home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > November 26 > WHAT FILLS YOUR HEART, MIND, AND SOUL?

This is the story of two 9-year-old boys. They never met each other. In fact, they lived centuries apart. But they both had several things in common with the main thing in common was their love of music. They were both composers and performers. They both lost their parents when they were 9-years-old (one of them to death and the other to divorce) — they both retreated into their music, but they found something profoundly different in their retreats.

These things I remember,as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4

MUSIC AND THE SOUL

(Johann) Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer. He is now widely regarded as the greatest composer of all time. In 1694, at the age of 9 his parents died within months of each other. Sebastian, being the youngest of eight children, went to live with his eldest brother, Christoph, who was the organist at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Ohrdruf (central Germany). His late father, Ambrosius, was the director of the town’s musicians who had taught Sebastian to play the violin and basic music theory. All of his siblings, cousins, and each of his uncles were professional musicians. During the time that he lived with his brother his grief was somewhat consoled by being surrounded by his extended family and their music. It was Christoph who taught him how to compose music and play the clavichord-organ. He also introduced Sebastian to the compositions of the great German composers. And all the while that Sebastian was learning his craft as a musician he was also studying theology, Greek and Latin, at his local Academy (‘Gymnasium’). This became the other consoling factor for the young Sebastian as his processed his grief for his late parents. His biblical view of the world helped him to find meaning in the midst of the pain he encountered at losing his parents at such a young age. He became acquainted with the God of the Bible who Himself entered into our world of pain and suffering and experienced it. In fact, Sebastian wrote two compositions about it (the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor).

The music of J.S. Bach pioneered a genre of music, known as Tonal music, that would last for the next four centuries. It was built around the concept of four progressive chords each comprised of four notes. Bach wrote much of his tonal music also as a four-part harmony. This gave his music an orderliness about it that has a certain mathematical beauty to it, and hasn’t gone unnoticed that it also reflects the God who has given the universe exquisite order. Music certainly engaged J.Sebastian Bach’s heart and mind and based on what he wrote and they way his amazing life panned out, it had also filled his soul.

¶ I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to You, O LORD, I will make music.
Psalm 101:1

Kurt Cobain was a lead singer of the band Nirvana. Some of the music videos have had over a billion views. While the loss of his parents and his pursuit of music was common to him and J.S. Bach, their lives could not have been more different. After Cobain’s parents divorced, Kurt found temporary solace in music. But whereas Bach drew near to God after the loss of his parents, Cobain let his pain trick him into thinking there was no God and therefore that life was meaningless. Cobain’s music was atonal (the opposite of Bach’s tonal music, known as Grunge). His lyrics became increasingly dark and his soul became increasingly empty. Like Bach, Cobain also experienced physical pain and discomfort. But unlike Bach who experienced his discomfort in his 60s, Cobain’s stomach problems began in his 20s. Bach threw himself into his music to rework and even finish some of his compositions. Cobain increasingly despised music. Cobain’s final days saw his wife, Courtney Love, insisting that he check himself into a drug rehabilitation centre for his heroine addiction. What followed marked the final days of Cobain. He left a suicide note expressing his deep inner struggles and expressing his love for Courtney and their daughter, Frances. He was just 27 when he had bought a shot gun and turned it on himself.

Cobain lived his life without God. His music was grungy and disordered which was also how he saw life and the world he lived in. While he had millions of adoring fans, he ended up despising his life and saw life itself as pointless. In one sense it is easy to see why Cobain saw life as pointless because, if there is no God, as Cobain reasoned, then life can only be meaningless. His end was sad, unnecessary and tragic. One of the reasons that it was sad was not just the regrettable loss of a great musical talent, but also sad because Kurt did not have a follower of Christ in his inner circle of relationships who could have shared with him the gospel hope of knowing God in Christ.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Cobain’s music of despair reflected the condition of his soul. Bach’s Overtures reflected his peace with God and his Biblical worldview that helped him to process the pain of his loss, and set his life priorities in order. Bach’s final days were sadly hastened by a quack eye-surgeon who allegedly offered to cure Bach’s blindness with his surgical skills. Bach died shortly after this surgery and due to it. He left behind a wealth of musical compositions (over 1100), a few musical instruments, his wife Magdalena, and ten children. 

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Jesus bleibet meine Freude) J.S. Bach

 

WHY GOD HAS DESIGNED HUMANS TO ENGAGE THEIR HEARTS, MINDS, AND SOULS IN MUSIC

God has made humans to engage their hearts, minds, and souls with music. Bach discovered this; but, Cobain did not. It is why music has played a central role in Christianity — in its discipleship of believers, and in its facility to bring God’s people together in worship each Lord’s Day. Musical songs teach biblical truth and theologically educate believers about the God. Sacred music stirs and lifts the soul and not just for the fleeting moment, but in a way that actually nourishes the soul by filling it with a lingering sense of God’s presence. This is why bring, joyful, upbeat Christian worship songs are so important for the discipleship and sustenance of the believer. As a preacher I am deeply appreciative of the complementary role that our musical worship plays in promoting the truth of God’s Word, and I hope you are too. 

But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.
Second Kings 3:15

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew. This is a very beautiful piece of writing. The other year I witnessed the water baptism of a young boy. When asked what brought him to this stage in his life he responded with the words that “It was the music”. It touched his heart and soul. This writing also reminds me of singing God’s goodness at a beloved’s bedside, before being taken to Glory. It also reminds me of the time I turned on my tape deck in my car those many years ago with JM Talbot’s song, Healer Of My Soul, so that it could touch the heart of the young man sitting in the passenger seat while I drove, as only the love of a a mother’s heart can do. And today, ah yes. there IS joy in The House Of The Lord and we won’t be quiet! He is the Healer of our souls. It is only Him…

    Reply
  2. Alan

    Thank you for these great thoughts, Andrew.
    While joyful, upbeat Christian music clearly has a place in church life today, let’s not forget that the profound and reflective worship songs such as Bach, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby and others wrote still resonate with many of today’s believers. “A man brings out of his treasure things new and old”. (Matt. 13.52). I say let’s enrich our worship with God-given music that spans the ages!

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.