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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

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