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One of the things of creation that astounds me more than anything is music. I find it incredible how different types of sound are so aesthetically pleasing and moving. On a physical level, it is only the air molecules being disturbed by a force moving them in a certain pattern (or wavelength). At the same time, this moving of air influences people to get up and dance, to cry, to laugh, and to sit completely in awed silence. 

I’m an amateur musician. I play several different instruments. Being bent towards theology as well, I’ve wondered what it is about music that makes people gather around a regular guy like me to hear me play one of my instruments or to listen to the band when they play worship music. Heck, why do we have worship music anyway? 

I think C.S. Lewis did a great job in explaining this in his sermon “The Weight of Glory.” He basically argued that such things like music, art, etc. contained a tiny glimpse of heaven itself. The incredible moment in the point of the song that makes the heart leap for joy is the glimpse of what forever will be for those who are of the kingdom of heaven when it finally arrives in full splendor. Music is wonderful because it communicates to our emotions in a way that no other art form can. It also helps us to worship God in a way that reflects His glory while glorifying Him at the same time. 

I also think that because music is so powerful that it can be used for very evil purposes. Quite frankly, it can be used to manipulate people into doing things that are wrong. I’ve also seen music used in manipulative tactics by New Agers in chat rooms that employ sound an microphone. I remember going in and a message was being played where a man was saying all kinds of illogical nonsense about how people are god and that resisting this type of thought was wrong. He said these things in a very friendly voice. What I noticed more than anything was the music being played in the background to his voice. It was the same thing over and over and over. Every thirty seconds it would begin again. I had to mentally fight it and I realized that it was actually a type of brainwashing. What it was doing was trying to bypass rational thought through manipulation with music.

To those of us who are musicians, I think we need to be careful with our own music and how we use it. I think it’s best to remember this verse: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). I think that God is well pleased with music that glorifies Him. I also think this can include music that is deemed “secular.” I have heard that J.S. Bach would always write “to the glory of God” on his musical notation, including his secular works. If that is the case, I think he ultimately had the right idea.

I was listening to the radio the other day when I heard a song that had some really cool lyrics in it. I don’t hear a lot of really awesome lyrics very much on the radio, but this one was one of those rare types that really jump out when you listen in. It’s “When the Saints” by Sarah Groves. Check it out:

“Lord I have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and know
It’s more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I cannot let it go

And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it’s all that I can’t carry and cannot leave behind
it often overwhelms me
but when I think of all who’ve gone before and lived the faithful life
their courage compells me
And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying man’s side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrows and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them”

You can also listen to the song on her myspace page. There are several verses that I like in particular. I really like the ones about Moses, Calcutta nights, and the dude kicking down the brothel door. There are very few things that really anger me, but the act of prostituting women for money is one of them. I used to make deliveries late at night and would see it. I never laugh when people make jokes about that stuff. It’s not funny. Anyway, I think that Ms. Groves (or whoever wrote the song) did a great job lyrically. Kudos!