We are what we eat, what we watch, and what we hear. What we take in through our five senses has an effect on us for good or evil. And what comes in, always comes out. We sit in high heat sauna’s to sweat out toxins and we do food “cleanses” to do the same, yet it’s best to avoid taking in toxins in the first place. The same is true with what we feed our soul in terms of good and evil, and this is primarily influenced by what we take in with our eyes and ears. Negative friends influence us to be cynical and sarcastic; 24-hour news cycles feed us fear and net us anxiety; TV episodes and movies feed us all sorts of evil both visually and in the storylines themselves (revenge plots, rebellion, narcissism, the pursuit of money, power & extramarital sex, etc.). And those same themes run through the music we love. No wonder our society is failing at a dramatic rate with embezzlement, divorce, abuse, addictions, depression, suicide and mass shootings.
Now, hang with me here – I’m going to throw a lot of scriptures your way on the topic of our heart/soul (typically synonymous in the bible) being fed by and releasing good and evil.
The bible says this about every human heart:
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? – Jeremiah 17:9
But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. – Matthew 15:18–20
The Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, offers this as a standard for our faith:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27
With this background understanding of our hearts and minds, and the goal of living a holy, pleasing life unto the Lord, the Apostle Paul commands us:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9
We wonder why we don’t have peace, inner tranquility, or a life ‘in order’ rather than in chaos. I have a hunch it has to do with what we’re feeding our souls all the day long. There’s a lot of things culturally we could tackle, but today I just want to focus on music. TV episodes and movies should be obvious enough to a Christ follower why he/she must be very careful and protective for one’s self and his/her family. But negative lyrics tend to fly under our radar. And on the positive side, we underestimate the power of positive music for our soul.
Take the following two Old Testament bible stories as an example:
I. The power of godly music to calm a troubled soul.
“Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear. Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.” “All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.” One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.” So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine. So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.” And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.” (1 Samuel 16:14–23, NLT)
Application: Godly, positive, anointed music can calm a troubled soul.
II. The power of godly music to help us hear God and overcome obstacles.
“The king of Edom and his troops joined them, and all three armies traveled along a roundabout route through the wilderness for seven days. But there was no water for the men or their animals. “What should we do?” the king of Israel cried out. “The Lord has brought the three of us here to let the king of Moab defeat us.” But King Jehoshaphat of Judah asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord with us? If there is, we can ask the Lord what to do through him.” One of King Joram’s officers replied, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to be Elijah’s personal assistant.” Jehoshaphat said, “Yes, the Lord speaks through him.” So the king of Israel, King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the king of Edom went to consult with Elisha. “Why are you coming to me?” Elisha asked the king of Israel. “Go to the pagan prophets of your father and mother!” But King Joram of Israel said, “No! For it was the Lord who called us three kings here—only to be defeated by the king of Moab!” Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I wouldn’t even bother with you except for my respect for King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Now bring me someone who can play the harp.” While the harp was being played, the power of the Lord came upon Elisha, and he said, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.” The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere.” (2 Kings 3:9–20, NLT)
Application: Godly, positive, anointed music can help us commune with God.
3-Week Music Challenge
If you’re inspired at all by these stories and the witness in scripture to guard your heart, mind & soul from evil input and instead fill yourself with positive, godly input, then consider taking this “3-week Music Challenge.” Simply listen only to Christian music during the next three weeks and see what effect it has on your soul and your ability to commune with God. You can maximize your experiment by shutting off worldly television and movies as well. If you’re so inclined, I’m recommending the following resources to replace your diet of secular media during this time:
- FM radio: there is typically at least one Christian radio station in your region. The nationally syndicated ones are KLOVE and AIR1. In the Bozeman area, we also have a locally owned/operated station called The One (99.1). All of these also offer online digital streaming radio as well, so you can listen at work and any device. I’ve recently heard that AIR1 plays more ‘edgy’ Christian music that the others won’t experiment with, if that’s appealing to you.
- Streaming apps: Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music just to name a few, all offer curated playlists with Christian artists, as well as ‘stations’ of similar sounding artists. So these are nice if you like a certain artist and want to get similar sounding artists on rotation.
- For Children: Literally, as I’m writing this my kids are listening to, dancing with, and singing at the top of their lungs scripture verses put to pop music. On Amazon Music I found this album which was instantly a hit in our house: Fun Size, Vol 1 by Scripture Snacks Kids (links: Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, iTunes, YouTube, SoundCloud)
- Meditation/Relaxation: Sometimes it’s great to just have instrumental music, whether it be while working, driving, falling asleep, yoga, or intentional times of prayer. This is why I’ve started creating a meditation album of instrumental music that can help calm the soul. I have found it helps me tremendously in prayer and communion with God in my own quiet times, so I hope it helps you as well. For now the work-in-progress is available for free only on SoundCloud.
3-Week Media Challenge
If you really want a ‘soul cleanse’, eliminate your usual TV, movie & news sources and replace with these.
- YouTube: One of my wife’s favorite things to do for spiritual effect via video is to search YouTube for Christian testimonies. These include things from answered prayers to salvation, physical healing, Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams/visions, and even near-death experiences. It’s amazing the how these can feed your faith and cause your heart to praise God and ask Him for breakthrough in your life and those you love.
Note: always be sure to turn on ‘Restricted Mode’ in YouTube so your search results don’t display explicit visual or audio content.
- VidAngel: This company was a Godsend for families desiring to watch Hollywood movies but without the language and offensive scenes. They created a platform for streaming movies whilst filtering out all the potentially offensive scenes or audio. Presently they have ceased streaming movies due to a lawsuit from Disney but they feel confident they can win as they were prepared from day one for such a lawsuit and have several lawyers from the Hollywood studios on their side. In the meantime, they’ve begun partnering with nationally known comedians to write and produce family-friendly stand-up comedy! We haven’t watched an episode yet, but the reviews are excellent.
- Inspiring Talks & Documentaries: There are a plethora of documentaries out there, which of course are not necessarily wholesome. But what I find profitable in documentaries as opposed to reality TV or fictional TV episodes & feature length movies, is that real world issues are told in compelling ways that inspire us to action. For example, my wife and I watched a Frontline documentary on the Syrian Refugee crisis that inspired us to want to help refugees; we then found a Christian non-profit that aids asylum seekers that we can partner with financially (see DASH network) – just an example. We also watched a documentary on the atrocious situation in Iraq for all escaping ISIS, but especially the Sunni Muslims who are abused & killed by local Iraqi militia. Viewing the awful reality of so many in our world inspires us to take action either locally, politically, financially, or perhaps the best place to start – on our knees, interceding to the Heavenly Father for justice and relief in our broken world (hover over these scripture references: Luke 18:1-8, Col. 4:2, Rev. 6:10). Finally, TEDTalks can be a wholesome, stimulating experience. As the scriptures earlier stated, we are called to dwell on what is true, noble and right, and remain uncorrupted/unstained by the world. We are also called to be active agents of positive change in the world. We are salt and light, so this 3-week challenge is not a call to put our heads in the sand!
- For Children: A few shows come to mind as wholesome and profitable for children. PBS Kids has Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood which always includes a practical life lesson and/or wholesome moral in an episode (why has this become rare for children’s shows?!). They also have Sesame Street which to my knowledge has remained focused on pre-school education such that kids who watch it are 33% more advanced in numbers and alphabet when entering Kindergarten than those who don’t. Amazon Prime offers Creative Galaxy which stands alone as a TV program encouraging kids to use the creative side of their brain with hands-on arts and crafts – love it! Finally, a favorite among Christians is the Veggie Tales DVD series, which are also available in different streaming platforms such as YouTube and Amazon.
News & Talk Radio
- Albert Mohler’s The Briefing: Dr. Albert Mohler is a conservative Baptist Christian leader (President of Southern Baptist University and an active member of the Gospel Coalition). What sets his daily news report apart is that he offers “cultural commentary from a Biblical perspective.” He does a great job of sifting the national and regional headlines and showing how a certain cultural paradigm or agenda is at odds with scripture. Its focus is to help Christians assess our culture through the biblical lens.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and consider taking the 3-week Music Challenge (or full-on ‘Media’ challenge). Let me know in the comments what your favorite sources are for godly music, video and/or news. May your soul be soothed and your every-day life release the light of Jesus as a result!