New Music or Music of a New Kind?

Across the landscape of “Christendom” today, the foundations of everything held dear and true to the people of God for centuries has been rethought and retaught.  Foundational principles have been vilified and mocked.  The Bible has been replaced, revised and retarded.  Music has been rewritten and redefined.

Public worship has suffered the same fate.  In many places, we no longer minister, we perform. The abode of the pulpit is not a platform but rather a stage.  We no longer sing in the old-fashioned way in simplicity, but rather cloud the platform with divas that push to the side the pulpit and the man of God.  It is that old-time touch of God on simplicity that we crave!  It is that foundation of biblicism, simplicity and truth glaringly missing from our churches.

Recently, I was with a young man who attends a prominent, denominational church in town.  He chronicled the tug-of-war taking place in his church.  The battle was generational!  The traditional, “foundational” members of age were on one side, and the state-of-the-art millennials were on the other.  Rather than offering separate services, the church had opted to blend both worship styles into one hot mess!  He then unequivocally expressed their goal to entirely push out the old music (and people) and replace it with the new.

However, is the problem really “old versus new,” or is the problem better classified “old versus new kind?”

In 17th century England, it was the practice of almost every congregation of England to sing only Old Testament psalms in public worship. Over the years, Isaac Watts, a Nonconformist, had grown indifferent to this liturgical style and felt that the psalms did not radiate with gospel light contained in the New Testament, nor could “easily and naturally be accommodated to the various occasions of Christian life.”

“To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips,” Watts wrote, “might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.”  It was clear to Watts that a new contribution be made to church music.

From age 20 to 22, “Hymns poured from his pen with the impetus of true genius.”  Watts retooled the psalms into an elegant tapestry of piety and freshness.  Psalm 98 became, “Joy to the World, ”  Psalm 72 became, “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun,” and Psalm 90 became, “O God our Help in Ages Past.”  Other works were written, such as, “At the Cross,” “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” and 600 more!

Accordingly, in 1707 Watts produced a new hymnal, entitled, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. His work, however, was not immediately seen as a welcomed contribution to church music.   His protestors exclaimed, “Christian congregations have shut out divinely inspired psalms and taken in Watts’s flights of fancy,” while others labeled Watt’s hymns, “Watts’s whims.”

In the preface to Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Watts addresses the worship situation of his time and offers a defense for writing and publishing new music.

Many Ministers and many private Christians have long groaned under this Inconvenience, and have wished rather than attempted a Reformation: At their importunate and repeated Requests I have for some Years past devoted many Hours of leisure to this Service. Far be it from my Thoughts to lay aside the Psalms of David in public Worship; few can pretend so great a Value for them as my self … But it must be acknowledged still, that there are a thousand Lines in it which were not made for a Saint in our Day, to assume as his own; There are also many deficiencies of Light and Glory which our Lord Jesus and his Apostles have supplied in the Writings of the New Testament; and with this Advantage I have composed these spiritual Songs which are now presented to the World.

Today, we look on his work as irreplaceable genius and worthy of perpetuity.  The question then is, “Is what is happening now in church music akin to what plagued the heart of Watts over 300 years ago.”  Worship had become stale and lifeless in England’s churches.  Fire was needed!  However, what was needed was not a new form, a new foundation, a new kind of music.  What was needed was fresh fire to fall on old altars!

So today, we are told that new music is the key to the future and a magical panacea to reach young families.  Using Watts’s story, please observe the following statements:

Music is not valuable simply because it is old!

An old thing might indeed just be an old thing!  In antique shops there are highly valuable items, as well as things of little or no value.  A trained eye looks for older pieces with intrinsic value.  Consider that we sing a half millennium later, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  That is an old song with great value!  With no promise of preservation, as was assigned by our Lord to the Holy Scriptures, many songs are lost in time.

New music is not necessarily a wicked thing! 

When we speak of music, we ought to consider the spirit, the substance and the sound.  A new song may quite easily be used to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.  However, if it emanates from the Charismatic, praise and worship world, we ought to question “of what sort it is” in relation to its spirit.  If it is published by a “vanilla” publication house, selling to all denominations, we ought to question of what substance it is.  Is it strong doctrinally, and does it speak specifically of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Also, is the sound wholesome, holy and distinctively Christian, or, as my eight year old son once said, “Daddy, it sounds like Rock-n-Roll with Jesus’ name in it”?

That being said, there are many new songs we sing that are powerful additions to our services that are, as was ascribed to Watts, “elegant, yet full of piety” in spirit, substance, and sound.

Every old-fashioned church is not lifeless!

Don’t buy that lie!  That snake-oil salesman, the Devil, is profiting mightily on that one.  Are there lifeless churches, allegiant to the right music?  Yes!  Are there song leaders lifelessly leading congregations through the service?  Yes!  BUT, not every old-fashioned church is lifeless!  If you were privileged to go where I go, you would see joyful, happy, and sacred singing that points men and women to the God of the Bible!  You would hear the shouts of the people of God!  You would shout, cry, meditate and even stand in awe of God in relative silence!  Our Lord is not without “true worshippers” in these last days.

New music does not need to betray old principles!  If it does, it should not be labeled “new,” but rather of a new kind.  

Beloved, let us be cautious in our words, lest someone perceive we are against any new music.  We are against music of a new kind!  We are openly and vocally against music that preaches another gospel or not one at all! We are against music that speaks of God in the impersonal pronoun “He” or “You.”  We are against songs that can be sung on the country music stage and in the church house!  We are against musical styles that appeal to the flesh and the soul, leaving the spirit thirsty and unfed.

Interestingly, the producers of new music have been quite willing to label it as a new kind.   It is called “Praise and Worship” or “Contemporary.”  Why do many fundamental brethren have difficulty seeing that?

The Consecration Poet of England

While the American continent was being richly blessed with the hymns of Fanny Crosby, England’s hymnody was being written with the pen of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879). She, sixteen years Crosby’s junior, said of blind Fanny, “Her heart can see!” The truth be told, Havergal had the same spiritual perception to make much of Jesus through music.

It was a deep and abiding well within Havergal that led to the writing of her glorious anthems. She was a sanctified vessel, meet for the master’s use. Educated in English and German boarding schools, she became a scholar of the Hebrew and Greek langauge, a brilliant pianist and vocalist, as well as a student of the Bible, having memorized much of the New Testament as well as the Psalms, Isaiah and the Minor Prophets. Out of this well the Holy Spirit drew such hymns as, “Like a River Glorious,” “I Could Not Do Without Thee,” “I Gave My Life for Thee” and many more. Based on her recurring theme of surrender and devotion this “Sweetest Voice of Hymnody” also became known as “The Consecration Poet.”

She once exclaimed, “I believe my King suggests a thought, and whispers me a musical line or two, and then I look up and thank Him delightedly and go on with it. That is how my hymns come.”

To many believers, “Take My Life and Let it Be” would be the masterpiece of her sacred collection. The lyrics of this hymn do indeed etch into human hearts the need for personal surrender to Christ.

In February of 1874, Miss Havergal had gone to London for a visit of five days. There in the home of the family she was visiting were ten persons, some not converted and those who were converted had lost the joy of salvation. Through the prayers of her burdened heart, she prayed that within those five days each of them might receive a blessing. Indeed, they did! By week’s end, all ten persons were either saved or renewed in Christian joy.

As she retired to her room the last night, she experienced a blessed sleeplessness. She was too happy to sleep! She rather spent the night in praise and prayer that God might renew her own consecration. In that night, the words to this song were born.

“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to thee,
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise”

Havergal thought of her vast musical abilities. She was expertly versed in the performance and interpretation of the music greats, especially Handel, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven. Her singing voice was that of an angel. But after considering that all her talents were on loan from the Lord Jesus, she determined not to use her voice for secular purposes, but would wholly give her voice to the singing and playing of sacred songs.

“Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee”

Remarkably, neither fame, fortune, nor the franchising of her musical and intellectual accomplishments owned her; Christ did. Every word of this timeless hymn was sincerely phrased! She at once gathered together her many fine pieces of jewelry and family heirlooms and shipped them to a church missionary house to be used in financing evangelistic meetings. She reported that she with “extreme delight” surrendered fifty items. She then sang,

“Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose”

At forty-two years of age, Havergal caught a severe cold which caused inflammation in the lungs. She had often stated, “Thy will be done is not a sigh, but only a song.” Hearing that her life was in danger, Havergal exclaimed, “If I am really going, it is too good to be true! Splendid! To be so near the gates of Heaven!” Fading from earth’s shore to Glory’s, she drew into her lungs the breath that would expel her final feelings, “Jesus, I will trust Thee, trust Thee with my soul!” Then, she looked up steadfastly toward Heaven, as if she had seen the Lord. Her sister recounted, “For ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her King, and her countenance was so glad, as if she were already talking to Him!”

“Take my love– my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself–and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee”

From the soul of a man abiding in Christ will not emanate the sensual songs of the world and the sweet songs of Zion. The Bible says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear,” (I Peter 3:15).

Many today have “blended” the songs of Zion with the tunes and jingles of a world gone mad. Bible-believing Christians have swallowed the lie that what you listen to at the church house should be sacred but what you listen to and enjoy at your house is personal. Such error has led to the secularizing of sacred music and the acceptance of cultural trends that are racing quickly away from the heart of a Thrice-Holy God.

Sadly, America has been adversely affected by our compromises. Not only has our nation not seen a revival “under the influence” of modern Bible versions, but she has also not seen a great revival with contemporary sounds wafting from the platform either! Oh, how we need to be people of God, sanctified, separated, sold-out, spiritual, sensible and sincere again! May the songs of Zion permeate our choirs, cars and, yes, the corridors of our homes. May each believer today echo the clarion call of Christ-likeness which proceeded from “The Consecration Poet’s” heart: “Always, only for my King,”

Where Did That Come From?

In examininig the music issue, one of the basic questions that steers us through these mighty waters of change is, “Where did it begin?” If directions determine destinations, and they do, we must be ultimately cautious and mindful of an issue’s beginnings.

In Exodus chapter number thirty-two, the people of God were congregated at Sinai. That mountain became, for all time, synonymous with the law given by God to Moses. During these seasons of revelation, Moses received much from God. He not only received two tables of stone upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments, but he also received dietary, civil, and religious law, as well as, the pattern of the Tabernacle.

When the Tabernacle pattern, portraying the person of Christ, was yet to be given to Bezaleel, Satan entered the camp and offered a delusion to the people, in order to receive worship from them, which he knew should belong to God.

As we read the story of the Israelites, our imaginations struggle to understand from whence a golden calf would come. What does one discern of the broken jewelry, the naked dancing, and the mindless eating and drinking? Where did THAT come from?

The Bible says in verse one, “And when the poeple saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not which is become of him,” and so he did. The text says in verse four, “And he received them [golden earrings] at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” These “gods” were a “molten calf.” Where did THAT come from? It came from Egypt!

For four hundred and thirty years, the children of Israel germinated and grew in the land of Egypt. Without a sacrifice, a prophet, or a Tabernacle, the people of God acclimated to Egyptian life. Knowing that their sacrificial system of lambs was abominable to the Egyptians (Gen. 46:34), it had been centuries since they had worshipped God in spirit and in truth.

In the fulness of time, Moses came riding into town on a stammering tongue. “Thus saith the LORD of Israel, Let my people go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness,” (Exodus 5:1) became the echoing cry of the Deliverer through the corridors of Pharoah’s palace. As Pharoah’s heart was hardened, God visited Egypt on the vengeful chariot of ten plagues. Each plague was a direct assault on a deity worshiped in Egypt.

The Bible says in chapter nine of Exodus beginning in verse one, “Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharoah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.”

Apis was the sacred bull of Memphis who symbolized fertility and strength in war. Born with sacred markings on its head the Apis bull was housed in plush quarters, given the best of food and would live out its days in luxury. At its death this deity of Egypt would be embalmed and mummified in sacred burials grounds. In Memphis in recent years archaeologists have discovered these elaborate tombs.

In religious life, the Apis was a manifestation of Ptah upon the earth. Ptah was the creator god. In the form of a ravaging disease, God cursed this idolatrous thought of Egypt!

Getting the Iraelites out of Egypt was one thing, but ridding Egyptian idolatry out of the Hebrews was quite another! At Sinai, Moses implored the people, “Take time to be holy! God has said that on the third day He is coming down! We must be ready! THE Creator God is coming!” (19:11).

In chapter thirty-two Moses delayed to come down to the people and they reverted back to their Egyptian influence, fashioning an Apis bull and worshipping at its feet. Ptah as Creator and Apis as his manifestation on earth received the adoration of the people of God!

There was evil, false worship in the visible (Apis) and evil, godless worship in the invisible (Ptah). When what is visible is false, then that which is worshipped behind it is a lie and a deceiver!

The Apostle Paul said, “What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (I Cor. 10:19-20).

As we think of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) as a genre, may we ask, “Where did THAT come from?” For if the visible is faulty, fraudulent or fake, then that which is worshipped behind it is a lie and a deceiver!

Lonnie Frisbee was born into a shattered home of abuse and drugs on June 6, 1949 in Costa Mesa, California.  Frisbee’s unofficial evangelism career began a soul-searching LSD acid-trip as part of a regular “turn on, tune in, drop out” session of getting high.  He would often read the Bible while tripping.  On one pilgrimage with friends to Palm Sprints, Frisbee started reading the Gospel of John to the group, instead of looking for meaning in mysticism and the occult. He eventually led the group to Tahquitz Falls and baptized them.   A later acid-trip in the same area produced “a vision of a vast sea of people crying out to the Lord for salvation, with Frisbee in front preaching the gospel.”

Throughout his life, he maintained a hippie appearance and practiced sodomy.  Frisbee functioned both publically as an evangelical preacher and privately as a gay man before and during his evangelism career. 

Meanwhile, in May 1977, John Wimber was laying the groundwork for what would become the Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement. He had witnessed the explosive growth of Calvary Chapel and sought to build a church that embraced the healings and miracles that he had previously been taught were no longer a part of Christian life. He began teaching and preaching about spiritual gifts and healings, but it wasn’t until May 1980 when Frisbee testified that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit took hold of the church.

Frisbee was then invited by John Wimber to the Calvary Chapel to preach. Since his early days at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Frisbee had made a shift in his emphasis from evangelism to the dramatic and demonstrative manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Riding on the waves of the Vineyard Movement’s popularity, Frisbee and Wimber began traveling the world, visiting South Africa and Europe. Frisbee was a much sought-after preacher with his “Jesus-like” look gaining him instant recognition from South Africa to Denmark.  While there, they performed many “healings” and “miracles” for people.

As reported by many in attendance, Frisbee was integral to the development of what would later become Wimber’s “Signs and Wonders theology” and became known as the father of a new genre of worship music, “Contemporary Christian Music.”

“Jesus music” became the worship music of the hippie crowd, who in the 1960’s and 1970’s, were convinced of the barenness of a lifestyle based on drugs, free sex, and radical politics. These “Jesus people,” called the Lord Jesus, “another trip.”  

Dear friend, THIS (Frisbee and Wimber) is where THAT (CCM) came from! CCM is reengineered, repackaged Egyptian worship. It is worship that exalts the world, the flesh, and, ultimately, Satan himself. It could be heard in Babylon in Daniel chapter three, and it will also play a key roll in the one-world church to come.

May we be ever mindful of Romans chapter one verse twenty-three where Paul exclaims, “Who changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

Our enemy is in this world to corrupt, confuse, and change the truth concerning our invisible God, and when the visible is from Egypt the invisible receiving worship behind it is a lie and deceiver. Selah!

Christmas Sunday Song Selection

Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, O Come All Ye Faithful!   All of these are wonderful songs, many of which we wait until after Thanksgiving to sing.  Alas!  Christmas arrives, and we sing them heartily, as well we should!

As you well-known this Sunday is what is commonly called, “Christmas Sunday.”  Christmas Sunday is the final Sunday before Christmas and is usually characterized by higher church attendance and the year’s strongest emphasis on the birth of Christ. For pastors it is one of the most anticipated sermons of the year.  For church musicians and vocalists it is a highly-anticipated day when many of our favorites are sung and played.   The two great questions for those in the Lord’s work are not, “What will I get for Christmas?” or “What shall I make for the family dinner?” but rather, “What in the world am I going to preach on Sunday,” and, “What am I going to sing on Christmas?”

Well do I remember my pastor teaching me that song selection is 75% Continue reading

“Love Music”

One of the chief take-a-ways from your reading of the Old Testament “church” narrative is that what begins with idolatry ends with gross immorality.

Recently, within a culture of so-called “progress” has come gross digression towards spiritual ruination.  True religion is not rotting because of the cultural decline in America; rather, the culture is declining because of that which many call “true worship” in 2014 America.  Within this ever-widening societal decline has been a deliberate attempt at re-inventing church.  “Traditional” has become the new 4-letter word of religious terms.

In many circles today the music of the church is set to the beat and groove of the world.  With that comes a lack of gender identification and modesty in dress.  This is the “come as you are, especially if you are immodest” generation.  We are now encouraged to approach God by casual means, instead of intentional holiness.

One observation concerning the new music and Contemporary theology is the blurring of the lines between the sexual and the sacred.  Yes, within the walls of what should be the world’s safest place (the local, New Testament church) is a blurred concept of love to God.   Continue reading

Rescue the Perishing & the Rest of the Story

Fanny Crosby was born in 1820. For many years she worked in the Bowery Mission in New York City, reaching lost souls for Christ. For years a pew held a plaque with this inscription to her: “Fanny Crosby occupied this seat on her many visits to this mission for over a period of 50 years. It was while sitting here that she received the inspiration for the great Gospel song, ‘Rescue the Perishing’.”

It was a hot, summer evening in the summer of 1869 when upon Fanny’s mind the thought came that in the meeting that night was a mother’s son who would be rescued that night or not at all. After her fervent plea for souls, a young man of eighteen years came to her and said, “Did you mean me? I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” They then prayed together and he received Christ!

A few days previous to that Mr. William Doane had sent her as a great subject for a hymn this thought, “Rescue the Perishing, care for the dying.” It was to this theme and upon the occasion of the young man’s conversion that we have this story.

But, as Paul Harvey would state, “Now, the rest of the story.” Continue reading

Brush Strokes

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not what you would call a “Mr. Fix-it.” In all seriousness, I would be lying if I did not tell you that in an attempt to replace a tube in my daughter’s bike tire on a hot Florida evening, the whole bike ended up in the trash can. Long story (even longer night!”).

However, I am not completely destitute in working with my hands around the house or the church. I am a painter. Over the past 9 months, I have rolled over 40 gallons of paint onto our new church building’s walls and almost completely painted the inside of our home. When someone walks into the church and asks who we hired to do the painting, I get a thrill out of the assertion that there was something that needed “fixing” that I accomplished with my hands!

A few weeks ago we were working in the nursery. A pastor friend’s wife had come to help us to paint a beautiful mural in the nursery. To be honest, that was not just painting, that was art! As we sketched our animals and features onto transparency paper and then onto the wall in pencil, the pain-staking detail of artistry became quite obvious. I was a painter but hardly an artist!

As I was “perfecting” a juvenile-styled goat on the wall, a church member walked in and said, “Wow! You’re an artist, too!” WAIT A MINUTE….SLOW DOWN! I paint, but I am not an artist!

As I meditated on the difference, the Holy Spirit showed me that the work of the Pastor/Teacher is to be both a painter and an artist. Allow me to amplify.

Painters normally work within great spaces. I remember walking through our building with its never-ending white walls (akin to me of the blank corridors of an insane asylum…and please don’t ask me how I know that!). There was this overwhelming feeling of the vastness of the project. Though there is tedious trim work that is done, the main goal of the painter is to take an exterior, a room, a space and survey the room with color.

The artist, however, sees large things and focuses in on the minute details. Artists spend hours on the accuracy of a face, a structure, a sunset, using a myriad of colors to capture their vision. The “Painter of Light,” Thomas Kincaid, made collectible masterpieces by placing within his celestial scenes, varying occurrences of the letter “N,” an homage to his wife, Nanette. Such details makes a man great!

As a preacher of the gospel, I am to be skilled in both the landscape and survey of Scripture, as well as the minute details of God’s Word. My job in preaching is to paint a background for the people, as well as to focus the hearts of the people onto smaller truths. I may spend thirty minutes on a survey of the book of Acts, or spend three months of the three missionary journeys of Paul. Both are necessary, but without the work of painting my backdrop, my artisan skill will be less effective.

If you are a church member reading this post, know that your pastor labors in doctrine and emphasizes the significance of each weekly service to act as both a painter and an artist on the canvas of your heart. Develop a habit of faithfulness to Sunday School and the preaching services your pastor offers. He wants you to see the big picture, as well as to teach you a great love and appreciation for the smallest truths in Scripture.

So, whether you are the man of God with the palette or the canvas in the pew, thank God for these varying brush strokes and for your opportunity to know God and to make Him known. Selah!