If you want to attract an honorable lady, be an honorable man.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christians and Music: The Ongoing Controversy

I typed this up ages ago, and I am now finally getting to post it. Sorry for the delay for those who were expecting it. I intend to say in one setting all my main arguments against CCM, in as clear and concise way as I can. Let's see how this goes.

Just a few short years ago, if you stepped into your average church on your average Sunday morning, when it came time to worship, you might have heard no music, maybe a piano, or a fiddle, or perhaps a organ if it was a big church with wealthy attendants. Maybe.

Nowadays, if you step into a modern mega-church on your average Sunday morning, you are likely to hear something radically different. Instead of Newton or Spafford, or some other old time hymn writer, you hear Mercy Me, or Third Day, or some other modern rendition of "praise and worship" music.

What happened?
So, this difference brings up several questions for the modern Christian.
Is modern worship music (CCM, Christian rap, rock, etc.) pleasing to God?
Is modern worship music uplifting to believers?
This is where it all ties into -
What is the standard for music? Who calls the shots?

This is a HUGE hot-button topic for reformed circles, the spectrum ranging from hymns only, to lots of hymns with some modern, to all modern, hymns are way too boring and people won't listen to it anyway.
So, to be fair, (since I have my own strong opinions on this topic), I will share both sides of the argument, and then draw conclusions. Let me state here, I do not know where to draw the line over exactly where music becomes displeasing to God. I merely wish to show the heresy of believing that we can use the world's standards of music and be pleasing to God, and how we must use EXTREME caution in this subject.

Let's start with the norm for modern Christians: CCM, Christian Rock, Christian rap, etc.
This to them is perfectly normal, and more often than not, they like it. The people who are aware of this argument that Rock, rap, etc., should not be in Christian spheres, almost always pull the same cards for their defense, the most frequent being "the Bible does not specify what types of music are sinful and not" or at least, that is the card they usually try to trump the other argument with. There is a plethora of others. Some say that it is an outreach to unbelievers, that if they put Christian words to music they like, it might get them saved, some say that they merely like the music, and since it had Christian words, they listen to it. Some say that only the heart matters and the outside doesn't, and the list goes on, changing depending upon the person.
Let's look at the other side. The other side says that rap and rock have seriously bad connotations, and Christians should never use them, they say that rap and rock is physically detrimental to your mind, and they say that rap and rock styles do not glorify God.

The question now boils down to: "Who's right?" or more ultimately, "Do we bide by the world's standards of music?" Then bigger yet, "How does God want us to worship him?"

Some people get upset right there, saying that liking rap and rock is not buying into the world's standards, if it has Christians words to it. This argument does not hold water. Think about it. Rock and Rap and Hip-Hop were started, and ruled, by the world. This is not to say that anything that is started and ruled by the world is inherently evil, (don't get me wrong here-movies, for example.) However, one could not just read the Bible, with a clean-slate mind, and have hip-hop and rock jump right out at you. In fact, if it wasn't for secular artists, we wouldn't even have rock and rap. Those genres are completely associated with rebellion to anything and everything.  The very definition and origin of "rock and roll" is "s** in the back seat of a car". That is where the term came from. Wikipedia says that term (although not in a a car) is used often in lots of rock songs blatantly referring to you-know-what.

Christian rock suddenly has a different meaning doesn't it?

Taking this clearly secular invention with horrible connotations, and trying to "Christianize" it, in my opinion, is taking a dead body, and sticking a sticker that says "living" across its forehead.

How about Rap? All of my digging shows that it started with African tribal chants, and developed from there to what it is today by various artists taking it one step at a time. This Genre has connotations as well, "gansta rap" being a example, it progressing from "chants" to what is is today. Evidently in recent years though, Rap and Hip-Hop have seen a decline in sales.  NPR culture critic Elizabeth Blair noted that, "some industry experts say young people are fed up with the violence, degrading imagery and lyrics" (sited from Wikipedia)
This genre has just as much evil associated with it as Rock, and to me, is out of the question.

What about the other arguments for Christian Rock or Rap?

One in particular I have heard, is that outside people, who like Rock and Rap, might listen to "Christian xyz" since they liked that style, and just might get saved. So let's look at that argument from a different angle. "If we make Christ a little more like the world, then maybe people might like him."

When shown in that light, it starts to pale a bit. Besides, what ever happened to the "let your light shine before men" part of Christianity? How can the world tell that we have the light if we're delivering that light wrapped in darkness? We as Christians are supposed to be different than the rest of the world, so that they may see our difference.

Imagine this scenario. A worldly rapper is siting in his car at the mall, windows rolled down, doors open, pumping rap, wearing gold chains, his hat sideways, and his pants a little low. Then another car pulls up next to him, the bass reverberating through the window. A man similarly dressed steps out, wearing his hat sideways, his britches a little low, and has gold earrings and a necklace. Now, just to be fair let's just say the new rapper dude (who just happens to be saved) goes up to worldly rapper dude and shares the gospel with him. What is rapper No.1 going to think? Rapper No.2 is communicating in loud terms that you don't have to change on the outside after you are saved. That leads to "being hearers of the Word" and no more. How are they supposed to see that we are different if we dress the same (that's a whole another issue) and listen to the same music?

That scene could be flipped to rockers as well, but the point is the same.

Another main stream argument I heard is that it's the heart that matters, not the outward appearance. So basically, you can look bad as long as your heart is good. You can listen to bad music that is ungodly and worldly and use it to worship God in your heart. I'll talk about in just a bit what happens to people who try to worship God their way. Their argument is that you just have to be sincere to be worshiping God right.
Well, the Muslims worship their god sincerely, so are they right with God? What about the Hindu's? Or the Greeks and Romans? They can be sincere as they like, but they are sincerely wrong. You have to worship the way God wants you to worship to be in fellowship with him, the whole topic of being saved besides.
Well, as a last card, Those who argue in favor of Christian Rock and Rap, throw down the final trump card and say "well, you can't prove to me that the Bible says that that type of music is wrong, in fact, it is unclear as to how we should worship." They usually stop there, but if they finished the thought, it dead ends into "so we can do it as we see best".

Nadab and Abihu found out the hard way in Leviticus that God doesn't take too kindly to people worshiping Him in ways that they think is best. :) Furthermore, that argument is based on the "normative principal" which, in layman's terms, is if the Bible doesn't forbid it, it's allowed. If that was the case, then tattoos would be allowed, and marijuana and crack would be just as righteous as coffee.

This is not consistent with scripture, and most people I talk to would agree heartily to the "regulative principal" but few would see that music ties into it.

But, (my mom hates it when I start a sentence with but :)) they do have a point, and this is where things get messy. The Bible does not say exactly what genres are allowed, and where exactly the lines are crossed when xyz happens. That is very true, which is what makes this so hard.

The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword, and as the saying goes, if you hit somebody with it, there is still a sharp edge on the other side to hit you with.

Who's to say that Christian country isn't forbidden as well? (I mean, I's a country boy arn't I?) After all, it is associated with plenty of bad stuff as well, although maybe not as much as Rock, and maybe it is a little more family friendly (although with some artists that's debatable....)  After all, all rappers and rockers tell the joke about what would happen if country music was played backwards. Your wife comes back, the dog lives again, the truck works. Whenever I am told that I always smile and ask what would happen if you played rap and rock backwards? I haven't ever got an answer back on that one..... :)

Anyway, you can't just point fingers at one crowd. You start questioning one type of music, you end up questioning all of music.

So, the odd thing about all of this, is that in this whole post, I have tried to show what is unacceptable, but have not actually shown what IS acceptable. This is also where it gets complicated.

I don't know exactly what is acceptable, but I do know the standard. All of music, all of its elements, all of its components, must all be balanced, and be pleasing to God, all at the same time. Not emphasizing one element of music above all the others, and balancing all the instruments to God's glory. We can't have words that glorify God with un-glorifying music, or vice-a-versa. We all know the instrument is not the issue, to a certain extent. A simple guitar can be used rightly, or be jammed out with an amplifier wrongly. A simple drum can add solidity to the background of a song rightly, or it can be booming in your ears over everything else wrongly.

So it all boils down not to what you play, but how you play it.

However, not all music must have overtly gospel themes, but must all be in its entirety glorifying to God. Saying that all music must have the gospel in it is like saying that all Christian movies must have the written out, overtly obvious gospel message, or saying that all Christian photographers can only take pictures of crosses. Both of those can be used for evil (movies and photos) but they also can be used for good. We must make sure that it aligns with God's character and essence, and brings glory to Him. You can bring glory to Him in a photo of His magnificent creation, or a photo of a loved one, made in His image, etc. Then again, that same camera can be used by a porn photographer for blatant evil. Again, it must be ALL glorifying to Him, not just glorifying Him in one aspect. Where does that line get drawn? Again, I simply don't know.
This issue is so sticky, and is tied to so many peoples emotional buttons, the only reason I dared to bring it up was due to a few questions asked at church once, and a blog post on a friend's blog supporting CCM. I wanted to share what I believe is the truth on this subject, to clear up any and all doubt regarding this issue.

So, evaluate all of your music, pray hard, and see if all of your music is living up to God's standards. After that, post your thoughts, or any other arguments going either way on this. I would love some real good conversations going on in the comments. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pistol Packin Mamma: Girls with Guns

Here in the USA, its really no biggy to see a man walking by with a pistol strapped to his hip or thigh, an extra swing in his step and a steely glance checking the crowd for any suspicious activity. A man in in a camo or cowboy hat is almost synonymous with handguns and quick-draws.

However, when we see a lady toting a handgun, or even hear about it, one of two responses occurs.

We either think she is a police officer, or a redneck.

Ok, maybe those aren't the only responses, but you get the point. Seeing a girl with a gun knocks us off of our script a bit. Some of us don't have a problem with it, some even think it is a smart idea in concept, but we still seem a bit leery about the concept of the average female with a boom-stick in her purse or in a fanny pack.

Why? Why is this such a foreign concept to us, that we gawk and stare twice when we see one passing us by in the store?

I'm not going to deal with the issue of how guns are becoming increasingly looked down upon, and their owners thought to be terrorist control-freaks.
What I do intend to deal with is the fact that I believe, based on a Biblical precept, that all girls should carry either a gun, or some decent means of self defense. Guns just so happen to be the best mode of self defense out there.
So, Biblical reasons for girls with guns.
Well, if your gonna have any discussion about godly girls, the first place to look it Proverbs 31.

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.  (Pro 31:11)

Now, this verse can be applied in a host of ways, but I would make the case it can apply to self defense as well. I, as a future husband, will rest much better knowing that my wife can stick up for herself and the kids in a tight spot if I am unavailable.

Now wait a cotton-pickin minute, you say. It's the husbands role to protect his wife and family, not the wife's.

True. If I am home, or there with them, any antagonist is gonna have to get through me. (Let me tell you folks, that isn't gonna be pretty).
Believe me, you do NOT want to be down-range.

Anyway, what about when I am not there? What then? You can't say just never leave your wife. (Although I wouldn't complain being always with her :) ) You can't be with your wife every second of every day. There is going to be times, no matter how hard you try not to, when you are going to have to go someplace without your wife, or vice-a-versa.

Most people shrug their shoulders right there and say "Well, I guess that's when you have faith."
Ok, so that logic goes like this. Neglecting the fact that there is a big and scary world out there, we are going to shut our eyes and pretend everything is ok, and send your wife into the big blue un-armed. I don't call that faith. I call that ignorance and stupidity. Faith is believing that what God said is true, is true. Sending a defenseless woman and kids into a potentially hostile situation, and saying that is "faith", is just plain baloney. They back it up by saying that if you have faith, you will believe that God will take care of you, despite your lack of providing for them. That's like not going to work, because "God says he will provide for me and my family, so therefore I have faith if I sit back and do nothing."

Folks, that isn't faith. Faith is knowing that God commanded you to provide for your family, believing that He is right, and acting upon it. So if you know that God commands you to provide for your family, it is faith to go and do so.  

Now hold another cotton-pickin minute, you say. What are the odds of your wife getting pulled into a back alley by a masked marauder?

Well, not very much, but hold it right there.
You lock your car don't you? I mean, what's the odds of getting your car stolen? You lock your doors at night don't you? What are the odds that you will have your house broken into?

Just because something doesn't happen very often to you doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared for it.
A favorite saying of mine, is I would rather have a gun and not need it, than need a gun and not have it. The same applies for locking your car and house, etc.

Pro 22:3  A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.

This verse makes it clear that if we are wise, we will take steps to avoid bad things, and those who don't will be punished.

Now, avoiding bad things might be not shopping in a bad area of town. Not shopping after a certain hour at night. Avoiding suspicious looking people in the store. Those could all very well be ways of avoiding evil, but I would make the case that so is carrying a handgun, just in case evil comes looking for you.

So, you say, the husband has the role to protect his wife. True. VERY true. However, if a man carries a gun faithfully all the time for the sake of the defense of his family, but fails to provide safety for them when he is not there, I would say this falls into the category of 1 Timothy 5:8.

1Ti 5:8  But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

That verse is usually used to make the point of providing for your family spiritually and physically. Isn't providing them with a method to defend themselves qualify as "providing for his own?"

Ok, ok, you say, I get the point. Seriously though, does every girl out there have to be toting a Dirty-Harry? Is a gun overkill in some situations?

Well, there are other options. Pepper spray, tasers, stuff like that, they are all useful and effective, but none of them are half as effective as a good ole handgun when the going gets rough. You can slow down and make one attacker cranky with pepper spray - but what about three? Tasers are normally good for one or two shots - what if you need more?

Now, granted, you can't be prepared for every possible situation out there, but it is our job to make a decent attempt to try to be ready. I believe a good handgun is the best all-around defense for any situation.

Men must protect their family, plain and simple. It is his Biblical duty, and should therefore be willing to do whatever it takes to do it. If that means carrying a gun, do it. If it means killing that intruder for the sake of the lives of your family, do it. If it means dying for your wife so she can live, do it.
If it means getting her a gun to carry when you are not there - do it.

We should be willing to defend our family. We should be willing to carry means of self defense for our selves and family. We should be willing to die for our wives and kids.
We should provide for them so they can defend themselves.

So do it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No Pain: No Gain

Ok, so the title is a bit of a cliche, but hey, truth never goes out of style.
Imagine with me. You are 5, out in the backyard armed with hammer and nails, building a birdhouse. Your thoughts are filled with showing your dad when he comes home, and absentmindedly hammering away at the nearest nail, you miss and squash your thumb. You jump up screaming, go running into the house into your moms arms, and she kisses it, blows on it, hugs you, and tells you to go play outside again.
You're now 10, and you are helping your dad build a shed. You are proud to be helping your dad do something, and in your arrogance, you smash your thumb with a bigger, badder hammer than before. You make a funny face, wave your hand in the air hoping somehow it will ease the pain you feel in you mangled appendage, and after biting your lip to keep from hollering, you continue on, not using that hand as much as possible.
Now, you're 24, and you are building your own shed in your own back yard, a toddler watching you from the sliding glass door. You glance at him as you are putting in the last nail, and before you know it, you have done it again. Your thumb is telling you in no uncertain terms just how much that blow did not land where it was intended. But you wince, flop it around a bit, and get back to work.
What changed? Was it the place? Air pollution generally doesn't help to ease pain.
Was it the hammer? As time went on, the hammers got heavier and gnarlier.
It certainly wasn't the nail.
What changed is you got used to the pain. You pain tolerance increased and you are able to take more pain with less reaction. You are able to hit your thumb harder than you did before and react less than you did before. That's called building a pain tolerance. I have built a pain tolerance in many things more than when I was younger, because I have been beat up, worked, roughed up, and knocked about as a young man, and things hurt less now than they used to.
God gives us things in life, to toughen us up for things in the future. God let you hit your thumb when you were 5 so it would hurt less when you were 10, and even less when you were 24. The more pain we have, the more we get used to it, and learn to cope with it. In fact, I am pretty certain the only way we can ever have any tolerance to any pain, is because we have done it a few hundred times beforehand, and gotten used to it. It goes beyond just physical pain, but spiritual pain as well.
That being said, I need to classify pain. There are two types of pain. Physical, and Spiritual. Both can happen for perfectly normal reasons, both can happen because you made bad choices and are now reaping the consequences of your decision. You can hit your finger with your hammer because you merely missed the nail, or because you were being proud and God was humbling you a bit. That's the physical pain. You can feel hurt inside because your boss said something that really cut deep, just because he was in a bad mood, or because you were outa line and God was using him to get you back in line. All are legitimate examples of pain in our lives, but different circumstances and reasons.
As a general populace, we don't like pain. Pain is discouraged, avoided, and worked around at all costs - literally. One only has to look in Walmart to prove it. You have a pain killer for every type of pain out there. Stomach pain? We have the food isle. Mental pain? The self-help magazine isle. Physical pain? Drugs and steroids over the counter.
We even as Christians can be obsessed with avoiding pain. We will try to avoid conflict, because we don't want to deal with the pain that follows. We don't want to deal with the sin in our own lives, because ouch, that hurts.
The only problem is that we tend to forget that God allows pain in our lives to help us. Our pastor put it very well. Pain always changes you. It makes you do one of two things. You either seek God more, or become bitter.
So that pain you feel when you were hurt by what your mom said, will either drive you closer to God, or farther away. That pain you feel when you were belittled by your big brother will either drive you closer to God or farther away. Everything will do one or the other - but not both or none. What pain does, is either increase or decrease your faith. It either makes you believes less in God, and more in your own personal self, or less in you, and more in the big and powerful God.
You have a choice when you are hurt. You can take that pain, nurture it, stew it, put it in a pot and sick back and fertilize it, and deal with it in your own time and way, driving a wedge of bitterness and hurt in-between you and God. Or, you can feel hurt, take that pain to God, and say "Here, I'm hurt. I really want to get back and be mad, but I want to please you. Please take this hurt away and make me love them more like Christ." You just drew closer to God, and it was the pain that brought you around to doing it. To top it all off, that process of going to God with your pain, is building your faith. You believed Him when he told you to cast all your cares on him. You believed Him when he said  pray for those who despitefully use you. Faith is believing what God said is real, is real. You know what you believe, by what you do. If you had turned away from him and nurtured your hurt, you would have been not believing Him, since you obviously thought your own way was better.
I heard a phrase once, that wen't something like this. If you have faith when things are going easy, life is smooth, sky is sunny, that's not really faith. Faith is when the world is falling apart around you, you have nowhere to turn, you can't do anything, but you still believe in the the one who can. That is faith, and one of the ways God uses to get us there is by pain.
Its that pain that acts as a warning and a reminder to keep on track with what God wants us to be doing. If we didn't have problems and pain every time we strayed from God, I doubt we would ever come back!
Now, it must be clearly understood that not all pain comes from bad choices. Job for example. He was righteous before God, but God still allowed pain and suffering to happen to him, to test his faith and patience. We might tend to think that we shouldn't have to have pain because we never did anything, and things are always fine and dandy when you are following God. Well, Jesus blows that idea out of the water. He NEVER did anything even remotely wrong, but he came and suffered and died, with LOADS of pain, so that we might be saved. So the argument of you only have pain when you slipped up somewhere doesn't really hold up.
I find the times in my life I grow the most in trusting and following God, is when things are tough, nobody is cooperating, and life is merely crumbling around me. That's when God shows me how much I really stink and how much I need him. I grow in faith, and I grow in obeying him in trials.
I heard a quote once, that went something like this.
"We as a people aren't happy, not because we don't have enough things to make us happy, but we aren't happy because we don't have enough things to make us sad."
Pain and suffering also makes us appreciate peace and ease more than before! If you have been through some really tough times, physically of spiritually, you realize how nice and easy your life was before, and you appreciate those calm times more often.
To sum it all up, God uses pain to our benefit, and if there is no pain, there is no gain.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose"  - Romans 8:28
So get used to pain, and see what you can learn from it along the way. Turn to God with all of your pains, physical and spiritual, and ask him to help you bear all of them.
This here is mainly for the men, but the girls can too: Next time you have decent physical pain, i.e. headache, just hand your hand clobbered in a sword fight, feet are killing you from a long hike, etc., see how long you can take it without caving in. You'd be surprised how far you can go and how much pain you can tolerate if you really push yourself. I've tried it recently, and I've amazed myself. We tend to give in at pretty minimal pain overall, when we in reality could take a lot more and keep going. Granted, there is a point where it is prudent to stop and let things rest and recuperate a bit, but that point is a lot farther down the line than we think.
So be ready next time something hurts. You just might learn something.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 In Review

I know about everybody is doing some sort of post at the end of one year and the beginning of another. So, this post will be completely expected. Nonetheless, I wanted to share the highlights of this year - and let me tell you, its been a good year. There is no real order, just random good stories of my life, that stick out strong in my memory, and what I learned from them.
In June, we went to Colorado and got my giant puppy Dixie. Colorado was a great trip, and I learned how to trim horses feet, primp a steer for a show, and got a tiny bit more practice at riding. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was delightful, and the dog we got in the deal is a dog like no other.
Yes, she's huge - at only around 8 months old.

This year, my parents handed over control of my finances to me. Except for food and shelter, I pay for everything I need now. This has been a huge learning process on handling budgets, and let me tell you, I have made quite a few blunders along the way. Although none of them were serious, I learned loads from them, and have been forced to grow in maturity and self control.
This year, I started carrying a handgun, and with the generous help of my parents, bought my own self-defense handgun. I did a post on it earlier in the year, with pictures. It has helped me learn the massive responsibility of carrying a loaded firearm on a daily basis and the handling of such a great privilege and honor.
This year I started learning how to butcher animals of all shapes and sizes, and am currently being trained by our butcher in quartering cattle. This has been a great privilege that was offered to me by the butcher, and I am learning a trade to support myself with.
This year on an ordinary day I went to a friends house and my ordinary day was changed forever when I roped their cow to move it to a pen in another part of the yard. Upon roping it, my friends were dragged about, and I was dragged across the yard, and through two laps of bougainvillea, when the cow finally stopped in a corner. I emerged with only one scratch, which I still bear on my right arm in scar form. I learned to always have more than one person holding the rope when a cow takes a notion to run - either that or let go.
This year I saw the best movie I have ever seen. Courageous changed my life forever with its stunning message and down-home application for fathers and men. I learned how great was my responsibility as a man and what I must do as one.
This year I received my very own laptop for my birthday, which I am typing on now. I learned (more like still learning) to manage my time wisely on it, and to use it for good and not wasting time.
This year I took the trip of a lifetime with my dad to Manassas, Virginia, to participate in the 150th anniversary of the battle that took place there in the Civil War. I learned what heat + humidity equals - misery. The Battle was fun, the heat was not. With a heat index of 120, I learned to appreciate a dry heat like never before.
This year I started a blog. (I bet you didn't know that....)
It has been a great way to broadcast Christ and his name through various subjects, movie reviews and happening in my life, to bring glory to Him. I pray God lets me use my simple thoughts to share his Truth and providence with all you devoted followers. :)
This year I grew so much in faith and knowledge of the Bible, in ways I never knew I could. Through thick and thin, God has been and is teaching me to love Him, serve Him, follow Him, and have faith in Him like never before. 2011 has been a monument of spiritual growth in my life, and I hope this next year trumps it.
I'm still a big ole' sinner, "chief of sinners" as Paul says, but I hope I'm a little less chief than I was before. :)
This year I learned the importance of living my own faith, and reading his word daily. I botch this so bad, and my life tells when I do, that I have been forced over and over back to God's word for my very living.
I could go on, but the list is endless.
God is good, and that's all I can say. Let's make the most of this next year to be more like him, less like us, and get his message out. I mean that, I mean to do that, to the best of my ability, and I hope the rest of you will tag along for the ride.
Who's with me?