Who Wrote It? John VanSchepen on "Songs of the Scriptures"
Josh DeGroot – Welcome to todaydevotional.com’s Who Wrote It, where we get to know our Today authors better, and understand the inspiration behind their writing. John VanSchepen has blessed us with his writing for the August Today devotional, and he is also joining us on the line to discuss his work. John, thanks for coming on.
John VanSchepen – Great to be here today, Josh.
Josh DeGroot – Your theme for this month is Songs of the Scriptures. My first thought when I saw the title was: Okay, devotional readings from the psalms; but I soon found out that you make a point of pulling songs, not just from the book of Psalms, but from the entire Bible in your writings this month. First off, why did you do that; and what do you hope your readers will take away from this month’s readings?
John VanSchepen – I guess I was inspired to think about songs because of my mother, who always sang. I think I refer to that very early on in the devotionals. Whether she was washing dishes or scrubbing the floor, I can remember as a child hearing her sing all the time; and so as I started thinking about songs in the scripture, of course I, too, immediately thought about Psalms, but I thought: No, that is not the only place because I remember reading about Paul singing in the jail at night; Jesus sang songs with his disciples; and so I just began to look through the scriptures, and began to find songs all over in the scripture, and decided: Let’s focus on some of those songs and omit most of the psalms.
Josh DeGroot – Now, sometimes we don’t feel like singing; and let’s be honest, some people in the congregation cannot sing at all; but how can the songs of the scripture be meaningful for us even when we don’t feel like singing; and this goes a little off the record, but how do you feel about people in the congregation complaining over the music?
John VanSchepen – Well, I think as we grow older we tend to hearken back to the songs that we learned when we were younger, and I think that is quite natural; but every generation has its new songs, and I made reference at one point to my grandson teaching me a song on the way to church that I had never heard before, but he sang it with gusto and I have come to really appreciate that particular song, which refers, I think, to Hebrews Chapter 13: That God will never leg go of us; that is his promise; and it gave me a new appreciation for new songs that our children or grandchildren are learning today. So, I think we just have to be open-minded. I listen to Christian music on the radio a lot, and there are times when I say: Hmm, that one didn’t really excite me; and there are other times when I am saying: Wow, that song just really nailed that particular verse for me, and I really appreciate the lyrics as well as the singing.
Josh DeGroot – What does music in the Church do for us that many other things cannot?
John VanSchepen – Well, I think it was one of the Reformers who said that if you want to reach the mind, you teach people the scriptures, but if you want to reach the heart, you teach them the songs of the scriptures; and I think music has that ability to speak to our hearts—to touch us in the deepest places of our lives in times of joy and in times of sadness; when we struggle or when we want to celebrate, that music can really speak to our hearts.
Josh DeGroot – Do you have a favorite song?
John VanSchepen – Lots of them. I think: When Peace Like a River—an old song—it’s one of my favorites…
Josh DeGroot – There you go.
John VanSchepen – Especially in times of struggle; but I remember hearing…it was a Hillsong song: The Days of Elijah; and I just really liked turning up the volume and listening to that and thinking about, you know, God is the one who is coming, and: Behold your God…he is coming. So, yes, I have some good new songs to sing, but also some of the old ones that are really favorites.
Josh DeGroot – Well, I cannot remember too many Todays written about songs, and songs in church, so we appreciate the writing, and we appreciate you coming on.
John VanSchepen – You’re very welcome.
Josh DeGroot – He is John VanSchepen, author of the August Today devotional. Check out his writing, and listen to the Podcast, all at todaydevotional.com.