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Music – Gift or God?

Back in November I had the privilege of speaking at the Christian Musician Summit in Seattle, WA. In one of the main sessions, I spoke on the topic of Music:  Gift or God? and mentioned that I’d post my notes on my blog. I had forgotten until someone emailed me the other day asking for them. So here’s what I shared… Music is a very good gift. The 13,000 songs on my iTunes are testimony to that. My eyes have often welled up in tears as I’ve been affected by a lyric, a chord progression, or a musical texture. I’ve thanked God for the gift of music more times than I can remember. Whenever I think about my love for music, I’m reminded of …

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Listening to Music for God’s Glory

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the parents and youth of my home church on the topic of listening to music for the glory of God. The parent/youth ministry is currently discussing the book, Wordliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. My message was something of an adaptation of a chapter I wrote for the book, called “God, My Heart, and Music.” I started out by saying God gave us music as a gift to direct our attention to him. In the Bible, music is connected with worship, weddings, funerals, work, play, and war. The basic elements of rhythm, melody, and harmony aren’t inherently evil or sinful. Non-Christians can …

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For Music

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine, Greg Gilbert, posted a blog on the 9Marks site called Against Music. The title was more an attention grabber than a statement of Greg’s attitude toward music in general. He was cautioning Christians against becoming spiritually dependent on music in their relationship with God. He wrote: The bottom line, I suppose, is that it would do every Christian well to do some honest heart-searching about what makes them feel “close to God.” Can you feel close to God just by reading or saying the words, “In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”? Would you be able …

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Can Christian Musicians Play Secular Music for God’s Glory?

Steve left a comment on a previous post, asking about the validity of a secular music “ministry,” referencing a comment Phil Keaggy made years ago about the lack of spiritual Christians involved in the secular music field. I received an e-mail recently asking a similar question about the legitimacy of Christian musicians pursuing a career in secular pop music. How should we think about it? Is it always wrong? It is something we should encourage?Here are some thoughts I’ve shared over the years with individuals who were trying to determine God’s will for their lives in this area. The most important question to ask (and sometimes the most …

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Music is Great. Jesus is Greater.

This past May, our youngest child, McKenzie, graduated from Boyce College with a degree in biblical studies, focusing on music and worship. After 4 1/2 years of study, persistence, practice, and dependence on God’s grace, she finally joined the ranks of those who have a college degree. In her final semester, she had to give a senior recital. Thanks to the excellent instruction from her voice teacher, Chandi Plummer, McKenzie has expanded her vocal range significantly, grown in knowing how to care for her voice, and become much more effective at communicating emotion and dynamics when she sings. All those aspects were on full display …

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Why a Synthesizer Isn’t the Holy Spirit

In recent decades ambient sounds have become omnipresent in church gatherings. Meetings start with a synth swell and every song after that is connected to the next with musical glue. Synth pads play softly behind prayer, Scripture readings, song intros, communion, and in some cases, the preaching. If you don’t have someone who can produce the necessary sounds, no worries. “Worship pads” in every key are available for purchase to smooth out the transitions. Which raises the question: what’s going on? Music and God’s Presence We often see a connection between music and the Holy Spirit’s activity in Scripture. Long before he was …

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Should We Can Canned Music in the Church?

Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a blog bemoaning the increasing use of pre-recorded (canned) music in church services. After I read his comments, Eric Zeller sent me this e-mail: “Often smaller churches will use pre-recorded musical tracks either to accompany soloists, choirs, or congregational singing. Do you have any thoughts on this practice and its impact on worship?” I don’t know if Eric saw Dr. Mohler’s post, but it seemed like the topic of pre-recorded music in the church was worth commenting on. New Testament Christians obviously didn’t have to face this issue, so there’s no …

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I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too.

Last week Donald Miller, probably best known as the author of Blue Like Jazz, wrote a blog post called, “I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.” It came as I was  working on a chapter for my book, True Worshipers. A chapter called “True Worshipers Sing.” I was surprised by the categorical nature of Don’s title and even more concerned after reading the post. Don seemed more committed to being honest (brutally honest at one point) and telling us about his learning style than helping us see more clearly what God might think about our singing. I’ve read some thoughtful responses to Don’s post from Mike Cosper, Denny Burk …

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Monday Devotions – Anticipating God’s Presence

These thoughts are from Randy Alcorn, who will be a main speaker at this year’s WorshipGod Conference: “[God’s servants] will see his face.” Revelation 22:4Our longing for Heaven is a longing for God—a longing that involves not only our inner selves, but our bodies as well. Being with God is the heart and soul of Heaven. Every other heavenly pleasure will derive from and be secondary to his holy presence. God’s greatest gift to us is, and always will be, himself. His presence brings satisfaction. His absence brings thirst and longing. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for …

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Should We Play Music Behind People Praying?

Someone in my church recently sent me an email asking why we play music behind different portions of the Sunday meeting (prayers, baptisms, readings, etc.). It’s a good question. We can be influenced by our musically addicted culture, as well as our traditions and practices, to believe it’s impossible for God’s Spirit to move in people’s hearts apart from music. That kind of thinking makes music a mediator rather than a means. God can use music to do his work. But he doesn’t need music to do his work. So the direct answer to the question, “Should we play music behind people praying?” is “not necessarily.” It can easily be mistaken for emotional …

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Pursuing God’s Active Presence

In 1971, the great 20th century preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, brought these remarks to an annual Minister’s conference: “We must not be content until we have had some manifestation of the activity of God. We must concentrate on this. This is my plea, that we concentrate on this, because it is the great message of the Bible, so substantiated by the lessons of history. That is obviously today the only thing that gives us any hope as we face the future. And God seems to be saying that to us. ‘Prove Me now. Try Me. Risk your everything on Me. Be fools for My sake. Cast yourselves utterly upon this belief.’ Let us put it like this: Do we really …

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Worship Without Words

Recently I posted on Twitter: The fact that Psalms doesn’t include a soundtrack or notation clues us in to what God values most in our worship songs. I find it fascinating that God gave us a “songbook” with numerous musical references, but no actual music. It’s not that music is unimportant. Badly played or written music can make great theology sound obscure or unappealing. Great music can make shallow lyrics sound profound and incredibly moving. Which is why when we’re deciding what to sing congregationally, we want to give the greatest attention to the lyrics we’re singing. In response to my tweet someone asked: @bkauflin Is it …

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Sheet Music or Chord Charts?

Kyle wrote in to ask this question: I am about to start leading a worship team that consists of a good number of talented people and a variety of instruments. To this point, the band has used printed sheet music for all of the songs they play; this means that someone has manually entered everything into a music writing program (Finale) and printed everything out. It also means that for any given song, A) Musicians have four to six pages of material to deal with, B) creativity and freedom of expression are squelched a bit, and C) introducing new songs to the band, and to the congregation, will be very difficult.I have been used to working from …

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Expressing Love to God

Someone coined the phrase “God is my girlfriend songs” to describe contemporary lyrics that express love to God with words that are romantic in nature. They include phrases like “embrace me,” “let me feel your touch,” etc. While this isn’t the first time in history congregational songs have been labeled as sensual (John Wesley had some problems with Charles Wesley’s lyrics at times), it’s an issue that still needs clarification. Why does someone write songs that can be sung either to God or a human lover? The reasons vary. Perhaps the writer is simply a poor lyricist and doesn’t know any better. It might be an attempt to stretch the …

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Loving and Worshiping the Lamb of God

This past week churches throughout the world remembered and celebrated what is at the heart of the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Songs, sermons, and liturgies reflected the fact that Jesus laid down his life as the Lamb of God, the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of all those who would trust in him, and three days later was raised from the dead. It’s worth noting that in the post-resurrection scenes of Revelation, Jesus is still referred to as the Lamb. In fact, of the 34 times Jesus is called the Lamb in the New Testament, 29 are in the book of Revelation. It’s a striking and unusual choice. …

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