As I continued my scriptural study on the importance of the JOY of the Lord in our lives and looked for different ways in which I could personalize this promise, I found myself thinking about how contemporary Christian music has evolved since I first tuned into it in the early 1970’s. I have repeatedly mentioned in this blog about how alike my wife and I have always been. But in thinking about Christian music today, I realized that this was one area where, in the budding stages of our relationship, we were quite different!
To begin with, I knew ZIP about contemporary Christian music as a teenager growing up in a pretty traditional Catholic family. I was into Rock and Roll! I was hip… you know what I mean… I was in the groove when it came to the top 40 hit parade! From the moment I got up in the morning the radio in my room was blasting tunes from the popular San Francisco teen station. I even had a cube radio in the bathroom so I could jive while taking care of business in there! When I first began to hang out with Piper I had been in a rock band since Junior High. Needless to say, music was a big part of my life.
The same could be said for Piper, except her interaction with music was strictly church music. To be honest, she was pretty naive when it came to the secular hits racing up the music charts. I would mentioned different songs or bands playing on the radio and she would smile and nod with a sort of blank look on her face! When she would play some of her Christian folk records for me I would cough a little and turn away in disgust as I didn’t want to offend her. I clearly thought that Christian music was kind of hokey!
Piper gradually became more in tune to the good old rock that I listened to and even sang with me in our band on a few occasions. But to be honest, she ended up having a lot more effect on the type of music I would listen to in later years than I ever had on her!
One of my fondest memories of our stay at Chico State College in north central California was one Saturday afternoon as Piper and I were sitting on the large grassy area between the guys and gals dorms. The area was full of students somewhat quietly studying, tossing footballs or walking around when suddenly the atmosphere just seemed to come alive as someone in the dorms placed their stereo speakers in a window and began to blast out a song by the then popular band Steely Dan. Then someone yelled out "Oh Yeah!" and it was like a shot of adrenaline was pumped into everyone’s veins. The noise level instantly increased, books were tossed to the ground, kids started smiling and laughing and many broke out into dance!
But the music of Chico State also had another distinction for Piper and I… A year after that afternoon on the lawn, we were introduced to The Second Chapter of Acts Christian band when Piper attended an outdoor concert at the football stadium where they were backing up Barrie McGuire. I was not actually attending school at that time, but when Piper brought home an album and played it for me, my music tastes were almost instantly changed! It was actually great music, with fantastic harmonies and had a message of life, compared to the other junk I used to sing in our band!
Through the years since then, it seems to me that contemporary Christian music has gone through many changes. I’ve heard and played the original folk style of the early seventies through the highly orchestrated musical ballads popularized through the Hosanna Music series of albums of the nineties, to the underground styles that our kids enjoyed in their youth and into current times where there tends to be more of direction into worship and a greater focus on the words than the instrumentation.
I must confess, that I recently came across some old fashioned Blue Grass Christian music that I really enjoy by Ralph Stanley, who first popularized the style in the 1940’s! It is very basic music but extremely JOYFUL and uplifting in tempo and basic Christian lyrics. My recent study on JOY is highlighted by the simplicity of this style of music, for JOY is a very simple thing that I have found many folks tend to dismiss as being naïve!
Over the last six years we have had some folks dismiss and/or criticize our JOY due to our simple trust in what God’s Word says as being very naïve to what they consider the seriousness and complexity of the situation that we are facing with Piper’s health. And the funny thing is that while they constantly suggest the world’s limited ways of dealing with this attack on my wife’s mind and body, their very presence around us emanates a sense of darkness, fear and depression. They are simply not very encouraging or uplifting people to be around and as such, I learned to limit Piper’s exposure to them as she is easily affected by the atmosphere around her.
On the other hand, we have a couple of good friends who are very simple people with a very strong trust in the Lord. When they would come over to our home in California or talk to us by long distance on the phone now, the entire atmosphere in us and our home brightens up. They happily talk about the love, faithfulness, JOY and power of the Lord. We can’t help but be encouraged by them after only a few moments in their presence! One of John’s favorite things is to call and share a positive testimony with me.
Isaiah 12:5-6 encourages us to “Make music to praise the Lord! He has done wonderful things. Let this be known throughout the earth. Shout loudly, and sing with JOY, people of Zion! The Holy One of Israel is great. (&) He is among you.” (God’s Word ©) Do you ever find yourself singing in simple praise to the Lord as you extol His goodness to those around you? What percentage of your time do you spend looking at the problems in your life compared to the time spent focusing in on what God’s Word says about your situations? I would bet that your life, your words and even your health is or would be more JOYFUL as you give the greater percentage of your attention to what He has done for you!
Think about that this weekend. Are you a JOYFUL influence on those around you or a dark cloud? Which would you rather be? Have a great weekend! Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s GOODNESS and JOY am I expecting to emanate today?”