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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Heel Heal Part 2

Beloved readers, I wanted to add an addendum secondary to receiving some feedback on this post. 

Apparently, I left the impression that I actually believe what my head sometimes tells me about "staying on God's good side" so as to avoid heavenly punishment. Let me state for the record that the God I serve does love me unequivocally, regardless of my missteps. While He does chasten His children, He does so lovingly and for our good. His goal is to train and mature us, as opposed to getting a kick out of punishing us.

Sadly, sometimes I allow flawed thinking to interfere with what I know to be true.

Thank goodness we can turn to the Scriptures to clarify bad-think when it rears its ugly head!

Now, back to the original article:


My wise father once told me it isn't up to me to defend God's reputation.

That said, I must report with mixed emotions that the pain relief I experienced two nights ago has been short-lived.

It occurred to me to take down my gleeful post from the other night. After all, doesn't it make both God and me look ridiculous (and perhaps show cruelty on the part of the Former) to have declared a healing which turned out to be less than 24 hours of respite?

No. And I'll tell you why.

First off, I'm no worse off than I was before this all happened. In fact, God graciously gave me an  evening and night's sleep unhindered by foot pain - something I haven't been able to enjoy for some time.

Second, a question that was plaguing me can be shelved for another day. I couldn't help but wonder, in the midst of my rejoicing, why me?

People typically ask that question when they've been on the receiving end of bad circumstances, like a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one. In my case, despite singing God's praises for my apparent healing, I couldn't help but wonder why a relatively minor (albeit quite unpleasant) problem like mine was singled out for healing, while I can list countless friends suffering from debilitating pain, disability and life-threatening illness.

Where's their healing?

Indeed, if anyone's going to claim unfairness, it ought to be cancer patients who experience remission, only to have the disease come roaring back and oftentimes take their lives after years of valiant combat. In searching for meaning in what I've experienced, I must admit that now, at least I have an inkling of what such heroic folks go through.

And another thing. My mind leans toward cause and effect, actions and consequences. If something goes wrong in my world, I wonder what sins God is punishing me for, or what lesson He can only teach me through trouble. Conversely, when something goes well - especially something major like a perceived healing - I tick off reasons for my good fortune. When I thought my foot was healed, I struggled against wanting to take partial credit.

My thinking went something like this: "Instead of getting wrapped up in self-pity over the limitations my pain was inflicting, I nobly served from home last weekend. Instead of focusing on what I couldn't do, I found things like letter writing and phone calling that would bless others without causing my foot any fuss. Oh, and let's not forget that I went to church Sunday night, instead of yielding to laziness, and if I hadn't gone to church, I wouldn't have reconnected with Ed, and he wouldn't have prayed over my foot, and..."

You get the picture.

The only problem was, for every right choice I found, I came up with half a dozen wrong ones that should, if blessings result from good decisions balancing out bad, have knocked me completely out of the running.

I know. I think too much.

Then, there's the manipulative part of my makeup that wanted to make sure I didn't do anything to put the kibosh on this wonderful miracle. In other words, what heavenly bar would I have to uphold in order for God not to withdraw His benevolence in this area of my life?

For instance, if I'm supposed to get a handle on gluttony, well, that's been a lifelong battle with varying levels of success (mostly failure, truth be told). But maybe if I took off weight again, and kept it off this time, and never pigged out again, and kept up with all my exercises more religiously, and... and...and...

Like I said, I overthink things.

I must confess deep disappointment. For one thing, cortisone treatment, here I come. I'm not looking forward to that, or to the waiting I'll have to do (the docs can't see me till June) for an appointment that may or may not yield the desired result.

But the God I serve is bigger than any temporary or even lingering disappointment.

The God I serve can't be manipulated any more than He can be reached by human achievement, as the builders in Babel found out.

The God I serve doesn't take my pain lightly. While it may seem trivial when stacked up against terminal diagnoses and crippling disabilities, it's still very real to me. If it weren't so real, the relief wouldn't have been so welcome.

Yes, the pain is real - but so was the temporary reprieve, and so is the Redeemer.

And, by the way, it's still all about His glory.

As Ed so correctly observed, it's about the Healer, not the healing. The band, MercyMe, poignantly points this out in their crowning composition, The Hurt and the Healer:

So here I am
What's left of me
When glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the Healer collide*

So, where does all this leave me? As I struggle to understand the events of the last few days, two passages resonate, calling this disappointed but still faith-filled daughter back to the altar. I'll let the prophet Habakkuk and the apostle Paul have the last words:


Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—


Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.



~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 
 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10        


*Bryson, J., Cochran, N., Graul, B., Millard, B., Scheuchzer, M., and Robby Shaffer. (2012). 
       The Hurt & the Healer [Lyrics]. Retrieved from    
       https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mercyme/thehurtthehealer.html

For more like this, check out: Disappointment

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Heel Heal

I limped my way into church tonight after asking my son to drop me off at the entrance. Normally, I love to walk, but over the past few weeks, that simple activity has become agonizing for me.

An X-ray two days ago revealed what I suspected - an annoying, uncomplicated heel spur. But, oh, how those calcium deposits make their presence known! Anyone who's had one knows they can make even small acts like stair climbing and getting out of chairs difficult. Thoughts become concentrated on finding the least painful way to accomplish the most basic of tasks.

A literal thorn in the flesh.

Despite the pain, I had every reason to feel joyful tonight. I pulled off a surprise for a very dear friend who spent years discipling me in the Word of God. She and I sat together to enjoy the concert, and were treated to special music from the SMS Men's Quartet. I did enjoy their singing, which was heartfelt and glorifying to God, but I must confess my mind was on my foot.

For one thing, I was having trouble keeping it pain-free, even while sitting. In addition, my eyes kept veering from the men onstage to the attractive, open footwear on many ladies' feet (mine were sporting the most cushiony sneakers I own - hardly a complement to my church outfit, but desperate situations call for desperate measures). While the singers trilled praises to God, I mentally made plans to purge my closets of anything my toes could peek out of, and trade them all in for sensible shoes.

I'm sure my mindset had nothing to do with the fact that I spent the afternoon looking up videos of podiatrists using long needles to inject cortisone shots into the heels of anxious patients.

Sometimes I like to know what I'm in for.

When the concert was over, my friend and I went back to meet her husband, who was picking her up from the service. I haven't seen Ed for many years, and we spent some time catching up.

I should mention that Ed is certain he has the spiritual gift of healing. He absolutely loves the Lord, and he believes with all his heart that our God is still in the healing business.

I put that belief to the test almost 20 years ago when I was dealing with - you guessed it - a different heel spur. I had gotten to the point of consulting a podiatrist and having orthotic shoe inserts made. If those didn't work, I was ready to have surgery.

Like I said, these buggers really hurt.

I happened to be at a barbecue at Ed and Jean's house while all this was going on, and casually mentioned to Ed that I could really use my heel to be, you know, healed.

The brand of Christianity to which I've been most exposed believes that the gift of healing has largely ceased. We seek out doctors and medicine, but don't typically call on the Almighty to miraculously heal our ailments. This is one theological area (among many) to which I can claim no expertise, so I can't really comment one way or the other, but it's not been my experience that these things actually happen in our day.

So, you could say I was a bit skeptical.

But, again, desperate situations...

So, I asked Ed to pray for my foot. I remember being a bit aggravated, and not a little suspicious, when he tossed the ball back into my court and suggested I do the praying. He said he would pray, too, but implied that I had the primary responsibility.

Whatever.

I prayed, he prayed, we all prayed.

And the darnedest thing happened. The pain went away.

Not immediately, as I recall, but somewhere between our conversation at that picnic and, oh, I don't know, the next few weeks or so, I stopped hobbling and started walking like a normal person again.

That heel sure seemed healed.

Later that summer, I was having fun with my kids and jumped into a pool, coming down hard on the "spurious" foot (sorry, bad pun). That little stunt landed me in the ER, where I was given an X-ray. I was sure the film would reveal a "spur-less" heel. On the contrary, the spur still showed up, alive and well - but it never hurt me again.

As far as I'm concerned, spur or no spur, the pain went away, and that's a healing in my book.

So, I couldn't resist asking Ed if he'd like to take a crack at praying over the latest albatross plaguing my foot.

This time, he whipped out an item he'd anointed with oil, laid it atop the sweater I was carrying, and murmured a brief prayer. I don't know why he didn't address his ministrations to the ailing body part, but I've gotta tell you, within minutes, I started feeling relief.

In the time that ensued, I tested out different foot positions which hitherto had resulted in wincing and whining.

Nary a whimper.

When it was time to leave, I didn't even consider asking my son to pull the car up to the entrance. Instead, I walked down the steps and across the parking lot, and triumphantly announced that he could drop me off at the top of our street if he wanted to.

Now, here's the mark of a Godly man. When I started sharing with others what had happened, Ed continuously and vigorously insisted on giving all glory to God.

And rightly so. Healing is a spiritual gift which, like all such divine bestowals, only becomes activated when one comes to faith. It isn't an entitlement or a super power or even an innate skill. Only God can grant such a gift, and only He should receive praise for its manifestation.

I'm still planning to go through my shoe racks and dispose of the worst offenders. Just because the Lord chose to correct one physiological problem doesn't mean I ought to go looking for another. That would be stupid at best and cavalier at worst.

The last thing I want to be with this miracle is cavalier.

In fact, in keeping with my "what if" personality, I'm finding myself fending off worry.

Will it hurts when I get up tomorrow? Will that first step when I get out of bed be the deal breaker? What if it only lasts for tonight? 

I almost didn't want to write this post, for fear of looking foolish if it turns out to be only temporary.

But I'm choosing instead to take my cue from the man Jesus healed in John 9, "[who] answered and said, 'Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see'" (verse 25).

No matter what the future holds, nothing and no one can take away the fact that I'm walking on two good feet tonight after limping for weeks.

In my book, that's a miracle.

And I am so grateful.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Tenebrae


The Service

Last night I attended a Tenebrae service at Llanerch Hills Chapel in Havertown. “Tenebrae,” a Latin term meaning “shadow,” is a Holy Week gathering which attempts to place the audience into the mind and heart of Jesus in the hours before His death.

I’ve attended such programs before, but this one truly moved me.

The Sympathy

The whole experience brought to mind Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." According to Rev. David Guzik’s excellent online Bible commentary, Enduring Word, the Greek word “sympathize” means “to suffer along with.” If I’m reading this right, one reason Christ came to earth was so He could suffer along with His children, walk in their shoes, as it were. 

What I value about Tenebrae is it gives me a chance to suffer along with Christ.

As much as is humanly possible, that is.

Our text was Matthew 26:30 through Matthew 27:50, which walks the reader from Jesus’s prediction of His disciples’ betrayal, to wrestling with His macabre mission, and ultimately, His undeserved death.

Like I said, this touched me.

Warning to friends and family, especially my children: I’m about to become very transparent.

The Sorrow

Chapter 26 verse 38 shows our Lord agonizing as He pondered what lay ahead. The text says He was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”

I don’t know what it’s like to willingly die for the entire human race (thank God – and I mean that literally, not in the cavalier way many toss around the phrase), but I can relate to suffering to the point of death. I’ve faced that kind of anguish twice in my life, and I pray it never comes my way again.

For many folks, there comes a come when it takes more courage to go on living than to end it all. I fought that life and death battle once as a troubled teen and again as an agonizing adult.

As an adolescent, my grief centered on an unrequited crush, made worse by the young man’s attentions to another girl. Sounds silly now, but it felt very real and very raw at the time. Later, as the mother to two young boys, I became hopelessly depressed at the prospect of my marriage ending and having to raise them alone.

Both times, I found out I was far from alone. God’s love for me was poured out bountifully through the merciful kindnesses of parents and siblings (through blood and through marriage), and professionals who did their jobs well and compassionately. Not least, through the tiny hands and tender hearts of the little ones He chose for me to parent.

But I well recall the courage it took to wake up every morning and try to do each next right thing. I remember counseling myself that the only thing I had to do each day was stay out of a mental hospital, for the sake of my kids.

I had to stay alive to fulfill my earthly job, for the sake of my sons. Our Lord had to stay alive that awful night in Gethsemane to fulfill His duty to die for the sake of humanity.

A humanity that didn’t see Him as the King of the universe – far from it. They beat and ridiculed Him and assigned Him an ignominious death – a death which the Bible says was considered a curse.

Did He contemplate ending it all? Is that what He meant by “sorrowful, even unto death?”

If He could have called down legions of angels to loose Him from the grip of murderous men, surely He could have arranged a less gruesome death for Himself – or better still, a direct ascension back to heaven to reclaim His rightful throne. Why wait till after the resurrection to be swept up in clouds of glory?

While praying in Gethsemane, did He consider refusing the cup of God’s wrath and taking an easier way out?

The Suffering and the Substitution

Was His pain magnified by the inability of His closest friends to satisfy His simple request for companionship and prayer? By their nodding off, not once but three times, when He needed them most? By their subsequent failure to comprehend that loyalty meant making good on their promises to stick by Him, as opposed to brandishing weapons?

He didn’t need to be defended by flesh and blood – His fate had been sealed in heaven before the world began. What He needed was comfort and strength from those dearest to Him to sustain Him to the cross.

Instead, they fled to save their own skins, and denied even knowing Him.

What went through our Lord’s mind when the crowd insisted on releasing Barabbas – a career criminal – and called for excruciating death for the Son of God? It was recently pointed out to me that Christ literally took the punishment that would have been doled out to this evil man  an actual substitutionary death. The gospel doesn't get any clearer than that.

Again, I find myself trying to comprehend the emotions He must have felt on that brutal night by traveling back to an incident in my own life.

I was bullied as a child, and in third grade I had the dubious distinction of being “called out” by a peer who wanted to fight me for no other reason than the fact that I didn’t fit in. How well I recall the terror and helplessness of being surrounded in the schoolyard by cruel taunters who were literally out for blood.

My father learned of my predicament, and showed up in the nick of time to rescue me.

In contrast, Jesus’s Father turned His back on Christ so that mankind could walk away scot free from eternal punishment.

I felt great relief when Dad’s commanding voice scattered my persecutors; our Lord felt no such solace. I suspect the brokenness of His body paled in comparison to that of His soul when He cried out wretchedly, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The Sacrifice

The awful yet beautiful truth is that the Son of God gave up His spirit and suffered a grueling death so that I might live. In His deity, He poured out His life, but in His humanity, He lost hope for a time so that my hope could be perfected.

What a Savior.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Entertainment-itis Part 3

Part 1 of "Entertainment-itis" dealt with the addictive tendencies many of us face in the realm of visual media. Part 2 made the case for contemporary Christian music. In this final installment, we will broaden the discussion and tie up any loose ends.

Let’s Not Stop There

Could this same ideology not be applied to the world of print and film media today as well? Many of us retreat to books, movies, plays, etc. for most of the same reasons stated in parts 1 and 2 of this article. Therefore, it is important to note that the lens applied to the evolving nature of music and popular culture must also be pointed toward the aforementioned industries. While reading material can fall prey to the same dangers we have previously described, generally speaking, broad-brushers are less likely to summarily condemn print media as they might more modern forms of recreation, such as film. Therefore, I’ll confine my final arguments to the latter.
  
Finding and Supporting Finer Films

Motion pictures first saw the light of day in the early 1890’s, long after the Bible was written, and were not readily available to the common man until decades later. The first films were short, simple, and devoid of dialogue and color. Fast forward 100 plus years, and we have large-scale productions with huge budgets, covering a plethora of topics from zombies to war, romance, and even the gospel.

Can we not agree that a theater in 2019 hosting a revived showing of The Ten Commandments or The Greatest Story Ever Told, both of which were well received in their day, would likely be anything but filled with impressionable adolescents looking for a riveting stimulation of their senses? Especially when delectable, modern day actors are blowing up robots, unraveling plots for world domination, and portraying questionable love scenes two theaters down the hall. This returns us to our previous point – we must seek out healthy alternatives to compete with less desirable ones.

I’m not suggesting parents introduce young children to horror flicks and R-rated films in the name of family bonding and child development, any more than I would endorse serving young people musical indulgences glorifying sex, violence, or illicit substances. However, the stark fact remains that these options are all too real in our vast world of moving media, and to many of today’s youngsters, they offer the forbidden fruit we discussed in part 2. That being the case, we must ask ourselves the question, do artistic works render themselves harmful to us as believers simply because they have been adapted to suit the modern eye (or ear)? If the answer to this is no, we must next ponder, in a world where the line in the sand is so fluid, how do we know where it should be drawn?

While discretion and discernment are certainly called for when making viewing decisions, I hardly think our Lord and Savior would be flipping over concession stands at the local AMC, especially when it’s playing life affirming films like Unplanned and GosnellI have found that the secular media is usually loathe to advertise such movies, but rather, does everything in its power to bury them. For this reason, while I'm usually much too frugal (OK, cheap), to take in first-run films, I make it a point to put out cash for movies like these that are often the targets of ideological discrimination due to the important messages they bear. 

For example, Unplanned saw its Twitter account suspended the weekend of its release, and received an "R" rating, rather than "PG," for its mature content, forcing parents to think twice before bringing their children. Interestingly, Hollywood powers-that-be are largely silent over the fact that little ones are increasingly being indoctrinated  with pro-choice propaganda and hypersexualization in the name of gender freedom. In fact, entertainment moguls seem stunningly unperturbed about the link experts say exists between sexual content viewed by minors and their subsequent risky behavior; on the contrary, Hollywood continues to release pictures that fuel this phenomenon. Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America, which assigns ratings, is more than willing to slap "PG" ratings on kids' movies with questionable contentwhile kneecapping a comparatively tame film like Unplanned by assigning it an "R" rating. If consistency is key, Tinseltown sure doesn't measure up.

But I digress. The main thing to remember is that the vehicle itself, i.e., the theater, is not to blame for the content it may at times be made to carry (think back to our discussion in part 2 of the fact that technology is a great tool, even though sin-stained hands may at times misuse it). I believe Christians should support worthwhile films when they manage to find their way into theaters.

The point is, it behooves believers to consciously consume with their families some of the finer productions available in theaters and home entertainment venues. Entities like Pureflix and the Kendrick Brothers are offering high-caliber film alternatives to Hollywood’s less desirable menu of options. In addition, Movieguide and Plugged In are online tools to help parents navigate and decide which movies will best reflect the values they wish to impart to their children. Here again, we see technology, rightly harnessed, being employed to serve rather than scare the believer.

Overcoming the Octopus

The scope of entertainment and worldly distraction has come leaps and bounds from the days of playing with a Jacob’s ladder in the schoolyard. The evolution and progression of the world has simply brought us to a place where practicalities are ever changing. As these things continue to develop, we find ourselves having to conform to a certain degree simply to be able to keep up with the pace at which life moves. After all, the wheel used to be a square. When was the last time you saw a car with square wheels? We are simply taking steps forward.

Children will be exposed, sooner or later, to the entertainment octopus. I’m nicknaming it thusly because this industry has arms and tentacles everywhere. Unless we decide to lock young people away with no technology or communication devices, the vast array of leisure options will find them. Some, like myself, may be rudely awakened by the manner in which this inevitability occurs. I tried very hard to prevent my sons from becoming interested in video games, which I saw as time wasters at best and mind corrupters at worst. To my dismay, the first person to bring them into our home was a parent from the Christian school they attended.

I can’t emphasize enough that children will not escape exposure to a vast array of recreational activities. As the previous example demonstrates, there is great diversity of opinion among believers as to what is and is not acceptable for Christian consumption. What we ought to be able to agree upon is the need to prayerfully and sensibly expose our youth to what’s out there while they're still under our roof and our authority.

God honoring adults must first lasso the entertainment octopus in their own lives, then wisely guide the next generation.

12-Step or Sidestep?

I began this article series by joking that we could use a new 12-step group for entertainment junkies like myself. This may seem to suggest total abstinence as the only way to conquer addiction. In many cases, such as alcohol dependency, there is no other way. However, when complete avoidance isn’t possible, prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit can help us safely navigate the minefields of modern life – and that includes recreational choices.

We then considered the idea that good messaging can be presented through today’s technology, but it must be palatable. Just as toddlers first receive medicine via sweet treats to make it taste better, the things of God can be introduced to an unchurched world in a similarly delicious way.

Come to think of it, a 12-step program may not be necessary after all. Perhaps we just need some help swallowing our pills.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Entertainment-itis Part 2


All or Nothing?

I ended part one of this article with, “In light of the potential pitfalls, is it necessary to swear off the entertainment industry altogether, or is there a recourse? I believe there is.”

I know what kinds of visual entertainment are going to give me trouble, and I avoid them (most of the time). Fortunately, there's a whole host of wholesome alternatives that I can even buy in box sets, so when the urge to chill comes along, I'm ready.

But what about music? 

Here's where I must respectfully disagree with some fellow believers I dearly love and deeply respect. I'm speaking of those who hold the position that: a) only psalms should be sung in worship services (sometimes even sans instrumental accompaniment); or b) only traditional hymns will do. There also seems to be much discord over whether "praise bands" should serve in churches to enhance the musical component of worship.

I even remember one dear saint who wreaked havoc in a church body over whether or not drums should be permitted in the assembly.

The old hymns are wonderful and many, even magnificent. It Is Well With My Soul, and the story behind it, can't be called anything but a monument to God's enduring love in the midst of cruelest hardship. Likewise, A Mighty Fortress is Our God stands among Martin Luther's finest accomplishments, and has served to comfort our country in its deepest distress. And who would deny that blind Fanny Crosby's hymns demonstrate more vision than the keenest spectacles could afford?

I wouldn't think of taking anything away from such lyrical masterpieces.

But let's face it, the world - and music - have evolved. Not every tune in the dog-eared hymnal is a work of crowning achievement. While music with a Christian message has developed over the years, many of the classic hymns and gospel songs carry with them quite a dated birth certificate. Some are less than singable, and many fail to resonate with modern listeners, especially the youth.

This is a problem. In a world where full albums can be had with a click on a phone, young listeners simply must be offered inspiring musical choices that can stand against the plethora of filth often churned out by unbelieving but oh-so-talented entertainers. In the light speed world of today’s music industry, million-dollar record moguls pump out earworm hits like it’s their job (and good for them, because it is their job). While not everyone’s cup of tea, these infectious tunes will have even the least interested of parties tapping their feet to the same line repeated over and over. It only stands to reason that removing said styles and voices of music altogether for fear of a fruitless message would certainly inspire curiosity and almost a “forbidden fruit” kind of allure. What makes this so bad? Why can’t I have it? There has to be a middle ground for an adventurous palate. A sip of wine as opposed to the whole bottle.

Contemporary music is constantly being adapted to the modern listener for one purpose - money. Just as record conglomerates design their music for a specific purpose (money), should we not support doing the same for another purpose (spreading the gospel)?

Enter, Contemporary Christian Music

Recognizing that tastes have changed, many modern Christian musicians have stepped up to showcase work they've composed with hearts, I believe, every bit as full and sincere as those of the great composers we've just mentioned. These songsters possess a true gift for melody and poetry which, unlike the foolish servant whom Christ condemned, they are attempting to wisely steward. 

Why shouldn't they be encouraged to use their gifts for the betterment of humanity in general and their Christian brethren in particular?

Think of it this way. Nobody enjoys taking a big, fat pill every day, especially children. I remember when I was a child, encountering my first antibiotic pill. I dreaded taking this pill each day. It was scary and I couldn’t understand how this unappealing, almost certainly life-threatening chore was going to benefit me in any way whatsoever. After several days of me probably driving my poor parents up a wall by refusing to take my medicine, they decided to start hiding them in spoonfuls of ice cream. I must say that this timeless tactic is absolutely brilliant. It’s an easy plot to see through as an adult, however, as a nine-year-old, I had no clue that this treat I was receiving was also doing me some good!

I believe the same concept can be applied to Christian music. The gospel can be a hard pill to swallow for some, especially in the modern world where so many are unwilling to listen. I get it, it’s hard to hear that none of us is worthy, that only by the wonderful grace of another Entity alone, we are saved. To many, the concept is unappealing, and with so many other fast paced distractions, there is certainly a fair share of competition. Here is where the ice cream comes in. As we discussed, many of these hymns and the messages behind them can be hard to swallow. However, disguised under the right flavor of "ice cream," listeners may have no idea that the treat they are receiving is also doing them some good.

Can we really argue that there isn't room alongside Spafford and Luther for the likes of Casting Crowns, whose reworking of time-worn hymns only freshens and beautifies them in a new way for a newer, younger audience? Should we tell front man Mark Hall (who also happens to be a youth pastor) to leave it at that, and shut off his own creative juices, lest he surpass the old-time greats? We could, but then he'd have had to hold back on Just Be Held, which speaks to millions of cancer survivors like himself, as well as folks like me, whose cross isn't cancer, but may seem just as heavy.

Are guitars and drum kits less holy than harps and violins? In what way do synthesizers diminish traditional keyboards? Why can't these different musical modalities simply coexist in the church, as they do in other venues?

Bottom line: palatability does not necessarily have to equal compromise.

Modern or Menacing?

Consider this. In today’s world, one would look a little ridiculous searching for a horse to ride to the grocery store. The ‘99 Corolla parked outside might have been viewed as a manifestation of witchcraft to our ancestors, but this is simply the way the world has evolved. It’s what we do now. It’s how we experience and navigate the home God has given us. Technology has changed and will continue to change, and I submit that it’s almost the Christian’s responsibility to acquaint himself with that technology and use it responsibly.

The computer on which I’m typing is a modern convenience. So is the Internet, which I’m using to link readers to stories and songs that will hopefully inspire and enhance their walks with the Savior.

Would my article somehow be more worthy or honorable if I had needed to make countless trips to the library to do my research? Or if I had had to start with a fresh sheet of paper whenever I made a mistake, instead of cutting and pasting? True, I’m risking temptation each time I log onto the Internet, what with all that’s available on that dangerous highway, but what a blessed instrument of time-saving and information gleaning.

My point is, just because something is modern doesn’t automatically make it a menace. Typing is still typing, whether it’s done on an old Smith Corona or a brand-new HP. The tools and means of delivery may have changed, but the product can be every bit as valuable when created by people with principles.

I, for one, derive great inspiration from songs like We Believe and Even If, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if God in His wisdom situates Matthew West's heavenly mansion right next to Fanny Crosby's, so together they can sing His praises throughout eternity. After all, God wants us to relish and enjoy his creation, using all the gifts with which He has blessed us during “our watch.” Let’s just make sure we are doing so responsibly.

Let’s Not Stop There

Part three of this series will offer further suggestions to combat “entertainment-itis,” so don’t leave town! Oh, wait, this blog content can be accessed with the click of a phone (that’s called progress and advancement, which is a major theme of this article).

So, go ahead and leave town! Just don’t forget to check your email for part 3 of “Entertainment-itis" - coming soon to a cell phone near you.