I’ve had a interesting journey when it comes to music. The first music I ever remember being exposed to was church music. Occasionally, someone will bring up a worship song I haven’t heard in over thirty plus years but I remember it and remember every word. It’s incredible what gets lodged way back in the recesses of my brain.
It actually happened this last Sunday in our pre-service prayer time. I looked around at the circle of saints about to serve God and His people and I smiled and said, “This is the day the LORD has made.” Bill is a gray haired grandpa in our church with both his kids and grandkids in our church, and he is almost always smiling. He immediately responded to my comment saying, “I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Once he said that another gal in our group started singing the song “This Is The Day” which came out in 1975 written by Aksel J. Smith. I immediately joined in and discovered I still knew the tune and every line.
My first exposure to “non-Christian” music was when I was in fifth grade. A friend gave me two tapes, MC Hammer’s “Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em” and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic.” I would secretly listen to them on my yellow Walkmen until my parents discovered and confiscated them. They were the first of many albums I acquired that would be seized and thrown away.
I fell in love with music and once I was in high school I signed up for BMG music service, who let you order ten CDs for a penny! It was great. I think I ended up signing up five or six times under different names. I’m still not sure how that worked! But it all stopped when my dad discovered Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Pennywise and Bad Religion in my collection. They ended up joining their predecessors in the garbage and I learned to hide my music better. It never quite made sense to me because my dad loved to listen to artists like Elvis, the Beatles, Randy Travis and Merl Haggard. I didn’t see the difference, why my music was “non-Christian” but his was okay? I guess mine was just really really “non-Christian.”
It was around that time I said goodbye to Christianity all together and worked on building my musical library. By the time I went away to college I had two huge binders full of “non-Christian” CDs I loved. But during my freshman year of college God put some dudes in my life who introduced me to Jesus which ended up changing my life forever.
I began reading the Bible for the first time and became a Christian. For most of my life I’ve been an all or nothing kind of guy. If I’m going to do something I want to do it all the way. So when I became a Christian I immediately stopped doing all the “bad stuff” over night. I quit cussing, drinking, smoking and I threw away all my non-Christian music.
A few years later when I was recently married and in graduate school I discovered none of those things were in the Bible and had nothing to do with being a Christian. I immediately regretted getting rid of all that my music and started working on re-purchasing all my treasured music. It helped a lot when I got a job at a record store called “Second Spin”, which bought and sold new and used CDs. I ended up working there for a few years and and eventually became a manager, which was my first “tent-making job“ (employment to financially support vocational ministry) while I started The Resolved Church.
During my five or six year personal ban of “non-Christian” music I only listened to worship CDs and taught myself to play the guitar so I could play songs to God in my personal prayer times. It created a deep appreciation in me for the nature of song as a wonderful way to connect with God and be ministered to by Him. These days I don’t play the guitar anymore and I’ll only occasionally listen to worship music, sometimes while working out or during my commute. But most of the time I’m pumping “non-Christian” tunes through Apple Music into my earbuds, truck speakers or home stereo…there’s pretty much music aways playing in our home.
I may be wrong but I decided a long time ago that the “Christian” and “non-Christian” music categorization was not only unbiblical but unhelpful for me. There is no such thing as a Christian chord or note and all lyrics present a worldview from someone who is wrestling with God and the things of their life and soul. A person can interact with almost any musical expression in a Christian way, it’s simply that most songs are not conducive for the worship service setting. It’s for that reason I now like to reserve worship songs or hymns for the time when I get to sing them with God’s people in His house, it makes them extra special for me.
This last Sunday was an incredible Sunday of music at The Resolved Church. We’ve been blessed to have a repertoire of over twenty-five musicians in our church who serve in one of our four bands, who rotate week to week. I’m not sure whether the rotating band model is the best model, but it has allowed more people to get involved and helped with not burning people out. The downside is each band not getting enough reps and the quality can differ week to week, though we maintain very high standards to serve in our bands.
This last week was especially exceptional. We had three vocalists, a lead guitarist, a drummer, a bassist, two violinists, and a cello player. We were singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and normally when I’m singing during a worship service I try to focus on the words and the meaning of the words because I try to take seriously Jesus’ instructions not to draw near to God with our lips and yet have our hearts far from Him. But in hearing those strings be played I had to stop singing and focus on the majesty of the music itself. It was majestic in the full sense of the word, simply beautiful and I couldn’t help but think it sounded like heaven.
There is something mysterious and majestic about music. I love music and I love to sing, whether it be karaokeing with friends or singing out in church. However, what I realized this last Sunday is we don’t always have to use vocal chords to give praise and thanks to our Creator and Redeemer. There is a song of the soul that rises when we bow before the King and worship His majesty. Perhaps that is what it’s really all about.
Reflections on “The Pastor”
by Eugene Peterson
Ch. 5 - Garrison Johns
Sarcastically Eugene calls Garrison John his first convert. Garrison was the local neighborhood bully who made fun of him for being a Christian when he was a kid and beat him up several times. One day however he had enough and instead of turning the other cheek he snapped, wrestled him to the ground, hit in in the face and in a good Crusader fashion made him say, “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” Eugene laments the incident and talks about how easily it is to be motivated by what we perceive as “righteous emotion” or anger in ministry.
I got in a lot of fights growing up. When I look back on my life there has been an undercurrent of anger I’ve had for as long as I remember. It peaked while I was in high school and I got in a lot of fights, being suspended several times.
My last real fight was when I was a senior in high school. The principle told me if I got in one more fight I’d be expelled. I was to graduate in a few weeks but got in a fight with a dude from my mechanics class in the hall. Our teacher immediately came out and knowing my situation looked at both of us and said, “You guys got that out of your system?” We both nodded yes and then he said, “Now scram, and get out of here.”
When I became a Christian I instinctually knew I needed to learn the fruit of self-control. I joined an MMA gym for nearly four years thinking a healthy place to swing my fists might help. I learned good discipline and technique and made some great friends but it wasn’t until I addressed the root of my anger that my temperament changed in a big way. Deep seated anger typically stems from a deep seated wound in a person, often some form of abuse, whether it be verbal, physical or sexual. Once we’re able to see that the power of forgiveness can break out and soften the soul.
Over the years there’s been several opportunities to raise my fists again, but in each case I’ve backed down remembering the Savior who could’ve have used His divine power to fight but instead gave up His arms to be stretched out on a cross in love for His enemies. Righteous anger can be tricky. There’s been many times I’ve felt justified for dealing with person or situation harshly because I was right. Sadly however, we can often be right, having the right argument or the right assessment and yet lose the person.
It’s been said we can choose to either be right or be in relationship. In the grand scheme of things it seems relationship is really what matters most and I’m so glad God has given me grace instead of treating me according to what’s right or just, for then I’d surely headed for hell.
We sang a song that’s somewhat new to our church this last Sunday called, “Wood and Nails” by Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels. There’s part of the chorus I think summarizes what God’s done in my life with anger. It says, “The curse is done, the battle won, swords bent down into plowshares. Your scar-borne hands, we’ll join with them, serving at the table You’ve prepared.”
My fists, like a sword used to always be clenched and ready to strike. Now my hands are open, working in the soil to love and serve and feed God’s people with the food of grace Jesus won on the cross.