Reckless Love (The Good, Bad & Ugly)

By S.C. Shaw

I need to start with a disclaimer. These are my opinions about this song and do not reflect my churches or many other opinions. I am writing this more out of educational purposes. I want us all the be thinking about every song we sing about and to our God. None are perfect, but some are better than others. With each of these blogs, I will be trying to layout my opinion scripturally. Enjoy!

I started a series of blogs that will look into various worship songs and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of what we are singing in church. With that being said, I don’t want these blogs to be seen as a high and mighty naysayer giving his opinion. So let me say this, most of these songs we sing and will continue to sing in church. I may change or add things to have a clear conscience about leading them, but not all are “all bad”, but I feel the need to give a voice to the unclear.

First and foremost we must always ask the questions: “How does this song help the Word of God dwell richly within me?”And, “Does this song glorify God in Biblical truth?”

Reckless Love (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly) Cory Asbury

Lyrics in full

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

(Chorus)

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

(Chorus)

Bridge:

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

(Chorus)

This is a song that has been well disputed in the Christian world since the day it came out in 2018. It has been the subject of many conversations and social media blasts because it deserves to be. Not because of the greatness of it, but because of the need for clarity in it.

I remember I didn’t like this song the first time I heard it because it was weak theologically and unclear biblically. I am one that believes that all corporate congregational worship songs should follow a certain guideline. That guideline being able to answer this simple question; Does this song “Let the word of Christ dwell in me richly?” I know even that statement can be up for interpretation. Let’s start there.

First of all, here’s the whole verse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” Ephesians 5:19. There aren’t many verses in the Bible that talk about worship in the style of singing. At least not in the order of command or instructions on how to execute and guidelines for a corporate worship song. However, we are told to worship in “Spirit and in truth” John 4:24.  And contextually, the Bible leaves no room for less than excellent worship to God. So we must, as leaders in the church and even part of the church body, strive to be as intentional as we can to be God-honoring, Christ exulting and Holy Spirit empowered in everything we do. Unfortunately, I fear we are more driven by comfort, habit, and survival.

Let me explain.

Comfort is easy for just that reason, it’s comfortable. It takes thought, planning and effort to step out of the easy and comfortable place we find ourselves in each week.

Habit comes alongside of “comfort”. Habit is taking what we are comfortable with and letting autopilot take over. This is a terrible place to be when we have the Gospel of God to proclaim.

And survival is what every person on a Sunday morning experiences at some point if not the main point. When we are in survival mode we are showing up and trying to get through the day. “There’s much more to be concerned with than this Sunday morning meeting” Is easy to tell ourselves. That means if you’re part of the church staff or part of the gathered body, we all experience this. Our goal here is to be intentional enough to experience this as little as possible. To be preparing our hearts and minds all week, to come together on the Lord’s day and experience the multitude of blessings that are given and received.

I bring all this up because this isn’t an issue concerning a less than an accurate song. It has to do with a mindset for Christ and desiring God enough to long for faithful service in a powerful way to aid His children in being in awe of Him more and more. The song at hand is lacking in many ways but has some strengths as well. Let’s start positive.

The Good:

I have lead this song once in my 15 years of leading music at church. It was for a youth program. I threw it in as I was trying to show my heart to submit to my pastor and play more popular worship songs. This is not my strong suit, but as I grow in Christ I want to be more and more like Christ and submission is a big one. Turns out the night I lead this song was a very powerful moment. I was surprised. I did change the bridge to an old hymn, which made me feel better about playing it and helped the clarity of the song in a biblical mindset. The song is written very congregationally which is its strongest point. But since then I have had a growing concern about this song. I have been silent for a couple years now but must start sharing my convictions. So let us tear this one open for a bit.

Reckless Love (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly)

First verse:

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

(This is a beautiful thought of the mightiness of our God who has created us and is sovereign over us since before we were created anything.)

The Bad:

(Chorus):

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

(I’m on board with the overwhelming thought of God’s love. In fact, everything we ponder about God should be overwhelming. There is never a time to see and behold God in any way and say, “cool.” God is weighty, big and awesome. When we get to “never-ending” though I have issues. I can see how God’s love at times can seem reckless to us because Gods ways are higher than our ways. And Gods love is indeed never-ending for His children. But much of the time Gods love is quite simple and clear, not seeming reckless at all.)

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

(I do appreciate the main idea here, of God seeks us, not, we chase God, which is a popular theme of some unhelpful worship songs. God seeks His children and saves them even as they are pursuing sin. And even after our conversion we still are prone to wonder. But once we have trusted in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are found, never to be lost again. Sure, even the redeemed can experience a time of falling back or being caught up in various sins for a time, but God can never lose the “one’s” He has chosen to save. And that slip of sin does not last forever. Christ Himself is sustaining His people and He is mighty to save. Plus I’m not convinced the majority of Christians would even get the reference of “the 99”.)  

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

(Again, love this thought. This is the most biblical you can get. The wretchedness of man and the holiness of God. That is the Gospel! We can do nothing to earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. “You give Yourself away” is one of those grey lines. It’s not technically wrong, but it seems wrong focused on the context of the song. As if the driving power of Gods love is “us.” We are not the main thing to God, God is the main thing to God. He does all for His own glory first and foremost. That’s the main thing wring in this song. There’s no sense of the glory of God.)

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

(Again, solid verse. Glorifying God in His greatness and not ours.)

(Chorus)

The Ugly:

Bridge:

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

(The bridge is less than wanting. I see the point trying to be made here but it wasn’t given enough time or care to stay biblical. The song strays from the biblical point. The glory appears to be to God still but the focus is clearly, “We are so precious and important, God cares only for us and nothing else.” The biblical reality is that God is all-powerful, mighty, glorious, perfect, holy, never changing and sufficient without any one of us ever adding or giving Him anything. On top of that, the most important thing to God is His own glory. This is what drives everything about Him. It drives everything He does. His glory is an attribute of His attributes. He isn’t most concerned with us. We aren’t first on His mind. He is. In fact, the first name we get for God is “I am” in Genesis 3:14. He is saying, “I Am everything that is important. I Am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The King of kings and the Lord of lords. I am what I glorify above all else. I seek my own glory before all” (Writers commentary). This can be hard to hear, but for the child of God, this is where we get our assurance and security. God’s glory is so important because nothing can break His character, His will, plan, goodness, holiness or love for His chosen. What else could be placed before Gods glory? Nothing, hallelujah! This jealousy He has for His own is what gives us eternal life and hope for everything. So, to minimize all this to “kicking down walls, because He loves us more than anything,” is not ok.)

I know a lot has been said, but unfortunately, I heard the writer of this song explain his meaning behind it, and that’s what made me ban it from my own playlist. Here are a few things he said about his song.

Cory Asbury – “We are not saying God himself is reckless, he’s not crazy. We are saying the way he loves is. He’s utterly unconcerned with the consequences in regards with His own safety, comfort and well being. God’s love is childlike. Might I suggest it’s sometimes downright ridiculous? His love bankrupted heaven, for you and for me. His love doesn’t consider himself first, it isn’t self-serving. He isn’t concerned with what he’ll gain or lose by putting himself on the line. He simply puts himself out there on the off chance you might look back at him in return. His love isn’t cautious. He gives himself away, again, and again and again and again and time and time again. I don’t care what it costs me, I lay my life on the line as long as I get their hearts.” 

If the problems aren’t obvious right off the bat then let me help. He starts correctly. Just like his song, there are some good, but unclear and unbiblical parts as well.

Here’s the breakdown,

“God is not reckless and He’s not crazy,” that’s true.

But “His love is”?K…? Everything about God is God. Only God is love, light, patient, glorious, just, etc. God defines all things.

Now we get a god that is not in the bible. The god he is explaining sounds pathetic and needy.

“Unconcerned with the consequences”?

God has had eternity planned and is sovereign over every aspect since before time began. Neither of these claims is backed up biblically. If anything you believe is contrary to scripture, you’re wrong. The Bible itself is tested against itself and is still perfect.

His love bankrupted heaven…” 

Again, what a small god. As if God ceased to be God or was somehow paralyzed for a time because of Christ work on the cross. The God that created and sustains all things for all time is bankrupt for us? By no means!

“His love doesn’t concern himself, it isn’t self-serving.” 

That is blasphemous! God is mainly concerned about His own glory above all things! That was His main point at the cross as well as His point today in everything He does. This is the God of the Bible. And the believer is comforted in this truth because nothing can compare to His glory. It is because of His love for His own glory we are saved! What else should be above it? (If you would like more info on what the glory of God is, please don’t hesitate to contact me. This is the most important thing for a Christian to grasp)

“He isn’t concerned with what he’ll gain or lose…”

God cannot gain nor lose. He is almighty, never changing, perfect and eternal. And here’s one of the worst statements ever, and unfortunately this is the kind of theme or thought pattern behind most contemporary worship songs.

He simply puts himself out there on the off chance you might look back at him in return.”

This is where the importance of understanding of election, predestination and God’s chosen people. All essentially mean the same thing, which is, God has chosen whom He will redeem since before the foundations of the world. This is a whole different argument and we can’t get into now. However, you see the doctrinal error when this isn’t a proper understanding. God looks pathetic and weak in this context. What a needy desperate God that showers people with love in hopes that some would return it? Not at all!

“His love isn’t cautious.” 

God doesn’t take chances and is never out of control or surprised. Then this explanation goes on the with the “gives himself away again”(repeated too many times). This could mean how God is always forgiving His children when they repent. But with the number of unbiblical parts so far I can’t give him that kind of credit.

One section I didn’t put in here was Cory saying “God will go after the 1 sheep every time even is he loses the 99.” 

Nothing about that statement makes sense or is biblical. Nothing can snatch God’s people from His hand, John 10:18. The ones in which He has chosen are being sustained by Him, therefore, can never and will never fall away. Jesus Himself is pleading and interceding for His people to this day, 2 Timothy 4:18.

And lastly, “I lay my life down as long as I get their hearts.”

What a demeaning and sad way to explain the death of Christ. God is after your heart, sure, but God owns everything, including you and everything about you. He knows who He died for and who would be raised up with Christ and be raised up as a new creation by the power of God and then live the rest of eternity by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Actually, not sure how the Holy Spirit’s role changes when we get to heaven, anyway.

So what do we do with a song like this? Some try to change words or add things to it like it did, but we must stop and ask, “why?” Why so much work to play this song, or songs like it? Because you sound really good at singing it? Because your church loves it? Because you want to be relevant to people? None of these reasons are biblical and we are playing on dangerous ground when we give in to this way of thinking. There are so many great songs to choose from. Branch out and seek the hundreds of great songs written well and supremely biblical to truly strengthen your church rather than stretching to make an emotionally driven song work because you perform it well. We can all get complacent when all we are hearing are these types of songs. Seek out other, less well-known bands and music teams. There is some fantastic music being created that is not being heard.

With all this being said I feel I must mention this; the main worship team at my church plays this song. I have mentioned that I have played this song before and would again if my pastor asked. These are my convictions about the faithfulness in our music in church. I am not the final word nor think that I should have any authority over you because after all, this is my opinion.

Now, read through the words of this other song. This is the clear dynamics and distinction between amazing and average or false. Note here, there are many old and new hymns I could throw down, but to keep this all contemporary let’s choose something newer and in the style of the current culture.

Grace and Peace (Sovereign Grace Music)

Performed by (The Shaws) Live Version

Grace and Peace

 Grace and peace, oh how can this be

For lawbreakers and thieves, for the worthless, the least

You have said that our judgment is death

For all eternity without hope, without rest

 (Chorus)

Oh, what an amazing mystery, what an amazing mystery

That Your grace has come to me

 

Grace and peace, oh how can this be?

The matchless King of all paid the blood price for me

Slaughtered lamb, what atonement You bring!

The vilest sinner’s heart can be cleansed, can be free

(Chorus)

 

Grace and peace, oh how can this be?

Let songs of gratefulness ever rise, never cease

Loved by God and called as a saint

My heart is satisfied in the riches of Christ

(Chorus)

Bridge:

Oh, what an amazing love I see, what an amazing love I see

That Your grace has come to me, Your grace has come!

(Chorus)

 

Did you catch a difference in focus, reference, and reverence? I have tested this kind of thing on myself on many occasions. I begin to make rationales for what I would like to do and then get set straight by something solid like these words. The focus is on God and His greatness, not our desperate needs or emotional desires.

Before the “naysayer” comments begin. Let me say this. There is nowhere in the Bible that is written to the individual. The New Testament was written to the church. On top of that, when we are given a charge and or encouragement in corporate worship, it is always given with a reason and point for that charge. God speaks action. And that reason is always God-focused, not our desires or emotional intentions towards Christ. Very few times does the bible refer to us loving God. But, it mentions God’s love for us hundreds of times. Does this mean we are not special? No, this means all glory to God because He is our everything, our all and deserves all. Our only good is Christ in us.

Here is a blog I did after attending Bob Kauflin’s “Worship Intensive.” Some great take a ways and very on point with what I am talking about.

Worship Intensive Blog

Closing.

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

www.TheShawsMusic.com

Podcast www.MisfitMinistry.com

Instagram @stevenshaw.co @fitcore @theshaws

 

Come and See (acoustic chronicles)

I recently released a new album (acoustic chronicles) and wanted to give everyone a breakdown of what these songs mean. They are all very deep and biblical so I wanted to make sure and explain them so I have a place for anyone who wants to know all the meaning behind them. Most of the lyrics are old hymns that I revamped to fit my melodies. This one is from a hymn by Isaac Watts called “Come and See”.  Here is my version in full.

Come and See 

Jesus the Christ, prepares our rooms,
Well supplied with care, for all our wounds:
His Word declares, His grace is free,
Come, needy sinners, “Come and see.”

“Come and see.”

He left the Father, and courts on high,
Came to His world, to bleed and die;
Jesus the Lord, hung on a tree,
Come, thoughtless sinners, “Come and see.”

“Come and see.”

(Chorus)
Come, and see His grace upon you!

Our sins did pierce, His bleeding heart,
Till death had done, its dreadful part,
His boundless love extends to thee,
Come trembling sinners, “Come and see.”

“Come and see.”

His blood can cleanse, the foulest stain,
Can make the vilest, sinner clean,
This fountain open, stands for thee,
Come, guilty sinners, “Come and see.”

“Come and see.”

(Chorus)
Come, and see His grace upon you!

 

This is a sweet hymn of resting and yet being convicted of what Christ had to do for our sin on the cross. We rest in the grace He has bestowed upon us, but we are faced with the fact that our sin put Him on that cross. That is in fact what we need to be able to come and see grace. It is also an invitation to know God and enjoy Him forever. None of Christ blood was shed in vain, therefore, those who do not live a life submitted to Christ do not reap these benefits of grace from Him. Jesus blood was enough to cover the sins of the world, but we are not covered unless we accept His invitation to “Come and see”.

 

Listen to the song here: Come and See

Perfect Law (Psalm 19) acoustic chronicles

I recently released a new album (acoustic chronicles) and wanted to give everyone a breakdown of what these songs mean. They are all very deep and biblical so I wanted to make sure and explain them so I have a place for anyone who wants to know all the meaning behind them. Most of the lyrics are old hymns that I revamped to fit my melodies. But this is one of the songs I wrote from Psalm 19. Here they are in full.

Perfect Law (Psalm 19)

The law of the Lord,
converting the soul
The truth of the Lord is sure
The statutes of God,
rejoicing the heart
Commandments of God are pure

More to be loved are they than gold,
Yes, than much fine gold
Sweeter also then the honeycomb
Is Your perfect law alone

The fear of the Lord, making us wise
The judgments of God are true
Let the words of my mouth,
be pure from my heart
Acceptable in Your site.

More to be loved are they than gold,
Yes, than much fine gold
Sweeter also then the honeycomb
Is Your perfect law alone

Christ came for the law,
fulfilled what we can’t
The glory of God in man
Now we stand right,
before a good God
Whose standards are
perfect and high

More to be loved is He than gold,
Yes, than much fine gold
Sweeter also then the honeycomb
Is Your perfect Son alone

 

I really enjoyed writing this song. It is unique in style and theme. My journey of sanctification started a while ago, but the more I learn about God, the more I learn how everything He does is a form of grace to His children. Christians don’t usually think of the law, or God’s commandments to be a gift, but they were and still are today. God gave His chosen people the commandments as a way for them to know His heart, to know how to be in fellowship with Himself. God is always trying to be with His people. However, He doesn’t just show up in all His glory, (cause that would kill everyone) but also loves us to share in His work. That’s why He still calls and uses people today. He needs us for nothing and yet gives us everything. But this song isn’t ultimately about Gods law, but about Jesus. The law was given to Gods people but could never be fulfilled by us. But Jesus lived the perfect life, securing His children’s place with Him for eternity.

In this song, we begin singing right out of Psalm 19. A person after God is a person after Gods law. To desire to live in a way that God can delight it. Read through the Psalm in full.

 

Psalm 19 (ESV)

The Law of the Lord Is Perfect

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voicegoes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
     which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rulesof the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

This was written way before Christ enters the scene. But you see David’s love and praise to God for what He has done for him and who He is. What David understands is that God deserves full praise for eternity just for being Him. But He has given us so much more to praise Him for. But He didn’t leave us here. He sent His Son, the Man Jesus Christ who gave us His life. In the last verse and chorus, we go from singing about the law to singing about Christ. I was really excited to have this tension and dynamic in a song. The glory of God is forever and perfect, and I hope this song helps capture a deeper understanding and love for Him.

You can listen to the song here. Perfect Law (Psalm 19)

For more from me about Christ visit MisfitMinistry.com

Worship Intensive 2019

By S.C. Shaw

In 2009, (wow that’s 10 years ago!) I felt God pulling me into a season of increased knowledge and drawing me closer towards a deeper, more meaningful life in Christ. I began with the scriptures and dove into the word of God with a new passion. I had always heard the Bible had power but never really understood what that meant. I experienced that power in a radical, personal way and witnessed God’s word transform my life from the inside out. From that point in my life I had a new goal and mission. This mission was to become a worship leader who reflected or “re-presented” Christ in a way that I had never known before. Every single person on the planet receives a gift from God, which is to be used to serve each other and glorify Him. For me, that gift has always been music. I have been drawn to music since I was a child and once I understood what it meant to live a life to Christ I was able to use my gift in a way that glorified God.

As I pursued worship in various settings I began to notice a variety of things, but what stood out the most was the ways in which worship music had shifted. Many of the lyrics I would hear focused on the individual rather than God or there was a strange mixture of singing about all of the ways God could and would do things for me and once in a while a shout of praise to God would be thrown in. I felt unsettled in my spirit and also in my Christian walk. I decided to delve into the topic of worship and that is when I discovered a book called “Worship Matters” by Bob Kauflin. The book is written with a strong theological foundation that teaches how to lead corporate worship in an appropriate and biblically faithful way. Bob discusses who Christ is and offers insight as to how we should honor Him in our times of the gathered church in song and worship as a whole. After reading the book I was inspired to know more.

Fast-forward to 2019, one day I received an email from a friend and pastor from my church (South Shores Church). It was about a conference that was hosted by Bob Kauflin! Throughout the years I had heard many people refer to him as a loving person whose desire was to reintroduce true worship into the church. I was so excited for the opportunity to not only meet Bob but also have the opportunity to learn from a man that had inspired me for so many years. I filled out the form to attend and waited with anticipation to see whether or not I would be accepted to the conference.  A few months later I received the acceptance email and was thrilled to learn that only myself and 18 other men would be there. It would be a small group of us who would bond and take part in a time of learning, leading and also receiving input on our musical skills, worship styles and what we could improve to further the worship (music) within each of our churches. My church helped me get there because they have always supported their people with continued education.

In June of this year I flew to Kentucky and arrived at Bob’s house nervous and excited all at the same time. The conference called, “Worship Matters Intensive 2019” by Bob Kauflin. I felt excited and honored to be part of this experience and training however, that feeling quickly moved to becoming a little bored after a couple days as I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new. God had an agenda and I couldn’t quite see it yet. The things Bob shared lined up with the way I had approached worship for many years now. Things, like being intentional about my growth as a worship leader and leading others to pursue their gift in music, had always been at the forefront of my focus and Bob was discussing these important truths at the conference. As we forged ahead I noticed that the material Bob was sharing was not “mind-focused” but rather  “heart-focused”. God’s plan was about impacting me in ways I didn’t expect.  A few days into the conference, some of the men started having emotional responses to what was being taught and shared in song.

We all had a chance to lead a time of singing and then receive feedback from Bob and the rest of the group. This was a wonderful time of growth but also a time of deep emotional interaction. I had no idea how many times my eyes could well up with tears or I could cry in a day until I went to this conference.  God used those moments to slowly tear down the stones and hard places in and around my heart. The result was a massive breakdown of my pride and also insight as to how I had gotten into that familiar place of complacency and forgetfulness when it came to remembering and living out the reality of the goodness of God and all that he has done for myself and humanity.

I was shown that all of my hard work to serve God’s people (human striving) had exhausted my capacity because deep down I didn’t feel worthy to receive God’s love. All of my energy, output and good intentions felt like work, something was missing. I remember saying to myself, “I don’t feel worthy to work on my own soul” and began to feel deep sorrow from within. At that moment God said to me, “You are not worthy of this, but my Son is”.  In all my life as a Christian I had only heard the voice of God three distinct times. When I heard God say what he said I fell to my seat and wept with my face in my hands. I had encountered and experienced God in such a way that it completely rearranged the reason I worship. How could I have forgotten such an important truth? God’s response was not a condemning one, but a gentle, loving reminder that in Christ I am made worthy to carry out and use the gift of music that is inside of me. God wanted me to remember that I was His and He is mine. He’s got me. God is so patient with me and this radical encounter with him gave me new eyes to see and a softer heart to serve.

Here are a few gems from the conference that God planted deep in my heart that I want to share with you. I included a little context and I pray you will also be blessed!

 

  • “It’s not that you’re doing too much, it’s that you’re doing too much for your own glory and out of your own strength.”

Regardless of vocation, we can quickly feel: worn out, beat down and unappreciated. As we continue to live in the truth of who we truly work for and by whose power sustains us, it will be from that place that our identity and capacity are sustained. We will live daily in victory, joy and in peace that we only find in Christ by His work on the cross.

 

  • “Feelings are a proof of faith, not the root of it.”

 The topic of feelings can be addressed in many contexts, however, this was addressed in a corporate worship setting. When we corporately sing, pray and hear God’s word proclaimed our responses include a variety of things. The most important response is an outward expression of adoration to Christ.  Theologian John Piper uses the words, “seeing and savoring Jesus”. Hearing God’s word proclaimed in any form or worship (preaching, music, scripture) should never simply fill our heads with knowledge; it should also overwhelm our hearts with adoration to God. The fruit of this adoration to God always leads to action in His name and by His power.  What God does in you he will do through you!

 

  • “Don’t choose to do something because that’s what “Christians” are supposed to do”.

I feel like this can be the biggest trap for Christians, especially those who work in the church or have a ministry. We can easily fall into the traps of legalism and performance. Our Christian life becomes more about tasks and striving and creating the best “program”, which often leads to competition and comparison. We get caught in the maze of the things a Christian must do because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do. This is how we experience exhaustion, frustration, and burnout. If we all function in our God-given gift and have deep encounters with God on a regular basis, the outpouring of love from God to us will be the fuel that leads to action without the elements of striving, comparison and exhaustion. Notice I always refer back to being sustained by the power and love of God; we do not possess the power on our own to carry out God’s plan. There must be more emphasis on this powerful truth in our daily living and in the worship, we engage in. We sing songs, pray, serve and preach but how often are we truly encountering God in ways that are transforming our world? Yes, there is work to do, but it is by God’s power and his power alone that we can carry out the mission. Relying on our frail, human power will quickly turn into a weak religious system that is ineffective, even with the best of intentions.

 

  • “Stop loving good things that are keeping you from the best things.”

 Ouch, this little gem hit me hard. It is so easy to be doing “good” things in the name of God while missing those encounters with God. Or we can be doing seemingly good or fun things but we know it’s not the best thing. For instance: having an addiction to social media, or binge-watching Netflix, binge-spending, binge-sleeping, binge-happy-hour, partaking in those “good” (none of those are good too often) activities can distract us from God. These things and many other “good” things can steal our time, energy and wreak havoc on our emotions because we know we are missing the best things.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul tells us, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  Paul is talking about sexual purity but this scripture also applies to how we are living our lives. Our bodies include our mind, will, and emotions, take a few minutes and pray, ask God what activities are not the best for you and allow God to lead you to what is best, Himself!

 

  • “We want to have doctrinal fuel for our emotional fire.”

 Again, lots of ways to unpack this but I’m keeping it in the context of worship. Church congregations can easily get swept up in an emotional experience when it comes to worship. Worship songs should be passionate, our affections should be great and our emotional responses are valid. However, it is not because of the music or the people on the stage. Our responses in worship must be based on whom we are singing about. I have witnessed many worship teams who: strive to create the biggest show, use the best theatrical lighting, build the loudest sound system, write or tweak songs to make them more “user-friendly”, find the best musicians and create an atmosphere that can manipulate people’s emotions. Sometimes this is all done with the best intentions but lacking biblical wisdom. If it’s just smoke and mirrors we will not encounter God in Spirit and in Truth. There is so much more to say about God than just how great, powerful and wonderful His name is.

 

  • “His greatness exceeds our ability to explain it.”

 I feel like a lot of contemporary worship music has forgotten this truth. It seems like we have either run out of things to say about God or maybe it’s the scriptures have become a bore to us. Today’s worship has lyrics that highlight the name of God or our feelings towards him or the desire for Him. These are all “good” things but are they the best?  When did we shift to singing about God to merely mentioning his name? And why are many contemporary songs about what God can do for us instead of singing about his character, greatness, and presence in order to learn more about him? If God’s greatness exceeds our ability to explain it, do we give up because God’s truths are inexhaustible? By no means! The key here is as we encounter God in worship (rather than encountering ourselves in worship) we will learn more about him. Although his greatness exceeds our ability to explain it, God is more than willing to allow us to see more and more of his character and nature. I believe as “worship leaders” (which is a flawed title) we need to be aware of the responsibility we have been given and have accepted because we have embraced our gift. When we sing about God (not just his name) it will stir people’s hearts more than anything else. The purpose of worship is not to make us feel better about ourselves but is to proclaim the truths of the Bible and also to proclaim the character and nature of God and/or Jesus through song. Does this song, or time of worship help the Word of God dwell richly within me? Not just the warm and fuzzy feelings. As we encounter God, we will be transformed so that we can be used by God to effectively bring the good news of Christ to the world. If you find that the songs you listen to or songs your church sings have more words about you than God, that might be an indicator that the focus has shifted to something that is human-centered instead of God-centered. Worship is “food” for the soul, pay attention to what you are eating. It matters! And just because a song is referencing “you”, the worshiper, doesn’t mean its man focused. “In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song”. That first verse in the hymn “In Christ Alone” has a lot of “my” in it, but is completely Christ-focused.

 

  • “Do-Done”

 This phrase was said by one of the participants at the conference. I thought it was a great and easy way to remember the “what” and the “why”. We “do” because the work is “done”.We don’t do things for God because God needs us to. God is complete as he is and in reality, he doesn’t need anything from us. However, God wants the best for us so we do things for God as a response to the great, wonderful and powerful things God has already accomplished. His work is sufficient and complete and we as his people get to partake in the joy of working by His power and His creation to carry out His plan and work on this planet until Christ returns. We “do” because the work is “done”.

 

  • “The Psalms only say “I love you God” two times. The Psalms speak of God’s steadfast love 123 times.”

 The conference with Bob confirmed my belief that the church needs songs with more biblical truth and accuracy rather than lyrics based on human feelings alone. Many times people come to a church service broken, confused, lost and struggling. Telling them how they should feel about God coupled with vague truths about God’s name or far out and unexplained ideas will not help that person heal so they can grow in the truth of God’s love. Those kinds of songs are dangerous because they can communicate that God saves someone because of their greatness as a human being, which can leave a person with a greater sense of themselves rather than what the Bible actually says about why God had to save us in the first place.  We are saved because of God’s steadfast love not because we are amazing people. We are special in Christ alone, and the focus is still on God’s steadfast love and our place as sinners saved by His grace. This kingdom reality is what keeps false pride from rearing its ugly head and also shatters the power of idolatry. Bob Kauflin made a great point which was, “Everyone is suffering from at least one of these each week: sin, suffering and/or self sufficiency.”  God’s grace and His steadfast love is what keeps everything in check because we waiver and He is the one who steadies the boat!

 

  • “When we meet together, we are called by God to meet together. To revel in the gospel, in Jesus and to encourage each other. “

 God commands His people in Ephesians 5 and Hebrews 10, to meet together to encourage one another and remind each other of the glories in Christ. This is why I believe there is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” Christian. We are designed to be in community and we cannot survive this life if we are isolated from other believer’s. “You and God” on your own is not a biblical concept. We are transformed in community and relationships help to grow our capacity for life. Not only that, but one of the biggest gifts we have from God is the correction of a loving friend in Christ. 

 

  • “Lead our people with everything, humbly, theologically, pastorally, patiently.”

This was a great reminder to leaders in the church. Those given a place of authority in the church have the greatest responsibility to shepherd God’s people faithfully. That doesn’t mean we are in an elevated position or that we are more important, special or in need of constant accolades. In fact, it is the opposite. Those given the call to be in leadership have a greater responsibility because they will be the one’s to give an account for those they had the honor to shepherd. This responsibility begins with the head pastor of a church but many who are called to serve within the church must take the responsibility of shepherding seriously.  To lead humbly means no pride, to lead theologically means we have a solid foundation and understanding of the scriptures in which we lead from, leading pastorally means we shepherd and take care of the sheep and leading patiently means we operate in grace, love and once again, Godly humility. All for the purpose of knowing God, making Him known, making disciples for His glory and our good!

 

  • “Skill enables us to think about the right things.”

 I found this to be such a simple idea that makes a world of difference. Work on your skill (gift from God) so that when the time comes to minister or use your skill, it won’t feel like a lot of work or seem unnatural or not genuine. Example, when I’m leading a worship song that I am really comfortable with and don’t have to look at my iPad, I am much more able to engage with the people I am leading in song. This results in drawing the congregation into a deeper time of worship because I’m not distracted with not knowing my music. Of course, this is not about perfection, the Holy Spirit is not hindered by our lack of skill nor is He able to work better because of our amazing talent. However, God has given each one of us the desire to serve Him and it is biblical to do it skillfully. When God called His people to build the tabernacle, to play music or to go to battle, he used skillful and/or trained people to carry out the task. We too, have the awesome honor and opportunity to do the best we can as we rely on God for His power used in us.

 

  • “We need people to walk out of each meeting knowing there is no one worthy of glory except Jesus Christ.”

 When people gather and are constantly being reminded of this truth they will leave the service with a bigger view of God, instead of a grandiose view of their individual selves. Isn’t this the main point of gathering as the Body of Christ? It is to glorify God and to remind us that we are utterly dependent on Him.

 

  • “The Gospel should always be clear, consistent and compelling.”

Many churches struggle with this. Proclaiming the Gospel needs to be clear, consistent and compelling but similar to worship many churches tailor the sermon to be “user-friendly”. The topic of sin can easily offend people so the sermons amount to a weekly “pep-talk” or a psychological feel good message about how God is going to bless us for our faith and this is why we see a lack of powerful churches that are changing the world. The truth of Christ needs to be taught simply and yet truthfully, without being sugarcoated. We must always recognize our need for a Savior and the only one worthy to save is Jesus. May we all remain in prayer that God would help us to return to the clear, consistent compelling message of the Gospel.

 

  • “Root and ground people in the unchanging reality of the Gospel and who Christ is.”

 Today, we see a world where people are seeking their identity and looking for truth anywhere they want to find it. So much so, that many are allowing themselves and others to make up whatever identity they want and follow whatever “truth” they choose. Thank the good Lord that the Gospel is unchanging and God remains the same, even as the world is in constant flux. Our faith remains intact no matter what the swirling haze of change is around us because God, the church and the Bible have all stood the test of time for centuries. God’s people need to rejoice in that reality every time we come together as the Body of Christ.  There is power in numbers and when we gather and share the same faith, this is part of the glue that keeps the church together, our faith! Our worldly circumstances will change continually and not always for the good. We must continue to encourage one another and redirect everything in our lives towards Christ as we live in God’s solid, unchanging and unchangeable truth, amen!

 

  • “No one loves you more than Jesus, and no one deserves love more than Jesus. His love doesn’t mean we are the “object” of His affection. His love reveals to us that He is so loving, that He could love sinners like us.”

 It is a common theme these days to be empowered and encouraged as a Christian, strictly for who we are as Christians. I have heard comments and seen memes on social media that say things like, “God loved me so much He thought I was to die for.” I guess this could be something that brings encouragement or perhaps it’s a cute way of making a person feel special.  However, it leaves truth lost in translation. The truth is Jesus didn’t die for you because you are special. He died for you because He is so loving, patient, perfect and gracious. As Romans 5:8 and Ephesians 1:4 remind us; we were still sinners and He came to die for those who were called since before the foundations of the world were laid. This means Christ planned to save His children before they ever had a chance to be “good, bad or ugly.” You see, the only thing special about you or me is that we are His. There is nothing special about being a sinner; the Bible makes that clear in numerous places. It is the Holy Spirit who is alive within His children because of the work of Christ on the cross.

 

And finally here is the last gem:

 

  • “Does this help the Word of Christ dwell richly in me, or those hearing”?

This was the most important take away from the conference for me. This question should be asked whether one is preaching, choosing the songs for the worship set, or simply living life. It is similar to asking the question, “Is what I’m doing honoring God?” or “Can I glorify God through what I’m about to do?”In the context of worship, we talked about the songs we choose and how we lead worship. Too often we choose songs we sing well, haven’t played in awhile, or songs that we are excited to introduce to our people. Sometimes leading worship can be like putting on a show, this is where we must take notice and ask the questions above. If for one moment we know that what we are doing is based on human ascent or human glorification then we need to change course. It’s challenging because the popular way of worship is all about performance and worship is performing in front of hundreds perhaps even thousands of people. There is a fine line here and for me, the only way I can stay on course is to continue to position my heart towards Christ as I eagerly await to hear Him speak to me again and again. As I hone in on my skill (gift) and start to feel prideful, I will take that to God. If I am feeling competitive, I will take that to God. If I am feeling exhaustion from striving and under the weight of perfection and performance, I will take that to God. The only way I will know how to navigate, as a worship leader is to be tracking with God at all times. Knowing the scriptures and relying on the Holy Spirit to give me those “red flags” when something is off or presented in error is my only chance of knowing what direction to go. And again, the correction of my godly friends and pastors is invaluable as I/we try to lead our church more faithfully in song, to glorify the One who deserves all praise, honor and glory!

I do hope you enjoyed reading this blog; these were my takeaways from an intense week of deep transformation. I pray this blessed you as it has blessed me. Please never hesitate to contact me with questions, as I love to talk about God!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Contributing editor credit: Lisa M Johnston, Th.M. and Pastor/sozofreedom.com

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Mindset of Christ (acoustic chronicles)

I recently released a new album (acoustic chronicles) and wanted to give everyone a breakdown of what these songs mean. They are all very deep and biblical so I wanted to make sure and explain them so I have a place for anyone who wants to know all the meaning behind them. Most of the lyrics are old hymns that I revamped to fit my melodies. But this is one of the songs I had the pleasure of writing the lyrics to with some friends of mine. Here they are in full.

Mindset of Christ

The fullness of God dwells in Jesus the Son
Equal in substance, divine Three in One
Glorious union! In love always be
Selfless and pouring forth in humility

Christ is the King who chose not to seize
Not pressing advantage, but emptying
Taking the form of a dust-covered slave
Almighty God in the shape of a babe

(Chorus)

O Lord that we, O Lord that we
Would have the mindset of Christ
Mindset of Christ

 

The Fullness of man dwells in Jesus as well
Obedient to the Fathers will, true Israel
Holy and sinless, fulfilling the Law,
Doing what we couldn’t to please our God

Christ is the God man who stooped far below
Hung on the cross to reap what we sow
Taking the wrath that we all deserve
Judgment borne in our place so justice was served

(Chorus)

 

The fullness of Christ vindicated by God
Raised with the Name that is far above
All will bow and know “Jesus is Lord”
All for the glory and honor of our God

(Chorus)

 

This song is full of biblical references. The first verse speaks of God the Father and all He’s done for sinners. The theme continues into who Jesus is and what He has done. The chorus longs for even prays for a mind like Christ’. Why do long for a mind like Christ? Because Jesus was 100% man and yet without sin. He is what Christians look to for ultimate and perfect picture of what to strive for in this life. Although we will never achieve this perfection in this life, Christ promises a new and perfect life when we join Him forever in heaven. The second verse continues with the theme of glorifying Christ for His amazing work for those who would love Him. The last verse is speaking of the glory that is and is to come for our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Listen to the song here! “Mindset of Christ”

By His Offering (acoustic chronicles)

I recently released a new album (acoustic chronicles) and wanted to give everyone a breakdown of what these songs mean. They are all very deep and biblical so I wanted to make sure and explain them so I have a place for anyone who wants to know all the meaning behind them. Most of the lyrics are old hymns that I revamped to fit my melodies. But this is one of the songs I had the pleasure of writing the lyrics to with some friends of mine. Here they are in full.

By His Offering

In the beginning, God created all

Man sinned and lost hope, darkness in our soul

We can not rebuild, what we have broken down

So God in all mercies smashed His Son to the ground

 

(Chorus)

By His offering, we’ve been set free

 

It starts with Jesus, the Word of God released

Destined to suffer, the Fathers wrath appeased

God thee incarnate, Son of God was He

Lamb to the slaughter, set the captives free

(Chorus)

Bridge:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Three and yet One, perfect God

Father is awesome, Son who is worthy, Spirit who’s holy, perfect God

 

(Chorus)

 

When we set out to write a new song, my friends and I thought, “What better topic to write about than the gospel?” Jesus, “God”, come into human flesh and save those who would love and believe in Him. Those whom He has chosen in fact. So, we wrote a Gospel song. The first verse focuses on the reality of our depravity. We have fallen short of God’s glory and there’s nothing we can do to reconcile us to God. The chorus focuses on the fact that Christ alone has saved His people from their sins. The second verse is a simple verse that glorifies Christ for His sacrifice for sinners. The bridge glorifies the Trinity in the fact that they are all One and yet distinct.

You can listen to song here. By His Offering

 

Living Water (acoustic chronicles)

I recently released a new album (acoustic chronicles) and wanted to give everyone a breakdown of what these songs mean. They are all very deep and biblical so I wanted to make sure and explain them so I have a place for anyone who wants to know all the meaning behind them. Most of the lyrics are old hymns that I revamped to fit my melodies. This one is from a hymn by W.V. Miller called “The Well of Living Water”.  Here is my version in full.

Living Water

Oh this well of, living water springing up within my, soul

Gives me blessed, satisfaction while the changing seasons, roll

And in Jesus, love rejoicing still a song of praise I, bring

For the blessed, gift of Heaven for this ever-living, spring

(Chorus)

For this well of living water

That is flowing now for me,

Songs of praise and adoration,

Blessed Lord, I bring to Thee.

 

The depths unknown is so flowing from the depths of Jesus, love

It was purchased, by the Savior gift divine from Heaven, above

He alone can give this water, “Whosoever will may, come,”

Quench his thirst from, this pure fountain and from Jesus never, roam

(Chorus)

 

So the blessed, news I’m spreading of this dear life-giving, spring

Ever pure and, free is rushing as my Savior’s love I, sing

It is flowing, ever flowing in this grateful heart of, mine

And my tongue shall tell the gladness of this matchless grace, divine

(Chorus)

 

This is another theme that we don’t sing a lot about but it’s a beautiful illustration that Jesus Himself uses to describe His coming salvation. A couple verses that reference this theme, John 4:4-6, John 7:37-39. But what is being talked about is a theme throughout the entire bible. Jesus isn’t saying that once you become a Christian you’re not thirsty anymore, or that you won’t need drinking water ever again. Christ is comparing the importance of our physical need for water and how it brings life to everything that is living. Jesus takes it a step further and says, “the water I am offering will give everlasting life”. Not just the temporal hydration we receive here in this life but a symbolic eternal life-giving drink. Jesus Himself drank a cup, sacrificing Himself for the world that believes in Him. Now He is able to offer a different cup to anyone who would receive it. A cup that is acceptable to God and when you drink, you are saved and alive forever! I pray this song helps these truths reach down into your heart and soul to worship God more.

Listen to song here: Living Water