love carries me so I'm letting go

I can see the dawn is breaking
I am feeling overtaken with your love

You lift me up with your love You lift me up with your love
You lift me up with your love You lift me up

OK, there are a few ways to view this song. We can allow our world view to guide us to a meaning, be that a Biblical or secular world view. Or we can look at the song as just a song, which is is a very apathetic and an improper way of viewing something with as much influence as music has. So to show both of the worldviews, lets open this up and see what we have.

Biblical: We automatically assume the subject of the song is God, so we see a believer who acknowledges God and His love as they live thier lives and fall down due to sin, loss, or burdens in their life. We see them relying on the strength of God and that His love is shown in caring for them. We see hope when there is despair.

Not a bad concept and certainly there is some biblical truth in this view. But before we claim a winner, let's see the other view.

Secular: God is not assumed to be the subject unless the song clearly mentions God or Jesus, or even a definitive spiritual aspect, which this song does not do anywhere. So the subject could be a husband, or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, parent or even a good friend. The idea that you have someone in your life to help you when you are down provides hope and comfort. So again, we see a loving hope when there is despair.

Again, the concept is valid as we all love  having others in our lives to lean on when we need them. So what is this song really about? Well you have to ask the write, and if you don't have their meaning, you are forced to draw your own conclusions. To me, this is a problem. If the author has to explain the meaing of a song or it is left to different interpretations, it cannot  be trusted and therefore, my emotions about this song cannot be trusted.

I happen to enjoy this song and I know what the writers intent was, but I still need to use discernment when listening to any song. And we often listen to ambiguous songs under the pretense of "worship." I am again going to steal from Bob Kauflin and mention that "worship" is an action verb that requires a subject. Much like "hold." And if the object of your worship is God, shouldn't your music be definite and less ambiguous?

Until next time, I pray you go in the Love and Grace of Christ.

Go To Part 2 Here

Friday, March 5, 2010

But if not...

Daniel 3:17-18
If it be [so], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver [us] out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

I am sure everyone can name brothers and sisters in Christ who wear their faith on their sleeves. They are such an encouragement as I see them praying to God during their struggles and praising Him no matter what. This is not an easy thing for me to replicate as I tend to have a "plan B" just in case God thinks my plan is better. My problem is not in believing that God CAN take care of my problems, but in following Him if he chooses NOT to take care of them.

I have been battling lately when I should just let things go. It is easy to say "I know God can fix this situation if He wants to" but instead of trusting Him regardless of the outcome, I focus all MY energy on making it happen. This is not a good way to grow in my relationship with the Lord. I am not saying I am to remain on the sidelines doing nothing and waiting for God to do all the work. But there are times when I need to do what is needed, and then focus on obeying God in all areas of my life.

In Daniel chapter 3, there is a great example of following and trusting in God. There were some Godly Hebrew captives who refused to obey the King of Persia by worshiping golden images of their gods. They were to be burned to death in a fiery furnace for disobeying the King's law. They believed that God could save them from this King's punishment and deliver them from the fiery death that faced them. But the best part in their testimony of faith was their declaration that even if God wouldn't save them, they would not give up God and worship the gods of Persia. Their devotion to God was so true, that even when faced with death, they would continue following the Lord of the Universe.

This picture of these three really humbles me. I am not facing death, yet I do not always see my walk with God as they did. In fact, many of my problems are meaningless in a month or shortly after, and instead of making the most of my relationship with my Savior during these times, I neglect Him as I try to fix my problems.

Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for your mighty Word and for you patience with me as I continue to fall in my walk with You. Please help my faith to grow so I too can say "But if not" no matter what the situation may be. Please help me to be an instrument for You in whatever Ministry You have for me. Amen!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Forgotten but not forgiven...

Yes, I know I got the popular phrase backwards, but this way makes more sense in my battle over forgiveness. I either forgive and forget, or I forget to forgive. I simply ignore any talk or thoughts about the situation/offender so I do not HAVE to forgive, or I promise to make it a matter for a later time. This only breeds bitterness and hinders my walk with the Lord. And until I get it taken care of, it is a big stumbling block.

Can I justify myself in not forgiving? Are there certain acts that are unforgivable among men? The answer is no. But what if they said...? No! But what if the hurt caused...? No! You mean I have to forgive for every offense? YES!!!

We have all been hurt and some extreme cases are life altering. But God's Word does not make any exceptions when we are called to forgive. There is no limit on how many times we are to forgive, or for what offenses we are to forgive.

Mat 18:21-22
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Mar 11:25-26
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

This does not just apply to brothers and sisters in Christ, this applies to everyone. Christ died that we ALL might be forgiven. And no matter how great the offense against us, it is nothing compared to the debt we owe God. If we don't look at forgiveness from God's perspective, we are limiting the great work done for us by His Son, Jesus Christ.

I have seen parents of murdered children forgive those responsible. I have 5 children and I have a very hard time thinking about this. But if we are truly becoming like Christ, this is the kind of forgiveness we ought to have. Even the situations we might think are unforgivable, still don't compare to the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. No forgiveness is greater then His for us.

By His grace and mercy, not only are we able to be forgiven our debts, but we are also able to forgive those who deal wrongly with us. No matter how hard we think it is to forgive, we MUST forgive. Ask the Lord for the strength, compassion and heart to forgive. I know it is hard for us at times, but by God's grace, we can do it.

Praise God for His mercy and forgiveness!

Jud 1:21
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

False Christ?

Romans 10:9 - That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

This scripture was the cause of some confusion in a recent conversation I had with some friends. Looking at this verse can cause some doubt when trying to witness to those who claim Romans 10:19, yet belong to certain cults or do not understand Christ Himself. Defining who Christ is, has been battled over for years. And this is a very important issue. We are talking about the very nature of our Savior. So much rides on this very doctrine.

During the early Church, there was a divide over the deity of Christ between Athanasius and Arius. Arius was teaching that there was a time when Christ was not. A time before Christ existed. That Christ is not of the same “being” that God is. (sound like any followings of today?) Athanasius would fight this during his ministry including several exiles from Alexandria.

This was an important issue then and it is an important issue now. There is only one way to the Father and that is by believing in the TRUE Jesus Christ. Too often there are antichrist being followed in many belief systems. I pray that God would give us the strength, knowledge and faith to fight this battle for His glory.

1 John 2:18 - Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

For a good book on some of those who fought for the cause of Christ, check out John Piper’s Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen

Saturday, August 1, 2009

If you make it past...

As my wife and I celebrated our 13th year of marriage last week, I looked back at the years of highs and lows. Some very good times and some very tough times. And neither of us coming from a good "marriage model" from our parents. Not to worry, everybody we met would offer "help." From day one, we have had others offering us advice and tips on making our marriage last.

"If you make it past the first year, everything will be fine."

This was the first line given to us. Were we to set a goal of 12 months? And how do you explain all the marriages that fall apart after that first year?

After our first two years, things were still high and low in our lives. One daughter, a new house, and my job in the Army keeping me from home.

"If you make it past the five year mark, everything will be fine."

Hmm. Makes sense? The first year getting used to each other, then the next four making our marriage work? Again, how do you explain the marriages that fall apart after five years?

We made it five years together. Now with three children and having just reenlisted in the Army for an assignment in Japan. It would be great, right? Made it past the five year mark, get to take my family to Japan with me. Everything will be fine...

The highs and lows seemed to be mostly lows. Especially after 9/11 when my job "needed" me more than my family. At least in my mind it did. There were a few months when it was all but finalized that our marriage was over. But we made it past the five year mark?

"If you make it past the 10 year mark, everything will be fine."

We were able to work through the hard times and returned to the States after my Army enlistment. Now with the addition of twins to our family. Starting over with a new career and new challenges a family of seven faces. Highs and lows, ups and downs. Daily struggles, failures and victories.

We obviously made it past the "mile marker" of 10 years, and now three more past that. And as well intended as the advice was, there is only one reason we are able to say, "Happy 13th Anniversary" to each other.

That first year as we were living together in our small apartment, fighting and yelling over anything and everything newly weds can argue over, we received a visit. This visit would change our lives for ever. That was the night we were given spiritual life and forgiveness of our sins. The night we believed in Jesus Christ as our Savior and only way to keep us from an eternity separated from God.

I had always enjoyed reading the Old Testament and KNEW God wanted marriage to be special. Genesis 2:24 was my model to follow in the absence of living examples. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." One flesh means forever. It means faithful. It means respectful. It means ONE flesh, united forever.

After receiving the Holy Spirit, the whole Bible opened up to us. Being led by God to live for God made all the difference. And no magic time line will ever save a marriage. There is no anniversary that determines when your struggles are over and "everything will be fine." Only by living for God and treating marriage as a gift from God, will we make it through the low times and be able to praise him in both the highs and lows. We were able to make it through the real low times ONLY by God's grace and our desire to honor our marriage for God, and we must continue in this way.

Honor the Lord by honoring your marriage.

1Peter 3:7 "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."