Tithe our money… and time?

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Eight years ago, I made a new year’s resolution. I was 11 years old, and I had believed in Jesus two years before. I decided it was high time I began to read the Bible every single day to see what the Lord had to say to those who follow Him. So I did, and I have never looked back with regret on that decision. I am so blessed by God’s prompting on my young heart.

On Tuesday I listened to the radio program of Revive Our Hearts. Nancy’s guest was her brother Mark Demoss. I have heard him before, and even have one of his books. He is so practical and biblical, which I appreciate.

His subject was having wisdom for daily life. He talked about setting priorities, like putting God first by setting aside the first part of your day to spend time with Him. But then he also said that we tithe our first day of the week: the Lord’s day, and the Bible talks about tithing our  first fruits, which most people say is our money. Nowadays, it is, because not all of us are farmers, so we don’t have a crop to give to God. However, I have heard of some in our farming community giving a tenth of their produce to the church family, and I think that is wonderful.

This all got me to thinking; are we to tithe our time? What really got me thinking about it was when Mom mentioned the subject and said she was wondering about it as well. I figured out that since I am awake for 15 hours every day, a tenth of that is 90 minutes. Those 90 minutes could be spent reading God’s Word, praying, studying a book that explains the Bible, praising the Lord in word and deed, or serving God in some capacity.

Now I know many people struggle to find a spare ten minutes to read the Bible. And I’m not saying that you must give a tenth of your time to God or else! Certainly not! I am just saying that if we are serious with God about how grateful we are for His salvation of our souls and His guidance of our lives, should we not desire to spend as much time with Him as we can?

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I am blessed by my situation right now. I am single, I am not in school, and I do not have a paying job. I am also “forced” to study the Bible to prepare for the Good News Club lessons I help teach. I love that I have the time and capability to do all this. I have begun reading two chapters of the Old Testament, 2 chapters of the New Testament, one Psalm and one Proverb every day, which is great, because it gives a bunch of variety! (And yes, I know it’s a little early to begin a new year’s resolution. Oh, well!)

So all that to say, I would love to see every believer begin to spend at least a portion of each day in the Word and in prayer. Just think how many wonderful changes the Lord will grant in your attitudes, mind, and heart! I have been so blessed by eight full years of daily reading God’s Letter to us – the Bible. You will be blessed, too. Let’s join our hearts in a commitment to God!

I would love to hear about what your new year’s resolutions are, especially as they pertain to this issue of Bible reading and being dedicated to God. May God bless you, every one!

Music Twisting Part 6

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Another pervasive genre is the New Age music that is now seemingly inescapable. It is heard in hospitals,  elevators, Chiropractor’s offices, and restaurants.

Remember how I mentioned entrainment and the alpha brain wave? New Age music is a style that is meant to relax and calm our stressed brains. Their are people who claim to be able to assist the body in healing itself from headaches, and even some more serious ills through the recordings of New Age music. Surprisingly, there is some truth to that. Music that contains high frequencies helps the brain recharge. In a piano, the higher notes have a higher frequency (the notes ranging from 30 to 15,000 hertz). Optimum benefits for the brain are found from 5,000 to 8,000 hertz. Mozart composed music that was in the higher notes, causing higher frequencies. (Smith, p. 22)

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But the way the New Age musicians compose is to get us into the alpha brainwave state and keep us there. This results in a feeling of looseness, an empty contentment, and is often used in dangerous ways.

Steven Halpern is a New Age musician, Grammy award nominee, and is considered a founding father of New Age music. In an interview with freelance writer Diana Deregnier, Halpern states:

I had been a professional jazz musician, in to world rhythm and blues. I had a strong background in improvisation and playing with very powerful rhythms. What was so unique about this new music was it did not have any central rhythmic core, unlike most all other music at the time. Indeed, this is part of the secret that allows listeners to let go of preconceived modalities of responding to music. And with some of the other things I developed in my approach to composing music went beyond the traditional forms and rules of classical, pop and jazz composition. And just followed my muse followed the music into a more free, flowing context. And, that’s part of what people respond to when they respond to the music, that the intention is there to consciously create a soundtrack that resonates at a higher frequency and serves at a higher level of bringing harmony and peace to body, mind, spirit. (italics added, spelling and grammar unedited.) (Deregnier, Science 2.0.)

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He goes on to say some disturbing things in this article on Science 2.0. He responds to a question from the interviewer:

Now, the albums that you were mentioning are a specific sub-genre of music and subliminal affirmations. These target individual outcomes and goals, because the scripting, the words that I write and speak, again I use the relaxed state, as the individual is most receptive to positive input and the words go directly into the subconscious mind. Even though your conscious ear doesn’t hear the words, your subconscious mind does and responds accordingly. It’s the most effective way of getting positive input into our consciousness, because sometimes if you hear the words, your intellect and rational mind will resist that input. Then there’s a cognitive dissonance that goes on and you don’t get the results you want….

…when you listen deeply; when you stop using music just as background and really focus on the spaces and listen interactively, where you give your total and conscious energy and attention to receive the intentionality and energetic orchestration that the composer and recording artist has put forth; that’s when you can really pick up on the healing powers to the max. (Deregnier, Science 2.0)

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So he tries to get you into such a relaxed state that he can tell your subconscious things that you would rationally reject. That is frightening!

But I can imagine you are asking about the New Age musicians that do not do those things. Is that music still bad? Yes, because it is still a danger to use music in ignorance. People have gone to prison for unintentionally poisoning someone. We have no excuse for our ignorance in any area. I remember being surprised when I read in the Bible about a sacrifice people were to make for unintentional sins. Even though they didn’t know they were committing a sin, when they realized it, God commanded them to make a prescribed sacrifice for it. That startled me, and it has had an impact in my life. There are many beautiful, relaxing songs out there that have a set rhythm and melody that are nor New Age music. My motto is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to so-called “Gray” areas.

Before I conclude, I want to remind you of the grace of God. He is so gracious and merciful to give us time to learn what His will and heart is. Just think; He could just completely blot us out forever for all the things we do that go against Him, even in the way we try to worship Him. I praise Him for His patience, and am so grateful for it in my own life.

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I would encourage you to prayerfully consider these questions for your own life. They are from Kimberly Smith’s book Oh Be Careful Little Ears:

“Questions to think about in your own life:

  1. What are my scriptural convictions (beliefs based on Scripture) concerning music?
  2. Does the music I listen to enable me to comply with each and every principle Paul has outlined in 1 Corinthians (and any other principles in Scripture)?
  3. Have I truly sought God with a music fast, prayer, and Bible study?
  4. Have I established myself or God’s word as the authority concerning the music I listen to?
  5. Can I say I’m singing/listening to non-carnal music as directed in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16?
  6. Might this music offend an elder in the church?
  7. Does the music I listen to exhibit the characteristics of God?
  8. Am I willing to give up any offensive or questionable music?

I am so grateful that you have read this paper, and I sincerely hope that it has at least sparked a desire in you to learn about this area of your life and walk with the Lord. It is such an important aspect of our lives, and one where there is much confusion and ignorance. May I challenge you to search out God’s heart for music in His Word to us? I pray you will.

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Resources

Brown, Rebecca. The Beatles.” The Show I’ll Never Forget, edited by Sean Manning, Da Capo press, 2007, pp. 26-30.

Deregnier, Diana.”New Age Music Grows Up: the history, qualities and emergence of the genre in America. Science 2.0, 2008 http://www.science20.com/spiritlinks/blog/new_age_music_grows_up_the_history_qualities_and_emergence_of_the_genre_in_america

Ericson, Lynn. A Chronological History of Music and Its Composers. Schola Press, 2001.

God. The Bible, (New King James Version).  www.biblegateway.com Accessed October 11, 2016.

Hudelson, Gabriel. Salt, Light and Rhythm. Emailed to us by the author.

Isacoff, Stuart. A Natural History of the Piano. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Smith, Jane Stuart and Carlson, Betty. The Gift of Music. 3rd ed., Crossway Books, 1995.

Smith, Kimberly.

Music and Morals: Dispelling the myth of Amoral Music. Winepress Publications, 2005.

Oh Be Careful Little Ears.

            Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear.

Spitz, Bob. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music That Changed the World. Little, Brown and Company, 2007.

Music Twisting Part 5

Here is the next installment of my high school term paper. Enjoy!

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One of the other helpful resources I have drawn from in my research are the writings of secular people. I was surprised and a bit saddened by what I discovered. The musicians of the world know exactly what they are doing, while we Christians are ignorant of those very things.

Kimberly Smith writes about a phenomenon called entrainment. This can be seen in the grocery store, when you suddenly realize that you are walking to the beat of the music playing over the speakers. I’ve noticed this innumerable times. Our bodies literally match the music by stepping, breathing, or even changing our heartbeat to the music we are listening to. These physiological happenings are caused by rhythm. There are many kinds of brainwaves that our brains can be entrained into with music; alpha brainwaves being the restful, relaxed ones that can be caused by calm, peaceful sounds such as the waves on a beach, sounds of nature, and songs with very little or no climax. Entrainment can also work to get us into an opposite state, where we get up and dance, and contort our bodies in wild frenzies of uncontrolled movement.

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This wilder state can be caused by the groove that some drummers like to get into with their highly addictive back beat. Mickey Hart, the drummer for The Grateful Dead has some insight into this groove:

The back beat is one kind of drum groove; it’s the essential one for rock and roll. I had      heard… of the phenomenon of rhythmic entrainment that rock and jazz musicians call “the groove.” I had even fleetingly experienced it, but Bill taught me to trust in it, to let it draw me in like a tractor beam.

Kimberly Smith adds that “this is the beginning of trance. Mickey also admits that he had to be careful not to let himself go too far into the trance state, because the quality of his drumming would be lost.” (p.53)

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The dangers of rock music can be seen in our physical bodies. Kimberly cites a study done on rock music.
Stress and addiction: A driving drum rhythm in excess of three to four beats per seconds will put the brain into a state of stress, regardless if the listener likes or dislikes the music. And when the brain is in this stressful state, it will release opioids – a group         of natural hormones that function like morphine – to help return itself to normal equilibrium and sense of well-being. These natural opioids, if experienced often enough, can be addicting, creating in the listener the continued desire for that “high,” somewhat like the high runners experience.” (p. 23)

In another book,  The Show I’ll Never Forget, Rebecca Brown records the experiences of her childhood surrounding the Beatles concert she saw in Spain. She and her older brother and sister were so obsessed with the Beatles, that Rebecca’s teacher called in her mother to discuss her obsession. Her essays were on the Beatles; in art, she drew them and their hairstyles and guitars; she even did math with the number of their recordings and their ages.

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The Brown family constantly listened to the Beatles’ recordings and her sister began wearing tighter and more revealing clothing. They were all disrespectful to their father, who did not approve of their music choices. Her brother ditched his accordion and took up guitar. Later he and the older sister turned to pot, heavy metal, acid, and acid rock.  Meanwhile, Rebecca is still ‘true’ to the Beatles and plays their records for her grandchildren and those of her female spouse so “all of us can scream and dance.”

This next quote also deals with the Beatles:

            To teenagers everywhere in the late 1950s, rock ‘n roll was the rallying cry, the raw, combustible sound that connected them to one another, defined their adolescence, and provided a voice with which they could express themselves. The music touched on everything teenagers were grappling with: angst, impatience, love, sexuality, insecurity, rebellion, and fantasy-all hooked up to a powerful suggestive beat. The name alone captured the future Beatles’ imaginations. Rock ‘n roll suggested thrills, something loud and disruptive, a certain disobedience in the way they could dance to it and what it said. The excitement of the music broke through all the boundaries, carrying listeners to places unknown. “When I hear good rock,” John [Lennon] said, “I just fall apart and I have no other interest in life. The world could be ending if rock ‘n roll is playing.” (Spitz, p. 15)

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Notice that all the things teenagers are “grappling with” are either a twisting of good things (love), a result of sin (insecurity), or sin itself (rebellion). This quote is showing us that rock music is the rallying cry of a sinful world. Wow.

There have been studies done comparing concerts done by secular rock bands and Christian rock bands. The findings? The audience acts in the exact same way whether the lyrics are about the party they’ll have in hell or a beach in California with the Christian girls.

Before I get into other types of music that are used wrongly, let me share some information I have paraphrased from A Natural History of the Piano.

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There is rhythm in all of life, breathing, heart beating, walking, etc. Western music has cycles of such rhythm, and composers court it, carefully going round and round the chosen rhythm with variations and contrasts. Beethoven enjoyed upsetting metrical regularity. He turned the rhythm upside down and put accents where they were unexpected because of the laws of the metric system. This 20th century approach was known as syncopation. This rhythm was especially used in music for dancing, where it started in taverns, saloons, and bars. The rhythm, according to many including bandleader Martin Ballmann who said in 1972 “[It] sends one’s blood tingling.” Hiram K. Moder concurred; “I felt my blood thumping in tune, my muscles twitching to the rhythm.” (Isacoff pp. 162-167)

It should be clarified that syncopation is not always bad. It can be a very good thing, but when used in the wrong way it can be overpowering and become a bad thing, just like anything else.

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But it’s not just rock ‘n roll that’s bad. Jazz has a mellowed form of the back beat – harder to notice, but subtly tempting. Blues and ragtime can have the same techniques that we saw with the one, TWO, three, FOUR beat. Even some softer songs can have the emphasis on the wrong beats in the music itself, without a drum making it obvious. I have seen this in many songs written even for church.

Come back for part 6!

Music Twisting Part 4

Part four is here.

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          In Ephesians 5:17-20, we read, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

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What a rich passage! It really makes a case for us to study God’s Word in that first verse as there are so many things to understand! We need to be wise in these troubled days, for the days are evil. Jesus will be coming back again, and it may be very soon.

One thing that I have found extremely helpful in understanding music is what Kimberly Smith explained in her book Music and Morals: dispelling the myth of Amoral music. She wrote that there are normally four beats in a measure of music: 1, 2, 3, 4. In good, wholesome music, the first beat is prominent, with the third a little less prominent: ONE two Three four. We see this in most hymn music, classical music before the 1900s, and some folk music in various cultures.

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On the other hand, in various music that is purposefully played to rebel against God and lead people away from Him, we see something very different. In music performed for voodoo dances and other satanic and evil worship times, the beat sequence is swapped: one TWO three FOUR. A variation of this would be to have a drum pound out every beat without emphasis on a single one. When this is done, it goes against the natural beauty of the music of God’s creation, and is used in rebellion against Him.

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If you are interested in reading more on this aspect of music, I would highly recommend that you read Music and Morals by Kimberly Smith. She brings out many things that I only have a small grasp on, and she has read many books, including one written by Mickey Hart, a talented drummer who traveled the world in search of the spirit behind the beat that he played. Her research is invaluable.

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But to continue on with Ephesians. I wonder if we could imagine for a moment the apostle Paul in a dark prison cell with Silas, having been flogged and beaten and thrown in a cell with their feet in stocks. They are singing. Imagine for a moment, that with the rats scurrying by, they are singing the yellow submarine and, in breathy, gravelly voices (the technique in modern singing styles), they are singing a psalm of praise to God, while pounding an excited beat on the floor. Doesn’t fit? Would you sing that way when you meet God face to face and behold the glory of the Lamb in His resurrected power?

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It’s interesting how we can get so caught up in our momentary lives and not consider the way we do our various activities. Singing is a wonderful gift, but used in the wrong way it can become a problem.

The breathy technique of singing I referred to is a sensual style that is meant to arouse sexual passions in the hearer. You will notice it in popular love songs, and many other types of music. Unfortunately, many types of ungodly techniques have seeped into our churches and musical worship. I have concerns about the way Christians tend to adapt and take on worldly practices without even consulting the Bible to see whether it is right or wrong to do so.

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God’s Word tells us to abstain from any form of evil (1Thessalonians 5:22), to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14, Galatians 5:16). Yet I have heard people singing like this while claiming to be worshiping God in church services or in praise songs on a CD.

Lest you think that none of this really matters in our daily lives, let me remind you that we live a lifestyle of worship, not just a few hours on Sunday during church services. Our lives should emit an odor of the incense of worship. As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, so He hears every song we listen to and sing.  This is not a passive relationship; it is active. He is grieved by our sins, prays for us when we don’t have words, and rejoices over our victories. Should we not educate ourselves in His Word so that we can understand how to please Him?

Come back for part 5 tomorrow!

Music Twisting Part 3

Here is part three!

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In my family situation, I have been exposed to mostly hymns, choruses, along with some incidental exposure to songs played at grocery and retail stores. I hadn’t really listened to classical music as much because of a family member disliking it, and we didn’t listen to country, rock, jazz, or blues for reasons I didn’t know. Dad and Mom just didn’t like them, so my only exposure to them was incidental, such as movies, and in public places. When I was required to listen to selected pieces of music, I discovered that I enjoy many of the baroque, classical, and romantic pieces by such composers as Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.

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Some of you will realize through your previous knowledge the differences in both the style and personalities of this group of composers. Antonio Vivaldi was a gentle and kind priest, with easily changing emotions and deep feelings. Meanwhile, Joseph Haydn was a cheerful, content man with no joy in his marriage, but a good humor and productive life anyway. According to The Gift of Music, Haydn’s best works were written after he met the young Wolfgang Mozart, who was an absolute genius. Mozart was not a pious man, even while he acknowledged his Creator. He and his wife were always poor due to unwise choices.

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The last on my list is the one I must explain. Tchaikovsky was a brilliant composer of deeply emotional music. But although he read his Bible from 8:00 to 9:00 every morning, he had a constant struggle with his homosexual temptations. He was tormented by what he himself viewed as sinful attractions, and had many physical ailments and deep depression. His consolation was his work, which took up much of his time. He was very active, and desired to do much. His humility kept him from arrogance and from realizing his talent.

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I find this man fascinating because of his sorrow over sin. He most likely never acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior, but tried his best to appease his made up god with good works. It’s a sad fate, but one that many choose.

I questioned for awhile if I should listen to the music of unbelievers, but came to the conclusion that God has given many men and women talents, regardless of their relationship—or lack thereof—with Him. We can therefore listen to the wholesome music of sinners if we have a clear conscience concerning them. However, we must be careful not to listen to unwholesome music, whether it is written by a sinner or a saint.  I personally stay away from the music of Wagner and some of Beethoven, because of Wagner’s dark heart, and Beethoven’s nature worship and erroneous spiritual beliefs. His emotional music requires wisdom, as the authors of The Gift of Music say in their chapter on him, “… never listen indifferently and without discernment. Enjoy and appreciate what is good, but keep in mind that it is with composers as with all of us: what we believe affects our total life.” (Smith and Stuart, p.67)

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This brings me to a theological point I want to remind you of. At the time of the Fall, when Adam sinned, we became what theologians call “Totally Depraved”. This does not mean that mankind is as evil as it can get, but that every area—our total self—is marred by the fall. Our minds, our thoughts, our bodies, our talents … all are twisted from the fall. While many people are “good” people (on the outside they are moral and do good things), they still have sin in every area, and when a person is spiritually dead and has not been regenerated through Christ’s saving work on the cross, they don’t have discernment from God to be able to glorify Him rightly in their work.

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Thus, when we consider the works of great composers, we must always remember that they -and we– are not capable of perfectly glorifying God in their work. Even in the area of music, the devil has his hand in it, and we must be discerning. Of course, our source of help, as always, is the Word of God in the Bible. He gives us many instructions for every area of our lives, including the area of music.

Thanks for reading! The fourth part is coming tomorrow.

Music Twisting Part 1

For my high school graduation term paper, I wrote on the topic of music. I am pleased to share it with you here in the following days. Here is part one!

Outline

1. Why the subject of music for a term paper?

My goals for the paper

2. The effects of music

a.  Why we need to care

b. Should we listen to secular music?

3. The basics of music

a. The Bible gives us the key

b. Secular musicians give insights

c. The science of music

d. Drumming and the Beatles

e. Teens and rock ‘n roll

4.  New Age music

Conclusion

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In 2015, I did a course on music appreciation called A Chronological History of Music and its Composers by Lynn Ericson. I was excited to learn about the many kinds of music, and especially the classical music of Europe composed by such people as Vivaldi, Haydn, Bach, and Tchaikovsky. I learned quite a lot and enjoyed listening to songs that I was familiar with and also those that I hadn’t even known existed. I enjoyed discovering music that was truly beautiful and learning about the men and women behind it.

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But as I read about each composer and their various backgrounds, temperaments, family life, and spiritual beliefs, I was intrigued by the differences in their worldviews and how it shaped their music. I was especially horrified to learn of Wagner’s many mistresses, his womanizing, wandering eye, and his dark passions. I was fascinated when I later learned that this man’s music was influential to a young artist who was attempting to enter a well known university in Vienna. He would spend his meager earnings from his postcard art on the many Wagner operas that were performed in the theaters and opera houses of the city, even before he thought of his daily bread. He was obsessed and would often sit for hours just reveling in the sounds and words of the dark and moody compositions of Richard Wagner, paying no heed to time, friends, or even himself. The music absorbed his thoughts and became a part of him. This man’s name was Adolph Hitler.

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I couldn’t help wondering if Wagner’s dark and evil nature seeped into his music and caused his listeners to have many of the same feelings, thoughts, and ideas. It was suggested in The Gift of Music (Stuart and Smith), a book that was part of this course, that Beethoven’s anger could be stimulated in a listeners’ heart, and that his later works may influence the listener in a way that promotes nature worship and idolatry, as he was deeply involved in these things in his later years. The authors warned their Christian readers—the authors profess to Christianity—to use discernment in their listening choices in regard to these facts.

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I have often noticed how certain musical techniques can have such a deep emotional effect on people. I’m sure you are familiar with the fact that soft, melodious songs cause you to feel peaceful and at rest, while rowdy, upbeat songs can cause you to want to march, get up and move around, or even dance. This ability is a wonderful gift from God to us! Can you imagine a world with no songs that cause your heart to worship your Lord and Creator, and melodies that cause your heart to notice the sunshine and soar with joy and hope? What a dull and colorless place our world would be without the rich music of our many nations!

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And yet how easily sinful man can take God’s gifts and warp them into a horrendous tool of evil. Have we not seen that in so many ways? Knives and ropes are such useful tools, and yet they are used by men to do wicked things that go against God’s law and will. Music can also be used to rebel against God and do harm to unsuspecting people.

I had my own experience with this rebellious music affecting me personally. For the purpose of this paper, I read stories of people who listened to such bands as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc., and even though I have only listened to a small selection of Beatles’ songs, I noticed that after reading the stories of those who had and were deeply affected by them, I began to have rebellious thoughts and attitudes, especially toward my dad. I was caught off guard by this, as I try very hard to be respectful and honor my parents. I also noticed a heightened awareness to the songs played in stores and how they affected my emotions.

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My goal with this paper is to divulge what I have learned through the many books I have read on music of all kinds. It has been quite a journey, taking me from the inner workings of the Bach family, to a conscience-stricken man who struggled constantly with an attraction to other men, on to a man who wrote many songs that he claimed could help the body cure common ills and even cancer, and again about the drum beats behind what many call “The Devil’s Music.” The most important book I have ever read in regard to music and how we should discern our listening habits is —of course—the Bible. I want to draw out of it the principles and truths from the God’s Word in regard to this subject, because I truly believe that the Bible is sufficient to answer all our questions about how we should live —including in our choice of music. That said, I also appreciate the works of men and women who have sought God’s heart to understand what He desires concerning music. Their writings and studies are invaluable, and can give us insight. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

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Thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for the next section!

Apologetics Paper

For my high school apologetics class, I was assigned an essay presenting the strongest arguments about why to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, sacrifice for man, risen Savior, and coming King. Despising the word essay, which brings to mind boredom and dryness, I decided to make it a bit more interesting. I am pleased to present my “essay” to you now.

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Dear Reader,

I am addressing this essay to a fictional person who I named Austin. I have a cousin named Austin whom I don’t know as well as I wish I did. I know his younger brothers pretty well, but have only visited Austin a few times. He is my age, and I got the impression on those few visits that he is a sensitive, caring, deeply-thinking person who perhaps wonders about life, as most people our age do. He is aspiring to go into law enforcement, and I am very proud to dedicate this paper to my cousin. The Austin I am writing to in the essay is a lot like my cousin, and I hope it makes it a bit less dry to read it in this form than most essays are written in. So with no further ado…

August 31, 2016

Dear Austin,

How are you? I have been enjoying the long-distance discussions we’re having about the Bible and especially Jesus Christ. I wanted to let you know that I am continuing to pray for you.

Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s shoes – his worldview and way of looking at new things – and wonder what he thinks when he hears about Jesus Christ. If I wasn’t raised in a home that reads the Bible daily, goes to church weekly, and tries to honor God in all things, how would I view things?

Would Jesus Christ seem a strange but wise teacher who perhaps was simply a fable in someone’s book that people now believe is history? After all, a lot of people used to actually think the earth was flat, but now they know that was just a fable. Did Jesus Christ really live in a place of “space and time” as Francis Schaeffer says in his book The God Who is There? Was He a normal man who was raised by a family who loved Him, and then He suddenly got a notion that He was actually the Son of God –The God of the Jews – and lived a delusional lie for His adult life?

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Jesus claims to be the Son of God. If He was a good teacher, as you say you believe, that claim of divinity must by definition be true, because if it was false, He would be a liar, and thus not a “good” anything! He would have led many astray by telling them many lies about Himself.  Jesus Christ truly believed He was the Son of God. He knew that without any doubt. But many people have claimed to be a president or a great person from history (even Jesus Himself) and been found out to be delusional loonies. What’s the difference?

Gary R. Collins PhD says in Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ, that people who have psychological difficulties can claim to be someone other than who they really are. But psychologists look deeper than what they say. “They’ll look at a person’s emotions, because disturbed individuals frequently show inappropriate depression, or they might be vehemently angry, or perhaps they’re plagued with anxiety. But look at Jesus: he never demonstrated inappropriate emotions. For instance, he cried at the death of his friend Lazarus – that’s natural for an emotionally healthy individual.” Dr. Collins went on to say that Jesus “was obviously in contact with reality. He wasn’t paranoid although he rightfully understood that there were some very real dangers around him. … All in all, I just don’t see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness. He was much healthier than anyone I know – including me!”

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So if a professor of psychology who has a doctorate in his area of expertise says that after studying Jesus he has found no problems with Him, that makes a good case that Jesus really was Who He said He was. So if He said He was the Son of God, how can anyone say that He was just a good teacher and nothing more? That’s not possible. He either is the Son of God, or He is a deceiver.

Austin, what do you believe? Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God who died for you to take the punishment for your sins so that you can join Him in Heaven? Do you believe He literally came to life after three days of being quite dead from innumerable lacerations from a harsh beating with whips that had sharp pieces of bone and metal in them, that may literally have shredded His back enough to see His ribs, and then being mercilessly crucified and thrust through with a spear?

You asked me last time we wrote about the evidence that Jesus truly died and didn’t just swoon or something. I read a fascinating book that touched on that topic!

Medical Doctor Alexander Metherell has studied the accounts of Jesus’ death in detail. He says in The Case for Christ, “Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.” When they did take the critically wounded Jesus to the cross, He was most likely in hypovolemic shock, meaning He had lost so much blood, that His heart was racing and He was unable to carry His cross because of the weakness and pain He was in. When they drove the nails into His wrist, it crushed the median nerve that caused a pain so horrible that they had to invent a new word – excruciating- which means “out of the cross.”

But the pain wasn’t what killed Him. He died by slow asphyxiation. When He needed to take a breath, He had to push up with His feet in order to exhale. The position of His body was in a constant inhale otherwise.  He had to continue pushing like this in order to breathe, but in His weary state, He reached the point of absolute exhaustion in a shorter amount of time than others had, and eventually succumbed to cardiac arrest and He also had pleural effusion, which caused the water to come out of the spear wound along with the blood.

Austin, if you have any more doubts about whether Jesus really died, I would encourage you to get your hands on a copy of The Case for Christ and read chapter 11, titled The Medical Evidence.  The whole book is fascinating, but I know that with your studies you may not have the time to read it all. Don’t worry, it’s less than 14 pages in length, and it’s a fairly easy read. It’s gruesome, but since it really happened, it’s important to know.

For a shorter book on the same topic as The Case for Christ, Josh McDowell wrote a 128 page book called More than a Carpenter. It covers a lot of ground! It would answer a lot of your questions. The chapter on “What about science?” was really quite good. Lots of people say you can’t prove Jesus was Who He said He was scientifically, so it isn’t logical to believe in Him. But you can’t even scientifically prove that you were at your morning class or ate lunch today! You can’t repeat those events in a controlled situation, which is how they scientifically prove things.

To answer your question about why Jesus had to be a sacrifice for us, I will have to lead you back to the creation account. I know that you believe in theistic evolution, but just humor me awhile and say that God really did create Adam and Eve as the first intelligent humans who were made in His image and were without sin. He placed them in a beautiful garden and gave them the job of working in it and having dominion over the animals. He also told them they weren’t allowed to eat from the one tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

You see, God didn’t make two little robots that were programmed to be loyal to Him. He made personal beings that could choose to love Him. Wouldn’t it be weird if your girlfriend was just automatically programed to love you and you didn’t have to earn her love with flowers or notes, or kind words? (Don’t try that on Courtney! She would NOT like that! And I wouldn’t want to get into trouble! :))

Anyway, God made Adam and Eve so they could choose, and they did. The problem was that they chose not to love God but instead to rebel against Him. They ate the fruit and God had to punish them. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 3:23. Do you see now, that because of our sin, God couldn’t let us live forever in a beautiful garden with no consequences for the action that brought horrible sin into His perfect world? Think of how many things we’ve made go wrong through our sins? It’s sad. How would you like it if your uncle never had to pay for how he treated that girl a few months back? That was awful, and he had to pay for it. Did you know that your feelings of justice actually were given to you by God? His character is still in you, even though it’s warped and not at all perfect anymore because of sin.

God still loves us though, as you know from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He still wants to have a relationship with us, but now that sin is in the way, He had to make a way to make the relationship whole again. We blew it and just turned away like a spoiled teenager just spitting in his dad’s face and leaving. Well, our Father came and ran after us, turned us around, and said “I still love you. Come back – I forgive you and want you to live with me. All you have to do is come back to me and live by the rules I put down to protect you and help everyone to get along together. ” Okay, so that wasn’t a very good illustration, but you get the point. The Father actively still loves us.

But you also know God’s justice. He is a holy, perfect God, who can’t tolerate sin. He is a Judge Who must see the sinner make it right. Just look at the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. But since His ultimate punishment is death, He had to make a way for our eternal soul to be reunited after death. He had this plan before we even sinned! Can you imagine, Austin? That’s amazing; to purpose that your only son would die for your little creations that purposefully rebelled against you.

When Jesus died, He took the punishment that we deserved. But that wasn’t the end of it of course. He also rose from the dead. Can you imagine being one of the disciples and seeing your teacher – the one you spent three years following and learning from – being beaten mercilessly, hung on a ruthless instrument of torture from His wrists and feet, and struggling for breath… only to die. To die, and, naked and lifelessly limp, be taken down in the premature darkness of God’s wrath, and put in the tomb of a kind and brave man. A borrowed tomb for the King of kings.

How sad it would be to watch! But when the women who were with Him so long went back to the tomb and found a great shining angel sitting on the enormous stone that had sealed and closed their Rabbi’s body in His death chamber, they were not expecting the joy that would be theirs when they saw Jesus, whom the Most High had raised from the dead. Would you expect your friend Jimmy to come back after being gone these three years? Of course not! But Jesus was no ordinary man.

When He arose, God restored Him to an almost whole body again. He had the scars of the cross, but He was restored to being able to walk, talk, and eat with His friends. A crowd of 500 people saw Him all at once, and when the apostle Paul wrote the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

As Paul admits himself, many witnesses were still alive to call him out as a liar. But no one did that. The enemies of Christianity couldn’t deny that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb, and they couldn’t argue with dozens of people reporting that they had seen the risen Savior with their own eyes – multiple times!

Isn’t it wonderful how God told us all about this plan in the Scriptures? Many others have written books to prove from a human standpoint that Jesus is Who He said He was, and they are so helpful. But really, all they have to do is look at the Bible, take it as the Truth it is, and they’ll be on their way to understanding if they trust God to show them.

Have you done that, Austin? I hope so. I want nothing more than to see you in Heaven someday. You know we’re not given the knowledge of when we’ll die, or when Jesus will come back to take us to be with Him. Since He was obviously telling the truth about everything He talked about, that means He will be coming back on the clouds just as He went up to Heaven.

Are you ready for that, Austin? Please be sure – your eternal life depends on it.

Respectfully yours,

Naomi Blum