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New Horizons

April, 2010: Music

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Why God Wants Us to Sing

It used to be that just before a major league baseball game began, the announcer would say, "Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the national anthem." Then everyone would stand and sing together the "Star-Spangled Banner." But in recent years, I can't remember that happening. Instead, a celebrity or a singing group comes to the mike and sings while we all just listen. What happened?

Has our culture stopped singing? Have our iPods, MP3 players, and automobile audio systems turned us into spectators and listeners? If our non-Christian friends or neighbors were to come into one of our worship services and hear us all singing together, would they have ever experienced anything like that before? Read more

How Does the Music Sound?

The Bible mentions music in more than six hundred passages throughout its pages. In a great number of these references, Scripture connects the use of music to human emotion. For example, 1 Samuel 16 tells us that when David played his harp, it brought relief to Saul, made him feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

In 1 Chronicles, the leaders of the Levites are told to appoint their brothers to sing joyful songs. The Israelites were to celebrate with songs, harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. We read elsewhere that flutes were used not only when rejoicing and making merry, but also when wailing. Harps, in addition to being used for celebration, were also used during times of lament and mourning. From Exodus through Revelation, trumpets express fear, anguish, and the agony of battle, as well as joy and rejoicing; they also accompany singing about God's love and goodness. Read more

Putting Death to Death!

Since this is April, we may be hearing some references to Geoffrey Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, which were set in April in medieval England. In connection with this Easter season of the year, I thought about "The Pardoner's Tale." This story is set during the Black Plague, and three roisterers (general mischief makers) have just lost a friend to the pestilence. With less knowledge than enthusiasm, they swear they will hunt down this scoundrel Death and kill him, so that no one else will fall victim to his power. "When we find him," they say, "Death is dead!"

As they begin scouting for Death, they find an old man on the road. Reasoning that, if this frail old man is not Death, he is near enough to it, they attack him and beat him up. To save his life, the old man tells them where they can find Death: "You'll find him up that side road there, beneath an enormous, spreading old tree." Read more

Skipping Chapel

Dear James,

I am sorry to hear that you may be removed from the Honor Roll because of your failure to attend chapel. As you might expect, your mother was a bit agitated by the way your transgression may affect your academic standing. Granted, you did not understand the consequences of your actions, and I hope that by perfect attendance for the rest of the semester and perhaps a little extra volunteering in the Student Services Inner-City Project you will earn back your status on the Dean's List. At the same time, I have to admit my own disappointment. Read more

The Apostles' Creed, Part 2: I Believe in Jesus Christ

The first paragraph of the Apostles' Creed distinguished Christianity from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism by asserting the existence of one personal God. Now, in the second paragraph, Christianity is further separated from other religions by a belief in the person and work of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

Many people will concede that Jesus was a good man or a great teacher. The Creed affirms much more, insisting that Jesus is fully God and fully human. J. I. Packer has pointed out that as Jesus Read more

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