We live in a day of unlimited resources. One of those resources is music and over the years we have purchased lots of music. Yes I remember 8 tracks and cassettes. (oddly I talked to a young guy awhile back and they are collecting cassettes again. Make sure you have a pencil with you) Then we had some albums, which for the audiophile (a person enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction.) never left. My wife and I had albums sitting in a milk crate that my son now plays on his turntable. Then we transitioned to CD’s and then MP3, which is down loadable music. This is much better than the Walkman’s that played either cassettes or CDs. I like the digital music as I can buy individual songs and not the whole album. This is how we do it for our church and yes we buy all our music. Now I have most of my music on my phone so when I walk I can listen to a large assortment of music, unlike the stations that just play the top songs and you hear them over and over until you get sick of them.  I just hit shuffle and my music will play for the length of time I walk. Or you can even listen to podcasts. You can also tune into an online stations just as you would a radio station in your car or listen to something like Spotify and select your genre of music.
                As I said music is an unlimited resource. Christian music has a lot more selection now than it did in earlier days. Most large churches have a worship team selling their music, which was made famous by Hillsong. Ok I know the gospel quartets have been doing this for years before that made famous by the Gaithers. On a side note Jim Cymbala speaking at a Praise Gathering, Indianapolis in 1994 said while talking about the selling in the temple, “They were doing it, they were doing their job, but they were making big time money and they were greedy and they had brought a secular spirit into a sacred place. They were businessmen. They were crass business men, coming into something that God said “my house should be called a house of prayer.. you made it a den of thieves...you're getting over on the people...out with you!” “But that's not my main point this morning. But that's a well-taken point for all of us. Not only on the crass business side of money...because its so easy to make Gospel work just another way to make a living. That's what these people were doing.” As we move forward we see the power of the music industry in the church. Many churches have a store on their website so you can buy some of their brand and online donations are easily accepted. For example check this out. http://hillsongstore.ca/ or https://store.brooklyntabernacle.org/, which is odd after listening to his sermon in 1994. That's just a couple of examples of the industry. You have cruises available, memberships, concerts etc. We won’t even get into the book industry and CEO / pastors salaries.
                The gospel has become big business no matter how you slice it. I don’t really think that most think about the selling, they just think they are spreading the gospel so what if they make profit from it. With the technology today especially with the book industry why not just post it on your website as a PDF. In the end God judges our hearts but we need to be very careful in this area. The Apostle Paul must be just shaking his head. He said, 2 Corinthians 2:16 “To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” He is making a pretty strong point here. You can make the application. He also said 1 Corinthians 4:18 “Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” So what would happen if the Apostle Paul confronted some of these musicians, authors and pastors? How would they stack up when it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit? They are actually able to connect with millions of people but do they actually have the same power Paul had? I think the answer is obvious but I am going to give you a couple of examples anyways.
                Okay so back to music. I have always felt we need to pay attention to the lyrics of songs no matter the genre. Years ago in one of our youth classes at church, I had the teens bring in their music. Basically none were listening to Christian music. I read them the lyrics and they suddenly became uncomfortable. The song lyrics were brutal. They then responded, oh we don’t listen to the words. Yea right! It is very important to listen to the words, as there is much more to music than the beat. Today I want to focus on the words of Christian music and being diligent in our discernment. This is not meant to be a song critique but just a reminder to pay attention to what you listen to and a reminder that God is listening to your heart not your mouth. Mark 7:6 “He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Worship is much more than singing. Just because the song is catchy or has a great beat, make sure the lyrics are great and biblical. Yes some songs are going to give you that bounce in your step while others may be more subdued. I will admit there are songs I used to use that I don’t use now in our church. I feel we don’t just sing songs for the rhythm or beat, the words are crucial as we sing before God, not for our own entertainment. I have heard people say they couldn’t worship because they did not know the song. My answer is always the same. I ask; can you read or listen? One worship leader wrote an article on worship and said he just texted his wife during worship because he didn’t know the songs. Yes I understand that he should have been called ahead of time to see if he knew the songs. This was a worship leader who should not be leading worship or writing about it. I am not musical but even I can pick up a song pretty quick. Having said that it doesn’t always come out my mouth the way I am hearing it. God understands. As we sing, it is to the glory of God. It is not a performance for an audience. It is not supposed to be a concert but it has turned out that way. This is a hard area, as musicians want their music to flow as do listeners but we still have to be careful that performance doesn’t take over praise. Fog machines, special lighting, really??? This is just a sad attempt to be relevant in a powerless church. What can we do to attract people to our powerless church? There are even churches playing secular songs to entice people to come to church. In their desire to be relevant before culture, they have become irrelevant before God. I personally made a choice a long time ago not to listen to secular music as my music of choice. Yes I know when working out at the gym, ACDC was the lifters choice but do you really want to be on a highway to hell or the Highway of Holiness?
                Without the power of the Holy Spirit present then music is just music. Right now this is what church looks like and yes we have music but I believe it will change as the power of God returns. I believe the church will once again look more like Acts 5:9 “Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also. 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. 12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. (Maybe if they had a fog machine they could have done better) 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Next time you go to a concert and the crowds gather, watch and see if healing and casting out demons is happening. (Just a reminder to watch for the counterfeit) If the power of God is as high as the emotion there should be. I am not saying we shouldn’t have music but it has its place. James 5:3 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
                If the church looked anything near what these verses described, our songs of praise may change and our hearts would be on the right track. How often have you heard people say the music was really good! So! Yes there are some really good songs out there and the Holy Spirit still inspires songs to be written but like everything else in church we still must test the spirits. God is looking at our hearts not our mouths. For example when Amos was talking about the Day of Judgment and how we should dread it, singing “I’ll Fly Away” really doesn’t cut it. He said, Amos 5:18 “Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? Isaiah 1:10 “Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.” Just because it is a great concert does not mean God is listening. Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.” Ezekiel 33:30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. 33 “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” These songs could have been performed majestically but God only hears noise. It does not matter how amazing the performance if the Holy Spirit is not present. The song “Heart of Worship” describes this. “When the music fades all is stripped away and I simply come, Longin' just to bring something that's of worth that will bless your heart. I'll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required, You search much deeper within through the ways things appear You're looking into my heart I'm comin' back to the heart of worship, And it's all about You It's all about You, Jesus.” Did this song just get popular and then fade or did people actually repent and come back to the heart of worship.
                As I was walking one of the songs on my playlist is “The River is Rising” recorded live at Joel Olsteen’s (another topic) Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. There was a full choir and thousands of people.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNKZDhOc1KI It has a great beat. Makes you want to sing, dance, jump and shout praise. Even I feel like jumping!! Okay only in my mind. The base is driving the beat -bum, bum, bum ….. There was great audience interaction and a standing ovation. He says, “Okay church lets see if you got it?” I say good question. The closing song ends with thunderous ovation. Good night everybody God bless you! Give the Lord a shout! So the river was rising, then what? John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Was it a great concert or was the power of God flowing. If the river was flowing, this would mean that the Holy Spirit was there in power. What happened at the end of the song?  What then happened to the river? I like this song and I am not saying it is bad but does what the song is about, really happen. Where was the power? Are all those people satisfied with an energetic closing song to a great concert? My point is don’t be enamored by the concert, look and see if the Holy Spirit really is present.
                Then I heard this song one day. I was going to use it in our service as we are calling on God for revival. The words are powerful at least till half way through then there is a change in direction that totally changes the call for repentance for revival. The song "The King Is Among Us" starts out   - “All our fathers saw in the days of old, Would you do it again, Do it again, All the stories told, All the miracles, Would you do it again, Do it again You said “Consecrate yourselves to me and you will see amazing things, We need Your revival, Holy Spirit fire, Burning ever brighter in our souls, Kings and kingdoms falling, Hear your people calling, King of Kings we need a miracle. There’s a time to sow and a time to reap, Would you do it again, Do it again. There’s a time to heal and a time to build, Would you do it again, Do it again.” So then if the song were to stop there it would have directed people to repent but it doesn’t. This would have been a powerful plea for repentance and the need for the glory of God, revival, fire and miracles. It then changes directions and says, “The King is among us and His glory surrounds us, And His fire is falling as we sing The Savior is for us and His love is victorious, And revival is rising in His name You said “Consecrate yourselves to me And you will see amazing things” So the plea was unwarranted as the glory, fire and revival and already there. So really don’t bother repenting, it is already here. The fire and the glory are falling as we sing. I have to ask when the repentance took place in this song. Too bad this could have been a powerful song.
                One other song that I recently heard called “Home” by Chris Tomlin. This song talks about heaven and the freedom heaven will bring. Strangely most of the things he is talking about are possible now in the Christ Jesus. Chains broken, blind see, fear is gone, dead rising. Jesus came to set us free, the sting of death is gone. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” More and more theological distinctives are coming out in songs. Yes its great to think about heaven but don’t sell short what Jesus has for us now.
                Today there are more and more songs we have to be careful with. Are the musicians really leading you in worship or are they entertaining you with a concert? Yes there are bad hymns and praise songs so we need to be careful. It is not just about how good they are lyrically either. Is there power present and I don’t mean the size of the speakers. I think the loudness covers the emptiness sometimes. Either way, make sure the songs are biblical and the leaders Spirit filled. When you are listening try to be discerning and don’t just accept every word that is sung to you. I love music don’t get me wrong but make sure it is not just entertainment. As we continue on this journey we need to be more and more discerning. I went to a concert one summer and it was great but nothing happened. If the power of God was truly there, it would have been a life changing experience. It is very easy to turn worship into a concert and get lost in the emotion but ask yourself if the power of God was truly there according to scripture. Don’t base it on how you felt. Remember Job worshipped after he lost everything. It really wasn’t about the song. He submitted himself before His God. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” There are lots of artists preforming, and authors selling and preachers preaching but do not be deceived. John 4:23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”