Editor’s Note: Today we’re delighted to feature some encouragement from Lindsey Carlson about one of her areas of expertise- music. We hope you enjoy this article on creating a soundtrack of thoughts that honor God.
by Lindsey Carlson
Steve Jobs created the iPod, but God created music.
We can trace the tunes all the way back to the very first apple, when Adam’s great, great, greatest grandchildren first crafted and played instruments. After Moses and the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, they praised God with songs of gratitude for His deliverance and protection (Ex. 15). When the ark of God was placed in the temple, David appointed songs of thanksgiving sung to the Lord:
“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!” (1 Chron. 16:8-10)
David hired professional musicians to lead worship daily at the temple of God. The Hebrew people valued spiritual songs and educated themselves in skillful playing and they cultivated a love for music. The whole earth is commanded to sing to the Lord. (1 Chron. 16:23) For thousands of years God’s people have lifted their praises in songs and melodies.
But it’s not all shofars and lyres. It would be easy to enjoy music to God’s glory if it were all created for God’s glory. But alas, alack, it is not. Flip on the radio and you’ll be bombarded with messages contrary to the word of God. As heavy bass beats bump down from Cadillac windows, I whisk my young children indoors to avoid drive-by obscenities. Musical messages expose our minds to words of self-absorption, pride, jealousy, and anger, creating a new soundtrack of thoughts.
Even among the “Christian” music scene we have a plethora of choices: gospel hymns, modern hymns, contemporary Christian music, Christian alternative, indie-Christian, praise and worship, and even some sketchy songs some label as “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” where the listener wonders if she is singing about needing Jesus or a boyfriend.
Music is in my blood. If you sliced me open, you’d see eighth notes swimming inside each blood cell, coded in my DNA, creating a master life-playlist. Because I value good music, I have high standards. I listen to and look for certain characteristics when choosing my faves. High standards must extend further than musicality.
As a believer who seeks to honor God with every part of my life, I must be aware of the origins of all music, and where it has been perverted and polluted by the world. Then I must make up my own mind, choosing to respond to music in an intentional way, thereby guarding my ears, my mind, and my heart.
Let’s begin by being an informed consumer:
Music is everywhere.
Even if you don’t love music, hate to sing, or are totally tone deaf, it reaches you. You can’t escape it. It resides in every context of life- on the radio in the car, in the line at the grocery store, in malls, restaurants, schools, and churches. Everywhere we turn we face catchy tunes on the radio, ambient elevator music, and obnoxious jingles and advertisements. Music is not only at church, it’s everywhere.
Ever watched a powerful slide-show in church, without music? How about a graduation without Pomp and Circumstance? Considering a silent bridal procession for your wedding? Sing your baby to sleep with the lullabies of AC/DC or 2Pak? Do sulking teenagers grab salsa music or The Wiggles as they’re weeping in the dark? Music directs and affects our mood and moves our hearts to feel specific emotions.
Keep your mind on Jesus (Is.26:3) at all times. Fixing our eyes on Him through music will steer our heart toward God’s comfort and away from the world’s. We will find solace in Christ’s sufferings, not in our own. Identify helpful music for all the emotions you’ll face in your daily life. I like to have reflective music when I’m sad, peppy praise music for happy days, and middle-of-the-road music that’s full of wisdom and truth for every other day.
Songs teach children (and adults) information that might otherwise seem tedious or boring. The Letter People taught me the alphabet in preschool, School House Rock taught all kinds of history and government factoids, even math got the musical hook-up. Music helps us remember things by reaching our brain in a way that sticks.
Paul charged Timothy (2 Tim 4:2) to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” If we are going to preach the gospel to ourselves in season and out, we have to know it.
Take a cue from my kindergarten teacher and learn it with a song. Find music that teaches solid Biblical wisdom, straight from the scriptures. Don’t settle for watered-down touchy-feely God songs. Look for music that expounds scripture and makes God more beautiful. I prefer to sing about who God is, teaching myself about His character, rather than wallowing around in my own feelings of inadequacy.
Watching “The Little Mermaid” with my daughter reminds me of hair-brush singing in the bathroom mirror (as a child, not as frequently now.) Wells Fargo banks lead me to burst into songs from the musical Oklahoma! that I performed in back in middle school. To this day, I still turn off a certain Jars of Clay song that sucks me out of the present and back into high-school heartbreak.
Memories with soundtracks are intense. Songs tied to specific experiences in life, petrify my feelings in time. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not.
If certain music has negative emotional connotations, give it the boot. Stop dwelling on songs that drag up old wounds, tempt you toward old behavior patterns, or lead you to be dissatisfied with life. Heed Paul’s exhortation:
“Whatever is true, whatever, is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Take this to heart in the music you listen to in your car, at work, in the house, as you play with your kids, and any other time that life demands music.
Am I proposing that we must only listen to “Christian” music? Absolutely not! I am proposing that we evaluate the place that music holds in our lives, how it effects our mood and feelings, and what it teaches us or directs us to dwell on. Guard your heart and mind against Satan’s attacks by allowing music to be part of your armor. Make your songs a garment of praise.
G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.”
The remainder of the battle is in how we walk. We are to walk as children of the light, no longer do we live in darkness. Discern what music places you in the light and directs you heart to the Lord. Fill up your mind and heart with psalms, spiritual songs, and singing. (Eph. 5)
Fill your playlist with melodies to the Lord. The larger He is on your playlist, the larger He’ll become in your heart. Who’s on your playlist?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Lindsey Carlson lives in Houston, Texas with her college sweetheart Kyle. She is the wife of a worship-pastor and mother to four young children. “Normal” days are filled with homeschool, endless dishes, games, books, mis-matched socks, and writing whenever sleeping children permit. Lindsey writes about faith and worship at By Faith the Carlsons.