Aesthetic the Idol

 

Emptiness abounds.  A click of a button can become a painful reminder of the parched souls and aching hearts that may be hiding behind the faces of our closest family, neighbors, and friends.  Sometimes, we see the pain; other times, we don’t find out until it is too late.

The church sees and often feels that same yearning for hope.  Christians know that their faith should hold the key to broken hearts feeling love again, to trials turning to gold.  They have a longing to see their brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are lost find a home where they can be loved, cared for, and feel the sunshine and warmth of peace again.  Those who know brokenness want to see the pain in others healed.  The Lord gave us hearts that long to see every tear wiped away.

And so the church set out to build homes: places for people to be reminded what it is like to feel, to see art and hear music that wakens a piece of their broken hearts, and to know that they are not alone.  We know that the Lord loves a sincere heart.  Giving Him our best to help others must surely be a blessing to Him, even if we’re not quite sure how to do it.

This is true.  The world will see Christ in the church because of something we have that is different from the world.  Unfortunately, with so much brokenness still in the hearts of many believers, much of the church has gotten swept up in the appearance of fulfillment in order to reach out to others.  It is widely circulated today that the way to reach people and show them that the church is different is to have stylish places to meet, sell quality coffee, and create music and media content that shows real talent and skill.  Some follow this idea because they believe the world will need something familiar to draw them to church.  Others think that the world is so busy pushing their way of thinking that they can’t make anything of quality anymore, so that if people see Christians making good quality things, they will have to admit that God exists, because quality must be something eternal, something meaningful.

This adoration of quality is something that has distracted many Christians from following Jesus.  We begin to try chasing away the darkness by embracing comedy and humor of all kinds.  We want to show the world we understand “real” problems by making art and music that captures the spirit of anger, terror, and hopelessness.  We want to us these things to show them that there is still hope, but because we have been focusing on refining skills and talents as a way to do the most for God, we have lost the key to salvation in all of the busyness.  The beauty, the art, the music, all have a note of hollowness to them.  We like to keep busy because we can often feel an ache in our hearts that tells us if we pause too long to listen to that hollow sound, we will see that all of our churches, our youth centers, our coffee shops, our hopeful homes, have become pieces of a ghost town.

Friend…

Sister.

You do not have the strength to heal anyone.  We cannot even heal ourselves.  Our words, actions, and creations can bless others, but the only way that they can be healed, can find a home, can know love and joy and laughter again, is not to have shadows of Jesus in your actions, it is to have the actual, real, full person of Jesus with them.  That can be very hard to hear, because we try so hard, but living fully in our hearts and in our actions is exactly where Jesus wants to be.

The weeds and whispers of the world can be very distracting, so it is very easy for us to become separated from our Father in a culture that is basically a shiny, colorful department store to our child-like minds.  Christians know in their hearts that Jesus is somewhere, but it can often feel like God is the watch-winder, and our job is just to keep ticking along until the right time comes.

As creatures made in God’s image, we have an innate desire to create.  We also have a strong connection to what we create, and what things awaken that creative nature.  These tendencies are wired into us so that spending time with our Father will bring us closer to Him.  However, when we start thinking that our talents are their for us to use—even to use for God—we often end up creating and interacting things that draw our affections away from the heart of our Father.

Remember that it is Jesus’ goal to bring all people to Himself (John 12:32).  Things that we create in and of ourselves will reflect our beliefs, but if we submit ourselves to Christ, and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the things He builds through us will actually introduce others of our precious Savior Himself!  In essence, we view our talents as our tools to serve Him, but in our surrender to His will, His complete will, we become the brush, and He becomes the painter.  We become the strings, and He becomes the sweet hands that give us music.  He has complete freedom to love others through us, to come alongside them personally, and to wipe their tear-stained faces with His nail-scarred hands, holding them close until they are made utterly whole again.

Kneel before Him and give Him all of your heart.  Trust Him with everything like Mary did in pouring out what she had for Him.  Whatever others may say, they will see Him at His work on the pages of your life.  Will you sing a more hopeful song without Him?

 

by Stephanie H.

Pure & Holy Passion: Album Review

by Stephanie H.

It is a special bond when you find someone who loves the same music that you do.  I discovered one such kindred spirit recently in a dear friend and prayer buddy.  I’m the kind of person who discovers that I like a song, and then proceeds to listen to that same song for the rest of the month.  Well, my friend happened to venture into conversation with me during one of these fateful moods, and was hopelessly barraged with links.

What a blessing that she rose to the occasion!

We ended up having a really sweet conversation about our mutual love for the old-fashioned Jesus music.  Of course, there is plenty of more recent music that we both love, but there is just something about the older music, the ones that speak Scripture, that just speaks straight to the heart.  We talked about Petra, I shared with her some of my favorites from Chuck Girard, and she mentioned really enjoying GLAD.  I had some of their albums in my library already, but hadn’t gotten around to listening yet, so on the next available opportunity, I picked out an album called Pure and Holy Passion for a listen.

Even in the midst of a road-trip, when I can listen to hours of music in a single day, it was a few weeks before I listened to anything else.  Here are just a few of the reasons I quickly became so fond of this album:

Style

I love the depth of hymns, and the simplicity of learning to sing or play them.  I often prefer them to the more energetic contemporary Christian music that is popular now.  Pure and Holy Passion offers a pleasant mix of energy and the draw into the presence of the Lord.  How Firm a Foundation is exactly the combination of a hymn and modern pop/jazz accompaniment.  The other songs are more contemporary in origin, but easily parallel this sweet hymn, so that it is very difficult for me to choose just one favorite song.

Tone

Some of the music I tend to keep closest is that which I can use in my prayer time.  Each ends up having its own mood that best suits praise prayers, comfort prayers, or “be still and know” prayers.  Pure and Holy Passion is well designed for active participation.  Some vocalists are very talented, but it may be more easy to listen to them than to join them in praising the Lord.  This album is more like having time to dance with Jesus.  The melody is easy to follow, but the music and the message can turn suddenly, and offer sweet reminders of the character of God that I seemed not to have noticed in the song before.  It can draw me to joyful laughter and tears in the same musical phrase.  It isn’t something to which I listen for my “be still and know” prayers, but I love to be reminded of the wild nature of the Lord.

Skill

The talent displayed on this album is amazing.  I love it when I can just sit and listen to music, picking out the different voices of background instruments, or explore singing different parts of a harmony.  While the melodies of these songs are wonderfully easy to follow in worship, the layers of music to explore are rich and deep.  GLAD also does a great deal of a cappella music, so their voices function just as well as one whole as they do individually, and the result is wonderful to behold.  That doesn’t stop the instruments from having a chance to shine, though.  Every voice, string, and cymbal is given a purposeful role in this symphonic offering to the Lord.

Message

I enjoy a variety of musical styles, but what always makes or breaks it for me is the lyrical content.  The music I love most always has some way with its words to make the truths of God a little bit more real to me than they were before.  This is the biggest reason I’ve been coming back to Pure and Holy Passion again and again for the past two months.  Some of these lines just stick with me in a powerful way.

“The wisdom of a sovereign God,

Whose greatness will be shown,

When those who crucified Your Son,

Rejoice around Your throne.”

“Now from your dungeon a rumor is stirring,

You have heard it again and again,

Ah, but this time your cell keys are turning,

And outside are the faces of friends.”

“As long as I have breath I will praise You,

As long as my heart beats, I will sing.”

“And our voices join with the thousands who

Know mercy because of the cross.

All sinners washed in Your precious blood.

Forever we will sing!”

Even the order of songs is interesting to me.  Many albums begin with the most energetic songs and progressively transition to those that are slow, deep, and personal.  Pure and Holy Passion seems to do the opposite.  Most of the songs are energetic, but the first half mainly comprises the songs that sing of our offerings of praise to God.  Progressively, whatever we may do for God ebbs into the background as the music builds into crescendos of the eternal greatness of our Lord.

It is such a blessing to be able to share praise to the Lord through music, and to know that it will be our greatest joy to share again for eternity with thousands before and after us.  I hope that this music may be as much a blessing to your time with the Lord as it has been to me.

Here is a link to the album on YouTube.  I would love to hear your thoughts!