Just one month before the world would unknowingly go into lockdown, my daughter and I flew to Sydney, Australia to be a part of a women’s conference at Hillsong Church. Whilst there I was led in worship by Brooke Ligertwood and Ben Fielding, and hosted by Karalee Fielding, and in just a few short days that we were together, the rich conversations and meals we shared, our common love for worship and desperation to know more about our Jesus, meant that our hearts were inextricably linked in a friendship and fellowship that I am grateful to have encountered. I am grateful for their passion and heart behind their new children’s book, What a Beautiful Name, and how it will develop in children a sense of wonder about worship and spark a curiosity about the things of God in an engaging and fun way! It’s a grace to welcome Ben to the farm’s front porch today…
As a friend to many gifted preachers, I am cautious to admit this – but I cannot remember many messages that I heard in the early days of my spiritual formation.
Yet I can remember stories – and I can definitely remember songs. I have firm memories of sitting in church as a young child and wondering why the adults were singing a song about a deer and a panther? (The old hymn: As The Deer Panteth for the Water…) I remember singing ‘Majesty’, a Delirious tune at a Baptist Youth Conference and being overwhelmed for the first time by the power of corporate worship.
And I remember thinking on lyrics like ‘Every knee shall bow at your throne…’ whilst not quite understanding the weight behind singing unto the Ancient of Days.
God is the source of creativity, He created everything with His words – and as displayed ‘in the beginning’ (John 1:1 KJV) words are used not only to communicate but to create.
It is my belief that this gifted creativity is required to capture the beauty of a move of God and to express it in ways that transcend cultural barriers, generational divides and geographical borders.
It is difficult enough to express the power of our ever present, all-knowing God with mere words, but His beauty most certainly requires art. It is so often art (beauty expressed through song and poetry, through painting and dance) that carries our story in a way that is timeless and lasting, passing from generation to generation.
Now, I must declare my bias: I am a songwriter. I’ve discovered a love for music and a deep regard for the church of God that I believe goes hand in hand with my creative calling.
To honor God and the gifts He has placed within my life – I write.
But what I’ve discovered, is that there is a mystery, an unexplainable beauty and a linear story that accompanies our creative gifts when we (with open hands) offer them back to God.
The story of song goes right back to the Exodus – the people of God on the move, literally. He parts the sea – and just one verse after his people walk across the ocean floor on dry ground, our ancient text records them SINGING. The same Exodus song echoes forward – generation to generation – carrying the story of what God has done and can still do.
From Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel masterpiece to Martin Luther’s thesis; from Johann Sebastian Bach to Handel’s Messiah, God was inextricably weaving one generation into another through art and through song.
The sermons, paintings and compositions of these artists influenced preachers and hymn writers, giving birth to some of the most distinct and important works like, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ and ‘Amazing Grace’.
These songs tell stories of God moving in the day of their writers, slave-runners and sinners being confronted and transformed by the grace of God and gave the people of God (both young and old) a new song to declare.
Fast-forward again to a time more recent in our imaginations and these writings, sermons and stories crossed oceans and had a profound impact on a 19-year-old musician and mystic more than a century later.
Keith Green met Jesus and his life was turned upside down, in the best possible way. He became one of the most prolific and prophetic songwriters of his generation.
And it was Keith Green whose records I found as a 15-year-old boy, covered in dust and yet carefully stored in the back room of my parents’ home in the quiet suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
It was a pivotal time in my own youth –I was always interested in music, but it was the prophetic voice of this passionate soul that would minister to me at a defining stage of my life; at a time when I would form my own faith. I would sit for hours and hours in my room and listen to words such as:
Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I see,
For when your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me
It was his songs and his story that caused me to pick up my own guitar and try my hand at writing. I can remember pretty clearly standing up in the chapel at my Anglican College, and leading my peers and teachers in simple choruses that I had learned the Sunday before in the small Baptist church my family attended.
My voice shook as I sang what would be one of the first songs I ever led corporately:
This is my desire
To honour You
Lord, with all my heart
I worship You
Songwriter and worship leader Reuben Morgan had already written so many songs that Churches all over the world were singing, and this was a favorite of mine. Little did I know that about ten years later, in 2006, I would find myself touring the world with this once in generation songwriter, whom I now call a friend, and we would one day sit in his living room and pen a song of our own: “Our God is Mighty To Save, forever, Author of Salvation, He rose and conquered the grave.”
When you think of the thousands of years, the billions of individual stories, no one could have imagined such a beautiful story.
No one could have fathomed the connections and synthesis between these ancient artworks, their biblical foundations and the modern hymnists they now inspire.
No one could have woven such a sacred map of calling and connection between a historic chapel painting and 21st century revival, a rehabilitated drug addict and a young boy from Melbourne.
No one, but God.
It was only a few years later I found myself writing again for our church with a dear friend of mine, Brooke Ligertwood. In a small studio office in a suburb outside of Sydney, Australia, God mysteriously anointed a session we had and again, the Gospel story would take on another melody in the form of this song, ‘What A Beautiful Name.’
To this day we could not tell you why God chose that song to breathe upon. Why it has resonated with many people in many languages, new and old alike.
What I do know, is that just as God is multifaceted – singing makes our theology multidimensional. It speaks of our experiences and our realities. It breathes hope into that that is not yet our reality and its prophecies of what is to come.
It can be as potent to a young boy sitting on his bedroom floor as it is to a Syrian refugee hearing about the beauty, wonder and power of Christ in their own language.
Songs mysteriously imbue our words with emotion, and they can powerfully engage the politics and the culture of our times, they can redeem the complexities of our times and offer them back as sacrifices of praise.
And so now, it is up to us. We carry this remarkable story. We get to tell it to our generation and the generations to come.
We are handed a torch to capture imaginations and propel the message forward.
Worship is a life full of curiosity and wonder of the God who has been wooing and restoring generation after generation.
My deep and personal hope is that my kids might leave church humming words that become an anchor for them at pivotal moment in their life; or that they might pick up a book or a painting and be filled with wonder and awe at this redemptive story.
So, be reminded today that the ultimate Creator, the Author and initial Artisan is writing your story and creating beauty and wonder and purpose at every turn…
Ben Fielding and his wife, Karalee, never have a quiet home. Whether the atmosphere is filled with family concerts or celebratory dinner parties, there is always a memory to be made in the Fielding household.
Ben and Karalee Fielding teamed up with Brooke and Scott Ligertwood to write and illustrate What a Beautiful Name. Brooke and Ben are singer-songwriters and part of the Grammy-winning group Hillsong Worship. When not on tour, working on an album, or leading conference worship, the two families enjoy spending time together and reading with their children.
Based on Hillsong Worship’s beloved Grammy-winning, chart-topping song, this fantastical journey of discovery is certain to inspire children who long to know more about Jesus and what draws people to Him.
Join little Oliver and his monkey pal as they embark on a quest for the name in the song Oliver’s mother sings. As they travel across land, sea, and space, they encounter beauty, wonder, and power. Each adventure in their epic journey leads them to the matchless name of Jesus—and to the realization that they don’t have to go far to find Him.
What a Beautiful Name is the perfect book for sharing with the little adventurers in your world, and its faith-filled message will resound in their hearts long after the last page is read. This book is an ABSOLUTE FAVORITE here!
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]