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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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

WHO BUILDS A CITY ON A HILL?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...

5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

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I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.