Music and Faith
My faith and practice have been shaped by the music that provides the soundtrack of my life. I love the music of my generation -- good old secular rock-and-roll and modern rock, flowing from the 50s to today -- but I love even more the music of faith that fills my mind and has filled my homes and my cars as long as I have been my own disc-jockey. That music includes Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach . . . and all the wonderful old hymns of our faith . . . and many special modern artists and groups, spanning the years from the birth of Christian Rock to the many varieties of Christian music of today.
One of the things I really like about being alive today, in this place and with the resources available to me, is that I can turn on my computer, open itunes, find the song from 20 years ago that's flowing through my mind unexpectedly, and download it, sync it to my ipod, put my ipod in one of the ipod players around my house, and be surrounded by the music that was so significant in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life to make me who I am today. Some of that music isn't available on itunes (like the best Larry Norman, or Lamb, or Glenn Kaiser and the Rez Band), but it is available somewhere when I google it, and so I can buy it on CD and then put it into itunes and onto my ipod through that effort. It isn't instant, like my itunes purchases, but with today's quick internet orders and shipping, it is less than a week usually.
Music and lyrics set to music work their way into my being in a whole different way than does something I read or something that I hear in a lecture or sermon or conversation. Music seems to bypass the cognitive filter that all of the written and spoken words need to go through, and go straight to the core of my being. Music is a drug with which I can manage my emotional state, and calm myself down, or speed myself up, or focus myself on something specific. Music is the best way to worship and praise the Triune God, short of a life lived in obedience and intimacy -- and, indeed, is a key part of being shaped into that person who can live a life of obedience and intimacy. Music is the best way for me to truly comprehend great spiritual truths. Music possesses the power that God intended it to possess.
All of this is supported by what we know scientifically and medically about our brains and their chemistry, of course. And it is supported as well by what we know from experience and history and culture, and by all world religions, but most especially by our own Christian faith and tradition.
One who is attempting to walk after God and to know Him better must pay attention to this channel of communication and this means of intensifying the spiritual disciplines. To neglect the use and appreciation of music today is like ignoring all the wonderful bible-study aids and failing to study the scriptures, or like failing to build a life of prayer. God has given you your tastes in music in an age where that music is available at a click . . . and He expects you to learn about yourself, music, and life, just as He expects you to study His Word. Indeed, one of the best ways to meditate on His Word is through music built around some passage!
Today I had songs by John Michael Talbot running through my head. I used to listen to him and his brother when I was in high school. The Lord's Supper(1979) and Come to the Quiet(1980) had a huge, huge impact on my faith. So I downloaded Come to the Quiet from itunes, and am now listening to it. Even though I haven't heard those songs for probably 15 or 20 years now, I still know every word and can sing along. They are powerful, and I recommend them to your enjoyment and spiritual walk. If you click the amazon link above (Come to the Quiet) the album is also available as an mp3 download there.
But mostly I recommend this: that you track down music that is significant to you and enjoyable to you, and that draws your mind and heart nearer to God today, and find times and ways to let it flood your world with TRUTH.