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THE ASAPH MUSIC LETTER
ENCOURAGING BELIEVERS TO SET AND MAINTAIN A BIBLICAL MUSIC STANDARD
To the chief musician and his choir
Vol. 1--No. 1--October 30, 2001
(Go easy on your eyes. Print this letter for a more enjoyable read.)
THIS INAUGURAL ISSUE of The Asaph Music Letter is brought to you in hopes of, as our masthead reads, “encouraging believers to set and maintain a Biblical music standard.” The influence of the improper kind of music, we feel, has permeated our society, and we can see the effects of it. It is heart-wrenching to look through trade magazines to Christian publishers and view the standard offering of new and backlisted “Christian” music. When we see the front covers of new “Christian” CDs filled with a younger generation of singers looking considerably shabbier than even the early 1960s rock stars, we are forced to believe we have come a long way in the wrong direction. Then there’s the music. Most everyone has heard it. You can hear it often playing over the speakers in “Christian” bookstores. If you were not in a “Christian” store, you would not even be able to identify it as being Christian.
On the other hand, there is some very good music out there. We trust we can bring it to you. Along with that proper music we’d like to share articles of interest and interviews with those artists and instructors of music who have surrendered to the Lord their talents with which He has blessed them.
MARINE GRADUATION—It was an overcast sky, but the lack of sunlight hardly diminished my spirit. Spirit. Esprit de corps! Corps indeed.
It was Friday morning, August 31, 2001, and in just a few hours my son would march across the Parade Deck located on Parris Island, South Carolina, to graduate as one of the “few, the proud.” But before I ventured to the graduation site, the morning flag-raising must be viewed. I had been informed by those who had made this same journey that the morning flag-raising was worth attending. I was not disappointed.
My wife, my dad and I made our way toward the general direction of the huge flagpole where the morning ceremonies would be taking place. A bulldog named Iron Mike, fully dressed in Marine regalia, was being allowed to mingle with the crowd, and I suppose by now photographs of Iron Mike are plenteous. I took one myself.
Just after things were called to order, we could hear the Marine marching band playing in the distance and making its way toward us. They stopped directly in front of where we were standing and presented a mini-concert of good songs, and those songs were played well. The conductor had captivated my attention as he conducted in what I would describe as “Marine style.” Every stroke of the baton was on purpose. There was no wasted movement.
Standing there listening I was reminded once again how common music is, but yet how very important and influential is the medium of music. Where there is music, there is influence. That is why music must be on the side of righteousness, so the effect can be a righteous one.
It has been reported that before the first sorties were flown over Iraq during the Gulf War, the pilots spent some quiet time with a chaplain. After which they listened to some stirring patriotic music. Do you think the pilots were motivated? Of course they were! How? Through the medium of music.God has blessed us with this wonderful thing we call music. May we all ever use it to glorify Him.
NEW TAKE ON AN OLD BOOK—Recently I was asked to read the book A Romance of Song & Soul Winning by Helen C. Alexander and J. Kennedy MacLean (reprinted 1995, Sword of the Lord Publishers). I must admit to a sense of embarrassment for not having already read this title, for I do so love history and music, and this book caters to both.
A Romance of Song & Soul Winning is a large, 272-page paperback, which includes a vast array of black-and-white photographs chronicling the life of the great song leader, Charles M. Alexander (1867-1920). This native Tennessean traveled the world over many times performing song-leading duties and much more for many famed evangelists of yesteryear, such as Billy Sunday, R. A. Torrey and J. Wilbur Chapman.
It would be an encouragement to any Christian to read this book just for the soul-winning appeal alone, which Mr. Alexander held as a high priority. Many Christians might say they too have that same priority, and they might; but notice how strongly this priority was manifested in the life of Charles Alexander as he spoke to a group of men at Dundee, Scotland, in 1903: “Be a soul-winner if you are never anything else. You will find very few who want to shine in winning souls all the time. You have a chance here to distinguish yourselves.” Another time he put it very plainly: “You cannot be a sane, healthy Christian unless you are trying to win souls. It is sanity itself.”
Everyone with aspirations of sacred song leading should read this book, for if there were ever a Christian song leader, truly it was Charles Alexander. List the best qualifications for an effective music director, and he had them. List the most important duties of a music director, and he did them. In Alexander’s day, music played a much bigger and better role than in today’s revival and worship services. In one of his own articles, his philosophy of song exactly nails down the usefulness that singing should bring to a meeting: “I have yet to see the first church that remained empty for long, where each person entered heartily into the singing of hymns. When singing is delegated to the few, with no responsibility upon the rest of the audience, the interest dies, the numbers dwindle, and all kinds of expedients must be resorted to in order to draw the people. This method crowds out music from its proper place, which should be co-ordinate with preaching.”
“Co-ordinate with preaching” was precisely the vocation chosen by Charles Alexander for his life’s work. He fully believed the very songs themselves would bring people to Christ. During the opening prayer to the 1905 London Campaign his heart for music to aid in the decisions for Christ came through as he “pleaded that the songs might go out all over London, so that thousands might be sung into the kingdom of God.”
The song leader’s favorite verse was II Timothy 2:15. You can read this reference on his tombstone. The verse begins with the word “Study.” May the Lord bless the Church with more Charles M. Alexanders who are not afraid to study as it pertains to their calling, who realize the proper place and kind of music, and who know how “to go right down by the side of men and win them to God."
To purchase this title, please click here: http://www.asaphmusic.com/description.asp?Item=STL-PB-144-8
OUR PHILOSOPHY—INTRODUCTION (1ST in a Series)--If one were to attempt to condense the very essence of Scripture into one word, I believe he would be left with the word "worship." Every act that God has done and everything He has created are to bring worship to Himself. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word translated "worship" in our English Bible literally means "to prostrate oneself before God." The picture seems to be that of a slave bowing before his master in complete submission, or that of a loyal subject prostrating himself before his king. The worshipper by his attitude, his actions, and his speech communicates the fact that his will is no longer his own. He defers the power of life and death to the one being worshipped.
In contrast, our modern "religious" culture attempts to portray "worship" as some kind of ethereal good feeling about God. However, the one who falls prostrate before the Lord in true worship surrenders his life, his possessions, and his service to the Lord. We are nothing, but God is everything, and He is the only One worthy of our praise.
Music is possibly the most expressive means of directing our worship to the Lord. Music can give voice to the deepest emotions and attitudes of the heart. Because of the deep feelings we attach to our music, a person's musical tastes go beyond mere aesthetic preferences.
For this reason, most people respond negatively when someone attacks their music. Musical choices are a reflection of who a person is and what he believes. Therefore, the music of a Christian will only be right when his heart is truly right. The only music that can be considered true worship is that which exhibits the attitude of surrender to the will of God and praise to Him for His greatness.
A perfect example of a worship song is the "song of the Lamb" in Revelation 15:3,4, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
Music is a major theme of the Bible. From the song of the morning stars at the creation of the world (Job 38:7), to the Psalms of David, to "the song of Moses and of the Lamb" in Revelation 15, God's music permeates the pages of Scripture. God created music, and all three Persons of the Godhead are involved in making music. God has created within man the ability to sing and play musical instruments. One day we as born-again believers will sing in heaven. After careful consideration of these facts, it becomes quite obvious that God does care about the music in which we involve ourselves. Therefore, we must be absolutely certain that the message of our music measures up to God’s standard, regardless of our personal tastes and opinions.
The trend of the culture in which we live is to promote "self-esteem" and "self-confidence." The result of this humanistic philosophy is the elevation of personal opinion to the level of divinely inspired truth. For the average person, the phrase "I like it" has become the defining argument in defense of any activity in which he participates. This all-encompassing attitude includes the type of music in which he listens, no matter how unholy is the music or the performer. Unfortunately, unwary Christians often unthinkingly adopt this same reasoning. We seem to be returning philosophically to the days of the judges when "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). The Christian must be thoroughly grounded in Scripture to avoid reflecting this carnal, humanistic philosophy in his own character.
Much of the confusion concerning music principles and standards for the Christian stems from our ignorance of the music principles found in the Bible. Sometimes even those who know what the Bible teaches display an outright disregard for its standards. The purpose of these articles is to clarify and carefully explain what the Bible teaches concerning music and music standards. No attempt will be made to go into great detail concerning what "bad" music is. We believe that true godly, Biblical discernment comes as a byproduct of being saturated with the knowledge of what is right. The Christian has no business knowing the intimate details of that which is wicked. We are commanded to flee from evil, not to study it. Paul said in Romans 16:19, "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." Ephesians 5:11, 12 tells us, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." Certainly, no one would be foolish enough to warn against the evils of pornography by showing dirty pictures on an overhead, while pointing out the evils of each one. We must teach people the Bible and encourage them to follow its precepts.
We believe the Bible is the Word of God; It is inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired; It is our guide for living, and our Rulebook for faith and practice. God's Word is an Island of truth and moral absolutes in the midst of our society's sea of relativism. These articles are dedicated to the believer who truly wants to learn what the Bible has to say about music. Anyone who will approach these truths with an open mind, open heart, and most of all, an open Bible, can learn to have true, Biblical discernment concerning God-honoring music.
CHRISTMASTIDE, CHRISTMAS MUSIC…Here are a few suggestions for those special ones on your list this year who love Christmas music, and doesn’t everyone love Christmas music? You might not start playing it as early as others. Christmas in July might not be for you, but everyone loves Christmas music.
Christmas Favorites by Shannon Steele
Hale & Wilder Sing Christmas
Tidings of Joy
The Greatest Birth in History
IN THE CD PLAYER…Joy Overflowing by Beth Horton Barnard found its way into our player, and we can’t seem to take it out. The title song will bless your soul. It seems impossible even to think of being discouraged when listening to these truths being sung.
A song of thankful meditation with the theme of the blood of Jesus is “The Only Key.” Dwight Gustafson did a wonderful work with Dr. Bob Jones, Jr.’s, word picture of how powerful is the blood of Christ.
If you want to begin your day on the right note, listen to “Grace.” The admonition to take definite time to pray and claim God’s promises is something with which most of us can identify. The CD includes nine other cheerful selections.
To hear a portion Beth’s music, please click here: http://www.asaphmusic.com/description.asp?Item=BHB-JOYCD