Soul Music

GodReflection:Is It Well with My Soul?

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul (Psalms 108:1).

gary-portraitKing David, was the man God found who reflected His own heart. He more than anyone else in God’s story was God’s instrument to give us soul music. Just after our introduction to the shepherd boy we see God place him in the palace to calm Saul’s soul with music.

sic1To read about David’s life is to see he fed his soul with music. With harp and pen he composed a hymnal that has nurtured countless souls of God’s people for the past three thousand years.

In contrast to King David I’ve never written a song nor can I play even a note on a harp or any other instrument. To feed from music I have to depend upon David and other musicians and poets who have followed through the centuries.

In spite of this deficit in talent and training I was born into a musical church. Like David, music15music for the soul was God’s assignment for Theron Jay a gifted tenor who drew the rest of us into his passion. Anytime there might be a three-minute void in a worship service Theron stood ready to fill it with a song. Through music he brought celebration to the soul at weddings and comfort to the soul at funerals.

In the tradition of King David, he taught us music to praise the Father and to feed the soul. Through words of rhyme and rhythm came profound instruction and expression of God implanted inner thoughts and feelings that served as formative food for my soul. I doubt it crossed my mind that I was being given a tool for soul nutrition. I’m sure I failed to realize the formative nature of the various hymnals used by our church over my eighteen years of youth.

music13Yet, I stand amazed at how often one of the old songs drops into my mind for a visit. It is as if they come by to feed my soul.

This year I’ve begun a strange project (get ready to roll your eyes). I pulled from my bookshelf the hymnal Songs of Faith and Praise. The book contains one thousand twenty-nine songs. The idea is to read each of them this calendar year.

Already I find myself humming as I read. Some are old friends while others are new acquaintances. I suspect I will ingest a healthy number of veggies along the way.

Among the instructions from Paul the apostle to the churches are the following two verses on the benefit of music to soul health.

music7Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord . . . (Ephesians 5:19) and Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit with gratitude in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

To read slowly these two verses is to hear the power of soul music. It is a gift we can give each other and a resource we can possess to breathe life into our own soul. It lets God know our hearts beat with His.

Is it well with my soul? A portion of the answer just might be found in soul music.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Soul Music

My Bible and Tribal Warfare

gary portraitGodReflection: My Bible Doesn’t Read Like Yours

It is the fault of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg.

In 1440, he invented the printing press with movable metal type. The fundamentals of his invention served until the late 20th century in making the printed page common as sand.

war14Once he finished the printing press and the movable type to go with it he immersed himself into the project that became his namesake—a printed Bible. Over the years of 1454 and 1455 Gutenberg printed 180 copies of what in now known as the Gutenberg Bible.

He could never have dreamed of the millions upon millions to be impacted—both by his invention and by his Bible.

war3Without a doubt, my favorite class in both my junior and senior years of high school was printing.

From a large type case, we learned to use movable metal type—much like Gutenberg. As the course progressed we move to the next step—the offset printing press.

Yes, this printing thing caught on.

Just three years ago Bible Societies distributed 34 million Bibles to nations of our globe. There are now more bibles than people in our 21st century world. This statement is somewhat misleading as multi-millions across the globe still lack some or all of the Bible in their own language.

Prior to Johannes Gutenberg the church determined doctrine and its priests read portions of the Bible to congregants. In a sense the priests held the Bible as private property confined within the walls of the church.

worldview9However, the printing press moved the Bible from the clergy to the people.

What was unheard of for thousands of years is today’s reality.

As a common citizen I own a complete copy of God’s Holy Word. I don’t have to depend on the clergy to tell me what their Bible says. I have my own copy.

I would argue that the new printing press sparked the growth of literacy. Add to that the internet phenomena of the 21st century and the Bible is set loose in the streets.

war17Just over sixty years after the Gutenberg Bible came off the press the young Martin Luther was teaching at the University of Wittenberg. As Luther read his Bible he identified 95 theses of misalignment between his Bible and his church.

Luther’s 95 theses nailed to the chapel doors on October 31, 1517 spread throughout Germany within two weeks and across Europe within two months.

war19The Protestant Reformation had begun.

Since Luther’s time millions of men and women have read their Bibles and drawn their own conclusions. From that reading we humans wired with conviction, pride and persuasion have created thousands upon thousands of church tribes.

Even those within the same tribe find their Bible reads differently from other adherents of the same group. Pew and pulpit fail to reach one hundred percent agreement.

war7At our worst tribes shoot at other tribes or we are at war with our own subtribes.

At our best, far too many of us practice “cold shoulder” recognition of other Christ followers who read their Bible differently and worship Father, Son and Spirit under a dissimilar church sign.

Perhaps a divided body isn’t all the fault of the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg. We fail to realize that none of us are perfect readers and under every church sign is found imperfect interpretations.

Probably, from time to time I should raise a prayer of thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for gifting Gutenberg with an inquisitive mind and the tenacity to create an open door for me to have my own Bible that I can read anytime day or night.

And maybe—just maybe—I should be less judgmental and allow others the grace to read their Bible different from me.

war20Possibly, I should treat those who worship under other church signs (who too are disciples of Jesus) as brothers and sisters since we claim the same Lord and Father.

Is it conceivable that God was behind a plan that would involve Gutenberg the German inventor, Luther, the German disciple, and the printing industry to open doors for millions to give their hearts to Father, Son and Spirit?

Perhaps we should lay down our offensive weapons and praise God for all who discover salvation in Jesus through the diverse ways they read their Bible.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: My Bible and Tribal Warfare