Monday, October 26, 2009

How to Be Used by Christ

Becoming a Vessel of Honor

My first sermon,..yikes. lol. Anyway, this is the raw cut (no editing here...obviously haha). Check it out. I hope God can use it further.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Role of Music in the Church

By: Jonathan Harris

My purpose in writing this is to express my convictions on the role of music in the church in no uncertain terms, so that everyone who reads this will be crystal clear on what I believe Scripture to be dictating. I’d like to preface this with a brief background on my experiences thus far with ministerial music, just so people know where I’m coming from, and can bring to my attention anything which may be unfairly bias in my position, and not Scriptural. My goal is to operate within Scriptural bounds, not lessening its constraints (legalism), or widening them (licentiousness).

I grew up in a fairly conservative church. I would hear hymns played on both piano and organ up until I was probably thirteen or so. The Christian music my family listened to was also fairly traditional. I would hear hymns, and modern songs with deep Theological depth and musical intricacy. My parents mainly listened to Steve Green and Michael Card with touches of older Michael W. Smith, Twila Paris, and Southern Gospel Vocal bands. When I was about thirteen, my church started to incorporate worship songs played on a keyboard. At that time, I became involved with both a youth band, and a new praise team my church was starting. Since that time, the praise team has continued to play contemporary songs (i.e. God of Wonders, Shout to the Lord, etc.) as well as some traditional hymns. They now have drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, in addition to the original keyboard. The youth band took a different path, and focused its attention on copying modern Christian rockers as much as possible, with the idea that this would somehow attract youth and present the Gospel to them through the lyrics. I never did see any evidence that this idea actually worked, and dropped out of it when I was sixteen or so. In other churches I have witnessed full orchestras, choirs, rock bands, country gospel singers, and many other sub genres. All that to say, I believe I have had exposure to the majority of musical styles prevalent in churches.
In addition to playing music within the confines of the church, I have also witnessed what individuals involved in the Christian music genre accomplish, or lack thereof, in the context of the world. I’ve been to many Christian concerts (Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Ray Boltz, Jars of Clay, Selah, Family Force Five.) and have seen both positive and negative results. I have heard a few songs that are well written, and Theologically very sound and worshipful. They cause the audience to come face to face with the reality of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Most of the results however have seemed to be negative: The Gospel generally isn’t presented (I haven’t heard it once), the music is usually sub-par (from a purely musical standpoint), the Theology is generally off (the concept of “Love” and “God” are usually skewed), and non-Christians are simply left entertained, but not convicted. Due to these issues, I haven’t seen the purpose of going to most “Christian” concerts and financially supporting them. I realize that this probably comes across as pretty harsh, but I felt it necessary to outline my personal bias on this issue before getting into what I believe Theologically. Hopefully my personal bias is the result of Theology, and not the other way around. I would definitely like to be corrected however, if I can be shown from the Word that my positions are not the result of Biblical exegesis.

I. The Purpose of Worship Music
A. Edification of the Body (1 Cor. 14:26, Eph. 4:12). Spiritual gifts are given for the building up of the church (edification, admonishing, and teaching). Music is a vehicle by which these Spiritual Gifts are expressed. The ramifications of this are far-reaching.
1. Music, in the context of the church, is not to be used for the purpose of entertainment or church-growth. Music must not be used as a marketing scheme to keep false converts comfortable, or attract unbelievers.
2. Music must be preformed by those possessing a Spiritual gift (i.e. they must be saved), otherwise the Body is not being served.
3. Musical styles can’t tear down the church.
i. If a certain style appals, i.e. If someone finds a particular style offensive (not distasteful according to personal preference), the weaker brother must be deferred to. (1 Cor. 8:9)
ii. Musical instrumentation must match the lyrics being delivered. For instance, dissonance should not be a musical quality coupled with a song of thanksgiving. The words must fit the tune. Biblical truth is enhanced by appropriate euphony.
B. Communication with God (Psalm 95:2, Psalm 71:23, Psalm 105:2). Music is used to express joy and thankfulness to the Creator. Worship music should be God-centered.
1. If the focus of our music is truly God, any effort on man’s part to “show-off,” or perform for the glory of himself, steals God’s own glory, and is therefore incorrect. (Although, I can’t be 100% dogmatic on whether clapping should be present following a musical performance, I tend to believe that we as Christians should stay on the safe side. Clapping is dangerous because it is culturally taken as a visible display of approval on the part of the performer, and not the object of the performer’s music. “Amens,” are seen as approval of the message.
II. The Characteristics of Music
A. It Must Be Consistent with the Word (John 4:24). This deals with the lyrics in songs.
1. Lyrics must not contain lies. However, the affirmative must also be true.
2. Lyrics must contain truth. If a particular song doesn’t contain lies, but doesn’t contain any Theological truth either (i.e. it’s mindless. Yes I have heard such songs), then the song must be rejected.
B. It Must Incorporate All Available Instruments. (Psalm 150:3-6)
1. This does not mean people must be forced to play their instrument. It means that all those with Spiritual Gifts, willing to serve God with them, should be accommodated.
2. A particular style (i.e. contemporary, hymns, etc.) should not be exalted to the exclusion of others. (i.e. the praise band shouldn’t be disbanded because certain church leaders prefer a single piano. Or the flip side. The choir, ensemble, organ, etc. should not be disbanded because someone prefers a rock band.)
C. It Must be Excellent (Matt. 22:37, Psalm 33:1). Music needs to reflect the best of the deliverer.
D. It Must be of the Spirit (Ephes. 5:18-19) Music must flow from a heart controlled by God.
E. Intelligible (1 Cor. 14:7–10, 19). The musical piece must be understandable to the worshiper.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How Do You Know Who Someone “Really” Is?

Irrespective of geographical location and historical sequencing, people have, and always will remain, people. There are certain qualities which we possess, that transcend culture. The foremost quality is the fact that we are all made in the image of God. Another universal quality, is that every human being is sinful. Both major qualities combine to create interesting characteristics. As human beings, we desire to interact with other humans, understanding where they come from, how their minds work, and how they physically interact. It is a pursuit of meaning as much as it is a pursuit of knowledge. We better understand who we are through our relationship with them. We also tend to want to know how we can be of service, accomplishing inherent purposes placed in us by our Creator. God himself desires a relationship with human beings (even though he thoroughly knows our every instinct and motive). I believe, our pursuit of relationship is a mirror-image of His desire. However, we are not God, and therefore have limited knowledge of other humans. We fear giving of ourselves to unknown persons (especially when it comes to romantic partners, or parental figures) who may turn out to be different than our original impressions. In addition to wanting a relationship due to our being made in the image of God, we possess caution of such relationships because of our realization that every man has the potential to deceive due to his sin nature. We attempt to figure out ways in which to determine someone’s true character. Methods not based in God’s Word however will fail us, leaving us hurt, wronged, and even more cautious than we previously were. My aim is to formulate a mechanism based in God’s word, by which we can wisely apply principles that give us clues as to the true character of a human being. Proverbs 23:6-8 says:

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, "Eat and drink!"
But his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten,
And waste your compliments.

Here we have a man who acts hospitable for the wrong reason because his character is selfish. He wants something in return from his friend (correction: victim). This poor soul who is offered the cordial reception does not take into account the host's overall egoistical quality and thus succumbs to the tempting prospect pronounced by his supposed friend. He (the victim) wants to believe, I'm sure, that this kind invitation flows from the best of intentions, but in actuality, it is merely the bait carefully placed in a well-orchestrated trap of self-serving dimensions. The dupe gratefully cherishes the morsels of his "kind-neighbor" only to vomit them up upon the realization that his enjoyable time, precious gifts, and caring companion, were all a temporary ploy to serve the interests of another. Thus, the "hospitable" individual's actions were not consistent with his true motives. It is rightly said that a man can do the right things for the wrong reasons. In
Philippians 1:15-18, Paul noted that many in Rome were preaching the Gospel from wrong motives. However, I do believe that actions, over the long term, do reveal the intentions of the heart. Prov. 16:2-3 bears this out.

All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord,
And your plans will be established.

An individual who continually grows in sanctification, not falling into the same old sins, but rooting all of them out with ultimate dedication; someone who continually strives (victoriously) to do everything for the Lord rather than for any man, will render established plans. An important thing to note in this passage is the first line "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight." This directly answers an aspect of our human question.

“Do you judge someone based on what they do, or what they say?”

The answer is neither, if their motives are misplaced (anything apart from God is misplaced), because man is self deceived according to Prov. 16, and man is cunning with his actions according to Prov. 23.

The apostles themselves were flabbergasted (a highly technical term :)) when it was revealed that Judas of all people was betraying Christ. However, had they examined his motives revealed by the fact that his plans weren't committed to the Lord (i.e. his pilfering of ministerial moneys), and/or had they simply believed what Christ himself said about Judas in front of them (His action of dipping the morsel in his cup), they would have known. Of course, they didn't want to believe that it was Judas (emotions clouded vision), and thus they ignored the indications granted them (a true example of "blind faith").

The same is true today. The Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every believer. We may not have Christ dipping a morsel in the cup of an untrustworthy individual, but we do have an entity living inside us illuminating the Scriptures to reveal true wisdom. We can choose to ignore His illumination, or embrace it. There is also an additional mechanism set up in Scripture. I.E. "in the council of many wisdom is found." Motives have an interesting way of being revealed to folks around us, when we ourselves cannot tell who an individual really is.

Christ Himself gave a basic pattern by which motives can be found in Matthew 15:15-20.

And Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." And He said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also? "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

It is the combination of what a person say and do over the long term that can clue someone in as to their true intentions. What is said reveals the heart, but one must listen carefully for those things said in moment of indiscretion as well as those stated publicly. It is rightly said that a hypocrite says one thing, but does another. What is said then must be matched to what they do. Actions and reactions reveal what the person believes much better than what they say - since man has a propensity to lie to others (and himself). Jesus tied speech and action together in telling us that motives comes out of the mouth and are revealed in the specific actions listed which include sins of speech and sins of doing.

In short, what a person reveals about themselves does not effectually tell you who that person truly is. It is what's BEHIND what a person reveals that clues you in. Motives are harder to decipher, but with careful examination of actions and speech, coupled with wise council, and the Holy Spirit, a general framework can be laid for figuring such problems out. It's not always an easy formula, but it is a true one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Manliness for Dummies: How to Grill

This is a new feature to hardtack heaven. I'm deeming it, "Manliness for Dummies." Being a man myself, I find it frustrating when guys I know sport deviant concepts twisting the definition of manliness. My goal in this section, is to touch on various aspects of what being a man is, and what the skills associated with being a man are. One skill for men to have (since they are providers) is grilling. Being in the great outdoors, fire burning, meat sizzling, and females waiting for the prize portion of a tasty meal is as good as it gets (especially if it's something you've shot or caught). If you don't know the basics of grilling, I'll show you! Trust me, your woman-friend is gonna want you to know this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Using Capitalism to fight Capitalism

First written on Sept. 17, 2008

Yesterday Presidential Candidate Obama raised 9 million dollars1 at a Hollywood fund-raiser. The attendees included the likes of Will Ferrell, Jodie Foster, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Lee Curtis and DreamWorks founders Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. It seems that throughout the last 30 years, liberal causes have been funded in large part by Hollywood stars, elitist foundations such as the Ford foundation (which has more money that some countries), and elitist contributors such as George Soros and his buddies. Certainly, these contributors have not only backed candidates, but they have also been fighting and winning the culture war. They see an advantage in instilling liberal values, while at the same time funding elections. Conservatives, for the most part, seem like they want to fund elections, while remaining on the sidelines when it comes to fighting the culture war. However, I do believe that conservatives are fighting the culture war; but for the wrong side unfortunately. Let me explain; during the cold war, the "red scare" affected politics and business in our country. Anyone suspected of having communist or Soviet ties suffered boycotts that jeopardized carriers. If someone was found to be a true communist, they may of as well have committed political suicide. This was a time in which conservatives were zealous (probably overzealous) to put their money where their mouth was. While the "red scare" was a time of mild hysteria, it did show that Americans cared about the causes to which their money went. The entertainment industry was not automatically worthy of the citizen’s allegiance. Today this is not the case. Let me demonstrate this by asking a personal question to everyone reading this. When was the last time you went to the theater to see Leonardo DiCaprio? Have you bought a Will Ferrell film lately? How about Steven Spielberg? When was the last time you rented a Jamie Lee Curtis flick. Do you own Barbara Streisand or Ludicris CDs? Now, after you've thought about that for a minute, dwell on this: Where did these pop-culture stars get their money? That's right, it's from you, the consumer. Free market economics is still at work. Part of the $31,000 a ticket price tag that was required to enter the Obama fundraiser, came out of your pockets. This feeling of responsibility that you may have now, is absent from most conservatives; and the lack of it does, in part, contributes to the decline of our society. Think about it. These celebrities are supporting a man who is for partial birth abortion (and infanticide), higher taxes, globalism, socialism, and the list goes on. Would you spend your money towards movies in which the capital expended went to a murderer (if you believe abortion is truly murder)? Of course not! Then how come we’ll spend it in theaters and music stores that fill the pockets of those advocating what we deem to be evil at worst, and inferior at best.

The college I graduated from last spring (Dutchess Community College) is a very liberal school. Last semester I attempted to start a conservative republican student organization with a friend of mine. We were blocked by the student government because we mandated that only conservatives and republicans were allowed to be voting members in it (What a novel idea!). We were told that we had to include everyone in our club (postmodern multiculturalism at work). This means that liberals, communists, Neo-Natzies, KKK members, etc., all had to be included in our group if they had a desire to participate. In addition to having student organizations, D.C.C. also had a foundation meant to bring revenue into the school from various organizations. Imagine my surprise and resentment when I found out that a local republican organization was contributing to the school! The school itself is also heralded by our county executive and many other republican officials. How can this be! It's the same reason that conservatives are giving their money to liberal actors and producers. We never look at where our money is going! D.C.C. proudly trains young minds that Karl Marx’s ideas were accurate2, and that homophobia is the worst problem on earth (except for global warming). However, Republican financiers don't look (or don't pay attention) to these facts. They're looking at DCCs impact in the community, which is economically beneficial. Therefore they give up long term results to gain short term rewards. Conservative movie goers and pop music fans, who listen to liberal actors and artists are doing the same thing. They are sacrificing long term results on the alter of short term pleasure. So next time you wonder why Obama is outspending John McCain and Bob Bare put together, remember the last movie you went to see.

2 Prokop, Charlotte. Dutchess Community College: Social Problems Class.1 Sept. 2008. 21 Feb. 2009 .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Worldliness: Resisting and Defeating

This is a lesson I did for Christian Fellowship on "worldliness." A lot of my information was taken from "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World by C. J. Mahaney." Please keep in mind, that this is not 100% complete. I.E. I could have gone on to talk about materialism, our dress, etc., but I wanted, in the space I had, to focus on entertainment choices a little more.

When: Feb. 26th, 2009
Place: Christian Fellowship
Topic: Worldliness

What do you usually think of when you hear the word “worldliness?” For some it brings to mind a stoic puritans bent on keeping church members from engaging in any action which would be considered, “pleasurable.” For others it conjures up images of the evil Hollywood entertainment business and the sins of attending a movie theater, listening to popular music, and drinking alcohol. Most of us don’t view ourselves as worldly people. We have our own scale in which we are at the center, while those who are legalistic sit to our right, and those who are worldly sit to our left. We place ourselves in the, oh-so-comfortable “godly” center. This scale is based upon a listing of standards we have predetermined based on our own perception of the world. For instance, some may see playing cards and watching television as “worldly,” while others may see such actions as perfectly acceptable activities becoming of a “godly” individual. As you can see, we will get a different definition of the terms “worldly” and “godly” based upon a preferred list of rules. Since when did following Christ become a subjective exercise? Let’s bring clarity to this issue be first defining some terms.
Legalism: “Anyone trying to achieve acceptance through obedience.” This is the problem the Pharisees had. They took a legalistic approach to the law of God, trying somehow to gain salvation from God through their good deeds. I believe it’s important to understand that it wasn’t their “obedience” which was wrong, but their notion that they could gain God’s favor through it. In other words, it was their motivation which disqualified them from God’s favor (the very thing they were trying to achieve). Salvation is freely available to anyone humble enough to accept it on Christ’s merit, and not their own. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” - Titus 3:5 Therefore, the solution to legalism, is not lowering our standard, but rather raising our response to God.
Godliness: “Anyone set apart too, and following after Christ’s example.” Godliness and Holiness are fairly similar ideas. Holiness means “being set apart too.” Godliness signifies the object to which we are to be set apart. We are to be set apart to God. This doesn’t mean following a standard of do’s and don’ts, but rather pursuing and mimicking an example, that example being Christ. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” - Philip. 2:5
Worldliness: “love for the fallen world-system.” 1 John 2:15 commands us not to, “love the world, nor the things in the world.” The word “world” signifies “the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God.” What philosophies are we talking about when we say “organized system,” and where can these philosophies be found? Atheism, hedonism, evolutionism, materialism, spiritism, etc., are all philosophies that directly contradict God’s Word, and they can be found almost anywhere we go. The university campus, the shopping center, the highway, the television, the radio; there is almost no place in which we can travel without bumping into a system of beliefs which reject the God of the Bible. John says, “do not love these things!” He goes on to describe what these philosophical systems contain. “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.” David Jackman states, “The ‘worldly’ characteristics of which this verse speaks are in fact reactions going on inside of us, as we contemplate the environment outside.” Therefore, worldliness is internal not environmental. Worldliness is a heart issue. If I could boil these three categories down to one word, I would use the word “selfish” to describe them. Notice, worldliness is not an R-rated movie, but rather the lust of the eyes, It’s not sexual gratification, but rather the lust of the flesh, and it’s not buying a brand new car, but rather the boastful pride of life. As John Calvin said, “The evil in our desires lies often not in what we want, but in the fact that we want it too much.” The solution to worldliness is not simply tightening our standards, but rather changing our motivations. Godliness and worldliness are not determined on the basis of precept, but principle. That principle, is God’s word. Let’s now examine what God’s word has to say about worldliness.
The first thing to realize, I believe, when studying the topic of “worldliness,” is that no one is above the fray. We are all affected by this world, and to deny this fact, means that we are in the process of being affected without realizing it. Demas was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul the Apostle. He participated in strengthening the fledgling church throughout the Roman Empire. He left all he had, and stood by Paul even when he was cast into prison. However, in 2 Tim. 4:10 we find something remarkable: “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” I don’t believe Demas woke up one morning and said, “I’m going to desert Paul.” I believe this was a slow, gradual shift in his beliefs, until he had totally accepted the “world-system” as a way to live his life. We are no different than Demas. The road to serious rejection starts with little things: watching movies we know we shouldn’t, listening to songs with ungodly lyrics, buying “stuff” to make us feel happy, sleeping in during church, and the list goes on. As James Hunter stated, “The main problem in the church is not persecution from the outside, but worldliness infiltrating the inside. Sexual integrity is even softening.” How do we as believers avoid the pitfall of Demas, and not get sucked into the philosophies of this world? I believe the first step is rooting out the sin in our lives.
The second thing to realize, is that we aren’t the standard, the Bible is. We are corrupt fallen human beings. Even as Christians, though we are being transformed, we are also affected by the “mediasphere” we live in. We must go outside this fallen world, to look for a true standard. This standard resides with God. Let’s take a look at a couple Scriptures to find this standard, paying particular attention to the commands within the text.

Ephes. 5:1-13

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

Negative commands: Do not let a hint of immorality, impurity, or greed characterize you. No filthiness, silly talk, or coarse jesting. Don’t participate with the wicked. Don’t be deceived by wicked. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness.

Positive commands: Imitate God, walk in love, give thanks, walk as children of light (goodness, righteousness, truth), (learn) discern what is pleasing to God, expose unfruitful deeds.

You may be saying after reading this, “Wait these don’t help me! They’re principles, not prohibitions!,” and you’d be right. The goal is to “discern” what is pleasing to God. This isn’t a guessing game, because we have principles to work off of. When confronted with any situation, we need to apply the godly standards spoken of in this passage. Start by asking questions: Is this immoral? Does it tempt me towards greed? Are there dirty double ententes (i.e. course jesting)? Is this beneficial? Can I give thanks for it after participating? Let’s look another passage.

Philip. 4:8-9

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”

This passage provides a complete list of principles to work off of. Notice that this isn’t a restrictive standard, but an affirming one. We aren’t to be looking at situations and asking ourselves, “Does this contradict Philippians?” but rather ask, “Does this affirm Philippians?” There is a big difference. One is reaching for something higher (godliness), the other is merely trying to avoid something however (worldliness). Let’s reach, instead of stoop.
Let me ask you a series of rhetorical questions so you can examine yourselves to see if you’ve been affected by worldliness. Imagine your pastor were to take a blind test in which his task is to identify the genuine follower of Jesus Christ. His choices are an unregenerate individual and you. I’m given two reports detailing conversations , Internet activity, manner of dress, iPod playlists, television habits, hobbies, leisure time, financial transactions, thoughts, passions, and dreams. The question is: Would he be able to tell you apart? Would he discern a difference between you and your unconverted neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend? Page 20-21
Now let’s get practical. How do we combat the system of this world? Well, let’s start with what we don’t do. We already know that merely outwardly conforming to a higher standard will not work, because the issue is our heart, and not our actions. Another method which will not work is trying to resist worldliness by ourselves; meaning, expending all our energy into negatively avoiding worldly pitfalls, to the exclusion of positively affirming anything. This will cause us to fall into another pitfall: legalism. We are to “be holy as he is holy.” Meaning once again, that we are “set apart” to God, as well as being set apart from this present world. Try to ‘not’ think about the movie you saw last night, or the advertisement you noticed on your way to work. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? Of course it’s going to be the very thing you were trying to avoid thinking about! The solution lies in positively focusing our energy on pursuing God (i.e. dwelling on His sacrifice, thanking Him for blessings, etc.), not negatively avoiding the world. If the solution is focusing our energy towards God, how do we do that in the situations of everyday life? Let’s take a few different situations, in which we are confronted with the philosophy of the world, and apply this principle.

Visual Stimulation

I want to start off with Hollywood, because I think that this is a problematic area for most collegiates and high schoolers. I have felt in my own life a noticeable spiritual downward slide when I am continuously exposed to visual material which does not affirm what’s right. I like to justify my viewing habits by saying, “well there’s nothing ‘that’ bad in it,” or, “I hear this kind of stuff every day, it won’t matter if I hear it again.” It’s not until sometimes weeks later that I realize my viewing habits have caught up with me, as words I wouldn’t normally say make their way to the tip of my tongue, my longing for more visual stimulation has grown, the standard I’ve set for myself has more to do with a television character than it does a Biblical one, inappropriate sexual passions are more noticeable, and suddenly my devotional time shrinks. In short, it becomes an idol. How is this combated? The same way every sin is combated. As Psalm 119 states, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.” The Bible has plenty to say on this topic. First of all, every situation, including visual stimulation, must be filtered through Colossians 3:17, which says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” If I can’t honestly pray and thank God for it, there’s no reason for me to be viewing it. Another principle comes from, Ephes. 5:16. We are to be, “making the most of (our) time, because the days are evil.” Is what I’m doing really the best thing I could be doing with my time? How about the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Does it show love for my neighbor when I pay them to sin for my own enjoyment? We often don’t think about actors on a screen being people, because after all, they’re on a screen. But it is the equivalent of going to see a play. Would you pay for someone to commit sexual indecency, or use foul language, in your presence? Is it a wise use of your finances to be supporting a production company to put out more indecent films? These questions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to thinking through an entertainment decision.

Audio Stimulation

It’s important to understand firstly, that music is God’s idea (1 Sam. 13:14, 1 Chron. 16:5-7), however like anything else, it can be greatly distorted. Bob Kauflin said, “. . . a wise Christian understands that listening to music without discernment and godly intent reveals a heart willing to flirt with the world.” I can’t even stress how unqualified I feel like I am to write about this subject, because it is probably my weakest area. I have constantly listened to songs which convey bad messages because I like the beat and melody. I find myself singing along to lyrics on Monday, which don’t match what I sang about on Sunday morning. James talked about this by saying, “from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” Another thing to consider is those who are listening. Think about the children who follow your example. (Luke 17:1-2, says, “. . . It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Remember who’s within earshot of your music station, morning program, etc. Even though the band isn’t playing right next to you, and the DJ isn’t shouting in your ear, you should realize, it wouldn’t be any different if they were. When you press that “on” button, you are letting the outside come in. It doesn’t have to be worldly but it very well could be. They are in a sense, your companions, for the time you’re “tuning in.” It is wise to remember what Proverbs has to say about companions. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” I know far too many Christians who have, instead of staying as far away from the edge as possible, thought themselves to be “super-spiritual,” and have put themselves in dangerous situations. In short, they have become idolatrous. Bob Kauflin stated, “Music makes a precious gift but a terrible God, by God’s grace may we always know the difference.” Let’s hope we know the difference when it comes to every area of our lives.