June 2006


Tim’s recent sermon on stewardship, Parable of the Custodian (download it here) was a cogent reminder of how we are to be faithful with what God has given us. This includes:

Our Body: Am I a faithful steward of my body? Do I eat healthy foods? Do I exercise? Do I maintain flexibility and endurance? Do I use my body to serve God and others?

Our Mind: Am I a faithful steward of my mind? Do I study God’s Word, subjects important to me (psychology, music, statistics, etc.), Christian living, and interpersonal relationships? Do I train my mind for thinking? Do I train my mind in godly thinking (taking God’s perspective of the world, avoiding thoughts of lust or envy, etc.)?

Our Emotions: Am I a faithful steward of my emotions? Do I control my emotions or do I let them control me? Do I indulge anger, anxiety, and sadness, or do I willfully refocus my heart on joy, hope, and love?

Our Will: Am I a faithful steward of my free will? Do I make wise, godly decisions? Do I exercise godly behavior or do let my human nature dictate my actions? Do I allow worldly patterns and bad habits to control my decisions and attitude?

Our Abilities: Am I a faithful steward of the talents God has given me? Do I actively develop my abilities with speaking, writing, music, sports, and more? Do I put them to use for His work?

Our Time: Am I a faithful steward of my time? Do I waste much time on cheap recreation, or do I invest in God, in relationships, in bettering myself and others, in study, and in training myself for righteousness?

Our Sexuality: This goes beyond “yes” or “no”; i.e. sex inside marriage or out/before. Am I currently using my sexuality appropriately? Am I developing my sexuality? And when I am married, will I seek to learn how to please my partner, and train myself in pleasing her? Will I train myself in timely romance, foreplay, sex, etc.? Will I do kegels, etc.?

Our Spirit: Am I a faithful steward of my spirit, and its communion with the Holy Spirit? Do I actively listen to God with my spirit? Do I practice operating in faith on the gentle leadings of the spirit? Do I keep my spirit clean of sin? Do I exercise my spiritual authority in Christ over Satan and his demons?

Our Possessions: Am I a faithful steward of my money and assets? Do I waste much money on recreation and exorbitant comforts, or do I commit it to God’s will? Do I give to the poor, to the church, and to charities? Do I invest wisely?

Our Relationships: Am I a faithful steward of my relationships? Do I wisely maintain my relationships and edify those around me? Do I invest in them too little or too much? Do I perform my familial role faithfully? Am I a good neighbor to those around me?

Our Rights: Am I a faithful steward of my rights? Do I know my rights, and do I exercise them in accordance with God’s will?

The Church: Am I a faithful steward of my church body? Do I pay attention and get what I can from the Sunday service and small groups? Do I give as much as I can in encouragement, prophecy, service, etc.? Do I contribute to the health of the global Church?

The Earth: Am I a faithful steward of the earth and its creatures? Do I protect and preserve this valuable resource God has given us? Do I care for animals, plants, etc.? Do I care for the atmosphere and seas?

The Nation: Am I a faithful steward of my citizenship? Do I promote wise, godly leaders, and speak out against ungodly ones? Do I pray for all my leaders? Do I contribute to God’s will in politics?

Very useful reminders, methinks. Deliberate Christlikeness.

Americans (by which I mean U.S. citizens) are the biggest bunch of whining babies ever. And the American Dream is to blame.

There is an expectation for stasis and continual hardship in most nations of the world, but the American Dream espouses the idea that one can (and should, by right) be better off than one’s parents, have a loving, faithful, supportive spouse, beautiful and healthy children, a two-story house and two vehicles, a satisfying job, a thousand comforts, no experience with discrimination, and the power to change anything in politics one doesn’t like. That the world doesn’t work this way breeds continual discontent with ultimately trivial matters.

Reality fails to disempower the American Dream because popular fiction media perpetuate it. Movies, TV, and tabloids tell us that people live in mansions, have supermodel bodies, drive Hummers, and spend their weekends in Fiji. Professors are deeply interested in improving the quality of students’ lives, forensics labs are stocked with $5 billion worth of equipment from the year 2010, etc. And the proliferation of Western media styles and content to the rest of the world is, probably, growing American-style discontent around the globe.

Do you know how the disciples decided who would replace Judas, who killed himself over the guilt of betraying Jesus? They gambled. Acts 1:24: “They prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

I’m tempted to make all decisions this way from now on. So quick and easy!

I grew up on Carman, DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline, and The Newsboys. They were fun until I discovered secular pop music, which absolutely crushed any CCM I’d heard in terms of creativity and ambition. I never looked back. I can barely listen to CCM any more. What good is Carman after hearing The Eels? Audio Adrenaline after The Smashing Pumpkins? The Newsboys after Radiohead?

In recent years I’ve experienced a spiritual re-awakening, and have been re-exploring CCM. It hasn’t changed. Nearly every CCM artist in every style is immediately derivative of secular pop music from 5, 10, or 20 years ago. I have heard the music of literally hundreds of acclaimed CCM artists and have heard two that are innovative. Two! Of hundreds of the best-loved artists! One is P.O.D., whose music is stylistically ambitious but flawed. The other is Danielson. All others in all CCM styles are boring ripoffs of, usually, the most boring secular music.

Of course, there’s a good reason for such extensive creative poverty. Today’s Christian artists are in agreement with Counter-Reformation edicts of the 1500s, which espoused the idea that music must be mind-numbingly simple so as not to distract the general public from God-focused lyrics. One cannot praise God with creative and intelligent music, and certainly not with wordless music, they say. More importantly, Christian artists are on a mission. They want to reach as many people as possible with the gospel, and therefore must play to the lowest common denominator.

As a result, millions of people are enjoying and moved by the tunes of Rich Mullins, Third Day, and Casting Crowns. And there’s no doubt that meditating on such edifying lyrics can affirm and strengthen one’s Christian walk. Even I have to admit I’ve had a few tearful, soul-alive moments singing CCM worship music in church. Is there really something with wrong with CCM, or am I just an anal, pseudo-intellectual music geek?

Both are correct. The above paragraphs prove the latter, but there is something wrong with CCM. Or rather, something lacking. I believe there should be room for both simple, singable praise tunes and creative, complex, passionate worship music. For that, I can turn to contemporary Christian composers Arvo Part, Henryk Gorecki and John Rutter, but there’s nothing in CCM (modern Christian pop music) to inspire the worshipping hearts moved by innovation. We are an unserved minority.

By the way, there are hundreds of Christian artists writing creative secular music. Sufjan Stevens is one. Many others aren’t known as Christians because they don’t make it part of their music.

I love and study music, but I’m no musician. Please, (quite literally) For The Love Of God And All That Is Holy, will a few passionate Christians start daring to write original Christian music, please? You won’t sell like MercyMe, but I’ll buy your CD.