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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We love the world and we’re avoiding God

Posted by Gary on January 31, 2011

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

There just doesn’t seem to be Christian music made in this day that has the power and pointedness of Keith Green’s. one of my favorites is rather lively in its tempo but very sad in it’s content.

“You Love the World and You’re Avoiding Me” is a song about Christians who fall in love with the world again after having been rescued from it by Christ. How subtlety this happens and how prone our hearts are to go back to the world. It is so subtle that when guilty of it, we are unaware and will deny vehemently that it is so until Christ confronts us and wakes us up.

We are not yet free from our falleness and as the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” tells us, our hearts are “prone to wander”, prone to leave the God we love.

How readily we can go to the computer over the Bible, to sports and hobbies over a time of intimacy with God. Sadly, I often have to force myself to make time for God when I am quite willing to give my time (and heart) to many other things from this world.

Take a moment to read the lyrics of Keith’s song. If you are a believer who has fallen in love with the world again, take a moment to ask God to bring your heart back to Him again and to fill it with zeal for Him. If none of this makes sense to you or you are offended by it, it is likely that you have never experienced the new birth and have always been and remain under the power of this world. If I have described you, take a moment to ask God to reveal to you the truth from God’s Word at the top of this post. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us.

Now, Keith’s song:

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Godly music

Posted by Gary on December 20, 2010

While the world perishes much of what the Christian music industry produces is mere religious sentimentalism. Below is a sampling of the psalmody of a former time, Psalm 51 in verse from Isaac Watts:

Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive,
Let a repenting rebel live:
Are not thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in thee?

My crimes are great, but not surpass
The power and glory of thy grace:
Great God, thy nature hath no bound,
So let thy pard'ning love be found.

O wash my soul from every sin,
And make my guilty conscience clean;
Here on my heart the burden lies,
And past offences pain my eyes.

My lips with shame my sins confess
Against thy law, against thy grace:
Lord, should thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemned, but thou art clear.

Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.

Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hov'ring round thy word,
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair.

A suggestion-Alison Brown Quartet

Posted by Gary on May 12, 2010

One Sunday around St. Patrick’s Day I was travelling home from evening church and had Public Radio on and heard some music that immediately got my attention. Imagine a mix of Celtic, bluegrass with some jazz thrown in. The more I heard the more I like it. I eventually learned that the music is from the Alison Brown Quartet.

I like the music because it is primarily instrumental and light and I am not ashamed to say that I like hearing the banjo.

Follow this link to an ILIke player which has about 11 of the quartet’s songs in full length. I especially like:

  • Under the Five Wire
  • The Magnificent Seven (my favorite)
  • Crazy Ivan
  • Poe’s Pickin’ Party

Tryin’ to get to heaven-My ponderings on Bob Dylan and the Christian Faith

Posted by Gary on March 26, 2009

For the past few months I have been listening to Bob Dylan’s Christian music and have been greatly helped by it (“I Believe In You” from Slow Train Coming has become a song that says it all for me-I don’t seem to tire of listening to it). I cannot help but think (as I know many others do) about where Dylan stands in regard to Christ. I don’t take discussing someone else’s standing before God lightly. While some might think it wrong to speculate and write publicly about the potential salvation or damnation of another I think in some way Dylan is up for this himself.

I’ve watched a number of Dylan interviews and there is no doubt that he likes to keep us at a distance and even more, guessing about where he is spiritually. At one time Bob did speak very plainly about his beliefs (through his Christian music and testifying during his concerts-see the embed above). Dylan’s pointed gospel music and pointed public statements allow some place to conjecture about where he is. Though we have never met, my thoughts flow from a genuine concern for Bob Dylan and a desire to see him finish his days declaring the gospel and writing songs for Jesus Christ.

In the course of my listening I came across a song of Dylan’s from his “Time Out of Mind” album called, “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” While Time Out of Mind is not a gospel album something is being said through “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” and I have thought about it much.

First of all, let’s take Dylan at the simple meaning of his words, he’s trying to get to heaven. This would imply first a belief in the existence of heaven and without much assumption Dylan must believe it is not going to be entered by everyone, hence his effort, he is “trying’” to get there.

The initial lines would seem to indicate that Dylan thinks that the time is getting close when the question of whether or not he is going to get to heaven will be answered.

The air is getting hotter, there’s a rumblin’ in the skies
I’ve been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat risin’ in my eyes

This next phrase has been much on my mind as I think of Dylan. I am assuming that if Dylan is thinking about heaven, he must also be thinking about the God who inhabits heaven and determines who will enter heaven. Here Dylan’s former statements both in music and even what some called preaching in his concerts would remind us that Dylan claimed at one time to know Christ and that he was “Saved” (A great song from the album titled, “Saved”-check out the lyrics here). Here is my question, who is Dylan talking about when he says this?

Every day your memory grows dimmer
It doesn’t haunt me like it did before

I have wondered if Dylan is speaking about Christ here. Why might I think this? Quite simply because one does not come to the place of such commitment and public declaration about Jesus Christ as Dylan did at one time only to revert back to cryptic statements that leave one uncertain about a person’s relationship with Christ. As a disciple of Christ there is no stationary position, one either moves forward or is falling back and when you listen to the things Dylan was saying about Christ during his gospel era and listen now, it is obvious something has happened. Perhaps some will not understand this. In fact, unless you have been born again you cannot understand this. You don’t come to the place of bearing public scorn and persecution for Christ and then revert back to near silence and loss of evangelical zeal without something having gone wrong spiritually.

I remember very clearly meeting a man while in Bible college as I walked around a lake at a park near my college campus. He was fishing and as I approached him I hoped to witness to him about Christ. After just a few minutes he said, “You’re trying to witness to me aren’t you?” I admitted I was.

This man went on to tell me how close he had been to Christ at one time  but had somehow gotten away from Him. I will always remember him saying, "If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be away from Christ and straying like I am I would never have believed it possible.” This man went on to say that he knew that he needed to get back to Christ but then admitted that he was not willing to just then.

What happens when we get away from Christ and stay away? His memory grows dimmer. We don’t hear His voice the next day as clearly as we did the day before. Refusal to draw near to Jesus results in an increasing hardness of heart. While we at one point might have been alarmed by what was happening to us, refusal to get right hardens the heart. For a time a person will be “haunted” by Christ’s absence but with time we are not haunted anymore. Christ is gone and we don’t care. Am I saying that this has happened to Bob Dylan? I am saying I wonder.

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Thirty years late-Bob Dylan’s Christian music…

Posted by Gary on July 17, 2008

I am aware that I am thirty years late for discussion concerning Bob Dylan and the Christian faith. I remember some years back my partner in the ministry David listening to a cassette of Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming” and his comment that it was some of the best Christian music he had ever heard. I didn’t think much of it because I had never really been a Dylan fan and had made a separation with much of the music I had once listened to.

Since moving to Delaware I have a friendship with Jared Morris a talk radio host on WGMD 92.7 F.M. Jared and I do a show together twice monthly and discuss the Christian faith, the Bible and what is going on in the world in light of God’s truth. Jared often uses Dylan for his bumper music and I recognized one of the songs as Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” I decided after all these years to listen to Slow Train and I can only say that it is wonderful music, it is Biblically faithful and penetrating.

Few people’s spiritual lives have been discussed more than Dylan’s. I am not out to say much about Dylan’s standing with God except that I must confess concern. Dylan’s witness was so bold at one time and his music so intentionally committed that today’s cryptic approach leaves one uncertain. Our commitment to Christ is not to be left to question. I am not among the Dylan bashers, I pray that he will finish out his days declaring Christ boldly as he once did. I don’t believe this means Dylan should only play his Christian music by the way.

I have found Dylan’s Christian music so inspiring and challenging that I am quite willing to say that it makes much of what is being released by Christian artists today seem spiritually paltry in comparison. When you consider that Dylan paid a real price for singing and speaking for Christ, it makes his music all the more powerful and appealing. In comparison, many Christian artists today are seeking to do all that they can to be accepted by the world.

You see the YouTube embed above, this is concert footage of Dylan performing “What Can I Do For You?” a song that declares all that Christ has done for the believer and then asks what the believer can do for Christ in return. It is classic Dylan (harmonica and all), and it leaves one asking, “Do I ask Christ this question?” “Is it really my heart’s desire to be pleasing to Him?”

“I Believe in You” found on Slow Train is a moving statement of the belief that is created in the heart of someone that God redeems. This has been my favorite of Dylan’s Christian songs thus far. It is full of references to the price Dylan was paying at the time:

“They look at me and frown, they’d like to drive me from this town. They don’t want me around, cause I believe in You.” …

“They show me to the door, they say, ‘Don’t come back no more’ cause I don’t be like they’d like me to.”…

Though the earth may shake me, though my friends forsake me, even that couldn’t make me turn back.”…

“When He Returns” (also on Slow Train) is a ballad (Dylan’s voice and a piano) about the return of Christ. This isn’t sentimentalism, it is powerful.

“Man Gave Name to All the Animals”(Slow Train) has to wear on you. At first you might call it corny. Simple, repetitive accompaniment and at times forced phrasing to keep the theme going but it holds forth the truth that God made the world and a man (Adam) which as we know is a bold stand in itself. Then you come to the end which is brilliant, you listen and find out what I mean.

How about this for a title, “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody”. This was not released on any of Dylan’s three gospel albums but you can find video on YouTube.

Check out this performance of Gotta Serve Somebody. I don’t know what the occasion was, it appears to be a music awards show, look at who is in the audience, stars galore and then listen to the song Dylan sings to them-gutsy!

There is so little coming out today in Christian music that I want to listen to or that helps me in my faith. Dylan’s music does. It is sad to hear people speak of this as just a phase in Dylan’s career. God forbid that it was only that. The true mark of God’s work is that it will prevail and become unmistakably evident in a person’s life. May God grant it to be so in Bob Dylan’s life.

A recommendation

Posted by Gary on October 17, 2006

Some months ago Alise and I received a gift in the mail from friends of ours, a CD by Trudy Poirier & Captive Thought. While I appreciated the kindness of the gift, quite honestly, I didn’t give it much attention at first.

This past week after reaching a point of desperation with my music collection (having listened to so much of the same music over and over) I decided to put the CD in and listen. How glad I am that I did!

I am not knowledgeable musically to give a review of any CD but I know when I am hearing truth and I know when music is drawing me closer to God and the music on this CD is rooted in truth and is God honoring.

You can learn more about Trudy Poirier and Captive Thought at this web site. In brief, Trudy’s husband is pastor of Rocky Mountain Community Church (PCA) in Billings, Montana. Captive Thought is the worship team for the church.

The accompaniment on this CD is beautiful and so unlike the canned, uninspiring and predictable music of much of contemporary Christian music (I cannot bring myself to listen to the music that is played on contemporary Christian music stations anymore). As I have mentioned, the lyrics are Biblical and exalt God. Texts are primarily Scripture, historic hymns (by Newton, Watts, Wesley, Spurgeon and others), and even a song based upon the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism.

The selection, "How Sweet the Name" (the text from John Newton’s hymn) is worth the purchase of the CD by itself. Another track, "I Was a Wandering Sheep" should inspire gratitude as it calls us to remember how graciously God sought us and brought us to Him.

If you are looking for some new music, music that will give food to your soul, I would encourage you to buy "Better Than Life" by Trudy Poirier and Captive Thought.

An encouraging word, another new hymn

Posted by Gary on November 15, 2005

Some weeks ago I posted the words to a hymn that I recently learned of called, "Give Me a Faith Which Can Remove" by Charles Wesley. This past Saturday I received an email from my friend Chris which included the words to another hymn (also new to me) written by John Newton. I found it quite enlightening and encouraging. Let me share a bit of his note and then the text:

Reading your Blog recently you made reference in one article to a hymn of Charles Wesley that you hadn’t previously come across. It is one of my favorites and I wholly endorse your enthusiastic response to it.

I was reminded however by your article that though we share a considerable common hymnology I am sure, there may be others well known to me that might be new to you and, as this one was, a means of blessing.

The one that has been much on my heart in the context of our last exchange regarding trials is a hymn of John Newton which you may well be familiar with. However, should you not be, I am quoting it in full.

It is to my mind unsurpassed as the simplest yet most profound experiential statement of the way God deals with us in love and mercy to conform us to the image of His dear Son. It was penned by a man who both knew the deepest of trials and was also one of the greatest saints by grace alone, (as he was the first to acknowledge.) It runs thus:

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