Contemporary Christian music

Recently I was astonished to hear someone say his main method of teaching was to use “Contemporary Christian music” in his Bible classes. He pointed out that the lyrics of many rock, rap and country songs were sinful and degrading, while the Contemporary Christian songs featured lyrics that were “spiritual.”

There is no question that a great deal of popular music is trashy, mean-spirited and hateful. The Christian should turn that music off just as surely as he would walk out of a movie that is laced through with ungodly content.

You do walk out of such movies, don’t you? Continue reading “Contemporary Christian music”

Of goats and mice

I read recently that a trade union is upset because a college campus has purchased twenty goats to clear up an overgrown portion of the college campus. The union objects that by using the goats the University of Western Michigan has taken jobs away from union workers. Apparently the reason the university employed the four-footed mowers rather than two-footed is environmental. Goats do not spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere the way a rider mower might.

They’re not kidding around, either. The goats are making quick work of the brush, eating through scrub, poison oak, everything. But union leaders insist this is ba-a-a-a-ad for employment. It seems the four-footed mowers will eat anything, and are thus scape goated for the poor employment in the region. So we are faced with a dilemma. Do we support jobs or the environment? Continue reading “Of goats and mice”

Zero hour

The Germans refer to it as Stunde Null, or “Zero Hour.” It was the moment when Germany had lost World War II, her cities bombed to rubble, the NAZI apparatus destroyed. It was as if the prone body of a nation died, flat lined for a moment. Then, after a terrifying moment when everyone watched, breath bated, a pulse began again.

It’s interesting to note the change in Germany in 1945: Continue reading “Zero hour”

Taking it for granted

One of my favorite lines in hymns comes from the great Scandinavian anthem “How Great Thou Art.”

“And when I think, that God his son not sparing
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” (Karl Boberg).

I “get” the attraction of the first two verses. Many of us live in urban areas and feel harried and harassed. We long for the times we can gaze at the stars on a clear night, or on a mountainside, the breeze blowing gently and the birds “singing sweetly in the trees.” Continue reading “Taking it for granted”

Our highest love

I guess it’s not a very well known song these days. It makes use of archaic verb endings, and is as “contemporary” as a Mozart sonata. It is the first phrase that sticks out like an iceberg in the Kalahari:

“Lord of our highest love, let now thy peace be given,
Fix all our thoughts on thee above, our hearts on thee in heaven” (Gilbert Tickle).

It is a “Communion song,” the following verses a study on the emblems of the Lord’s Supper. But that first phrase still calls us: We might love many things, family, country, or music, or the out of doors, not bad things in themselves, but the Lord is, or should be our highest love. Continue reading “Our highest love”

Not feeling at home here

Someone said it well: During the Great Depression many Christians sang of heaven, but we don’t do that so much anymore because we have it so good right now, on earth.

Think for a moment of the many songs of heaven that came from that difficult era: “An Empty Mansion,” (1937); “Beyond the Sunset,” 1936; “Heaven Holds All for Me” (1932); “In Heaven They’re Singing” (1937); “No Tears in Heaven” (1935); “Paradise Valley” (1935), and so on.

One song writer expresses it this way: “Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven” (F.M. Lehman, “No Disappointment in Heaven.”) It’s an interesting, yet true thought to be homesick for a place we have never actually seen. Continue reading “Not feeling at home here”

Spilt blood

It was actually a good question. We had just sung the great song “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and someone asked a question about the following lines:

“Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the lamb was spilt” (Julia H. Johnston).

The phrase “blood of the lamb was spilt” sounds as if Jesus’ blood was spilt accidentally. “Surely that’s not right,” the questioner asked, “Jesus offered his blood on the cross very deliberately, in order to save us from sin.” Continue reading “Spilt blood”

For me

“Alas and did my savior bleed, and did my sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a one as I?” (Isaac Watts)

If you are a little older you will notice something about these lines from the familiar song, “At the Cross”: Isaac Watts distinctly did not write “for such a one as I.” You might recall he said, instead, “for such a worm as I.” This seems to be a form of verbal airbrushing.

I don’t know if the PC Police got in on this one. Did some devotee of “I’m OK, You’re OK” (a best seller by Thomas Harris) object that we ought not to be calling ourselves after the icky creatures lacking limbs? Continue reading “For me”

To serve, or be served

Follow me in this scenario: A church member attends church for years. Though he or she attends fairly regularly, he adds nothing consistently to the efforts of the church. He does not teach a Bible class, does not repair widow’s storm doors, does not look up visitors to church.

How long does it take to develop a habit? Thirty days?

This church member now has a well-established habit of not adding to the church’s success in any way.

So let’s begin with one central question: Is it the church’s function to serve us, or is it a vehicle by which we can serve? Continue reading “To serve, or be served”

Graduation to glory

We lost two great men this week to the cause of Christ. Or, more accurately, two great men graduated to glory. Parker Henderson, missionary to Thailand and Trinidad, and Doyle Gilliam, missionary to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Together they spent close to a century as missionaries. The number of conversions to Christ is known to none but the Lord alone.

I knew and respected brother Henderson from a distance. I wish I could do justice in expressing my admiration for his lifetime of service. I was, however, privileged to know Doyle Gilliam personally. He was a scholar, an author, dignified, and humorous. He was a very good preacher, but an even better teacher. He became fluent in the Chichewa language, preaching and conversing in it with ease. He served for a number of years in the midst of a civil war, and was most adept at developing long-term relationships with brethren in southern Africa. He took time for a foolish teenager who had, well, questions. Continue reading “Graduation to glory”