I Wanna Know What It’s Like on the Inside of Love

Can anybody tell me who Nada Surf is?

I mean, if it weren’t for Relient K’s cover of their song “Inside of Love,” I never would have heard of them. But as I listened to that song on the way to work today, one lyric in particular caught my ear.

Watching terrible TV, it kills all thought
Getting spacier than an astronaut
Making out with people I hardly know or like
I can’t believe what I do late at night

I wanna know what it’s like
On the inside of love
I’m standing at the gates
I see the beauty above

We’ve all been in places where we’re searching for something that fulfilled us, that showed us what we really needed. Perhaps one of man’s greatest needs is love.

In “Inside of Love,” the singer is searching for love. He’s been on the outside his whole life, he says, and he wants to be on the inside, he wants to see what it’s really like.

Well, my friend, there’s an answer for that.

It struck me this morning as I read Matthew 2. It’s the story of Jesus’ birth. Joseph, His earthly father, is visited in a dream. The angel quotes a prophecy that says Jesus is to be called “Immanuel,” or “God with us.”

It’s a popular idea of Christmas, but do we really sit down and think about what that means? God with us! There’s a couple things it means.

First: God is now with us. We were separated from God, distant, because of our sin. But when Jesus comes, it means we can have a relationship with God unhindered by sin’s eternal sting. We’ll still struggle in that relationship, but our eternity is secured if we confess and believe.

Second: God literally came down to earth to be with us. Jesus is God, and He came to earth to live perfectly, die and live again so that relationship we talked about in the last point could actually happen. How insane is that? I mean, seriously. Take stock of that for a minute. Do we get that? Do we get the depths of grace that exist in that reality?

That’s what it’s like to be on the inside of love, Nada Surf. It’s joy, relief, peace.


Zach’s 20 Favorite Songs from 2015

As we near the end of the year, I’d like to take a step back and reflect on some of my favorite things from this year. So let’s do it!

My 20 favorite songs released this year, in no particular order. Couldn’t have more than one song from the same artist, otherwise there’d be multiple Tori Kelly, Dave Barnes and, of course, Bieber.

I Was Made For Loving You – Tori Kelly feat. Ed Sheeran

What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber

White – Tim Halperin (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

This Is Living – Hillsong Young & Free feat. Lecrae

More Like Love – Ben Rector

Where Are U Now – Jack U feat. Justin Bieber

Stitches – Shawn Mendes

Wrapped Up – Olly Murs feat. Travie McCoy

Growing Up (Sloane’s Song) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ed Sheeran

Drag Me Down – One Direction

Here We Go – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Headlights – Dave Barnes

Everything Must Go – Brandon Heath

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

Who You Say I Am – Among the Thirsty

anniversary – Abandon Kansas

All He Says I Am – Aaron Gillespie

How Can It Be – Lauren Daigle

Fly – Derek Minor feat. Colton Dixon

There’s a Spotify playlist to this that you can listen to (minus “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song),”which is available for free right here). Enjoy!

My Favorite Songs from Each of the 24 Years I’ve Been Alive from the Billboard Top 100

I write a lot of serious things on this blog. Sometimes I think I get too serious that I don’t know how to lighten up.

I love music. At least listening to it. Playing music isn’t something I’m really that good at.

So here are my favorite songs from each of the 23 years I’ve been alive in an attempt to be lighter in content.

Here’s the catch: I’m turning 23 today. That’s right, 23. But there have been 24 years in which I have taken a breath. I turned 23 today, but I started my 24th year of life. Kinda confusing, but here we go.

Each of these songs are taken from the official Billboard Year-End Top 100. The 2015 entry is not, as this year is not over yet. Hope you enjoy!

1992: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men (#1 on the chart)

I love early 90s boy band/R&B. Oh my goodness. All-4-One’s “I Swear,” New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.” I can’t get enough of it. I forget about it all the time though. This song is so good!

1993: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers (#27)

I know this song from its prominent placement on the television show How I Met Your Mother. It’s a great road trip track. So good.

1994: “I Swear” by All-4-One (#2)

No competition for this one. You’ve seen this song mentioned before in this post. So good. First was introduced to it when the Minions “sang it” at the end of Despicable Me 2. Just barely beats out “What Is Love” by Haddaway (#97), famous for its inclusion in the Night at the Roxbury skit on SNL.

1995: “I’ll Stand by You” by The Pretenders (#95)

This was a barren year for me in terms of knowing the songs on this list. I only know this song from the Glee version. “Cotten Eye Joe” (#93) was a second choice here.

1996: “Name” by Goo Goo Dolls (#24)

Gotta be honest with you, I’m really struggling with knowing these songs on these lists. Guess I wasn’t really listening to music much at this time in my life. This is a good one though.

1997: “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) by Backstreet Boys (#11)

I’m so excited. We’re entering the era of the all-white-guy boy band. Noted some 98 Degrees as well on this list. Usher’s also making an appearance.

1998: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (#25)

The song from Armageddon barely beats out ‘N Sync’s “I Want You Back” (#37). A classic of modern love ballads, it takes about a minute to really get going, but once it does, it’s amazing.

1999: “Amazed” by Lonestar (#85)

This one was tough. With “I Want It That Way” (#15), “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You” (#45) and “Iris” (94) providing stiff competition, I went with the most country of these songs, which is surprising because I don’t like country for the most part. But this is too good to ignore. Came in at #8 on the 2000 list.

2000: “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” by Backstreet Boys (#31)

Breaking into the new millennium with probably my favorite song from these guys. Great groove song. Is this feeling I need to walk with? Tell me why I can’t be there where you are! There’s something missing in my heart.

2001: “All or Nothing” by O-Town (#41)

Continuing the boy band theme, this one-hit wonder drops in nicely here, just beating out Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” (#4) and Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” (#99).

2002: “U Got It Bad” by Usher (#9)

We enter the Usher era. You may be noticing a pattern here with what I like.

2003: “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake (#32)

Justin Timberlake, Usher. I’m a fan of dudes who sing R&B/pop. It’s just a plain fact. Now I’m kind of surprised that Lonestar and Aerosmith made it on this list.

2004: “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West (#43)

Beats out Usher’s “Burn” (#2) and Evanescence’s “My Immortal” (#19), Kanye’s first entry on this list could honestly be considered a Christian song, but not for the profanity.

2005: “You and Me” by Lifehouse (#12)

The first real middle school slow dance song I really liked. What day is it? It’s slow dance day.

2006: “What’s Left of Me” by Nick Lachey (#54)

We’re getting deeper and deeper into my actual life where I listened to music, so the choices are getting harder and harder. This Jessica Simpson-inspired break-up song is hauntingly beautiful. Well, if you take it seriously.

2007: “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s (#7)

Again, more and more difficult. This one beat out “What Goes Around…Comes Around” from JT (#22) and Omarion’s “Ice Box” (#45). I was addicted to this song.

2008: “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West (#74)

Beats out OneRepublic/Timbaland’s “Apologize” (#5) and Gavin Rossdale’s “Love Remains the Same” (#94). This is from one of my favorite albums of all-time, 808s & Heartbreak.

2009: “Heartless” by Kanye West (#9)

Likely the only album on this list with two entries. This is the better second single from 808s & Heartbreak. Outruns Owl City’s “Fireflies” (#60) and Jesse McCartney/Ludacris’ “How Do You Sleep?” (86).

2010: “Breakeven” by The Script (#27)

Inches away from Drake’s “Find Your Love” (#32) and Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” (#39). I was obsessed with Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” (#3) at this time, but The Script wins for longevity’s sake.

2011: “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band (#99)

This is a surprise to me. Didn’t know this would have made the top 100, but I like this song a lot. I’ll take this over Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” (#55) (with which I thankfully unsuccessfully auditioned for an Elon acapella group) and David Guetta/Usher’s “Without You” (#73).

2012: “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction (#10)

The boys from England make their mark as the boy band genre returns to the list for the first time in 12 years. Beats out “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye (#1), Justin Bieber/Big Sean’s “As Long as You Love Me” (#34) and Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break” (#39). Fun fact about this song: this summer I was on Campus Outreach’s Summer Beach Project. I would often bring a couple guys back to our lodging from work at Wal-Mart. We would blast this song.

2013: “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake (#8)

This one was hard to beat. Lots of good songs on this chart. The one that came closest was One Direction’s “Story of My Life” (#26). But “Mirrors,” in my opinion, is a timeless song that will never get old.

2014: “Demons” by Imagine Dragons (#23)

This was probably the hardest decision. Defeats several great songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” (#3), Magic!’s “Rude” (#7) and JT’s “Not a Bad Thing” (#45). Barely sneaked by JT. That takes a lot on this list.

2015: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

Barely overcomes “Where Are U Now” and “What Do You Mean,” two Bieber hits. It’s that good.

So now that you’ve seen all 24 songs, I reveal my own chart: The Lifelong 24, by Zach Horner. These are not my favorite songs of all-time, just the definitive ranking of this list of songs.

  1. “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake (2013)
  2. “Demons” – Imagine Dragons (2014)
  3. “Hey There Delilah” – Plain White Ts (2007)
  4. “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran (2015)
  5. “Heartless” – Kanye West (2009)
  6. “What’s Left of Me” – Nick Lachey (2006)
  7. “What Makes You Beautiful” – One Direction (2012)
  8. “Love Lockdown” – Kanye West (2008)
  9. “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” – Backstreet Boys (2000)
  10. “All or Nothing” – O-Town (2001)
  11. “I Swear” – All-4-One (1994)
  12. “Breakeven” – The Script (2010)
  13. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – Aerosmith (1998)
  14. “U Got It Bad” – Usher (2002)
  15. “Amazed” – Lonestar (1998)
  16. “You and Me” – Lifehouse (2005)
  17. “Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake (2003)
  18. “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band (2011)
  19. “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West (2004)
  20. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – The Proclaimers (1993)
  21. “Name” – Goo Goo Dolls (1996)
  22. “End of the Road” – Boyz II Men (1992)
  23. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” – Backstreet Boys (1997)
  24. “I’ll Stand By You” – The Pretenders (1995)

Ben Rector Has It Right. I Just Wanna Look More Like Love.

One of my favorite Ben Rector songs is off his new album Brand New. The song is called “More Like Love.”

It ends like this:

I find the farther that I climb
There’s always another line
Of mountain tops
It’s never going to stop
And the more of anything I do
The thing that always ends up true
Is getting what I want
Will never be enough

So I just wanna look more like love
I just wanna look more like love
This whole world is spinning crazy
I can’t quite keep up
It’s the one thing around here
That we don’t have quite enough of
So I just wanna look a little more
Like love

It’s a beautifully-arranged song, with piano mixing well with strings in the background and Ben’s fantastic voice. But the songwriting is the best here. It’s penned with a heartfelt honesty and vulnerability that’s beginning to populate modern music, and I love that, as (all seven of) you who read this blog regularly will know.

I read Titus this morning as I ate my sausage and egg sandwich before showering and heading to work. One of the themes of Titus is “good works” – that phrase itself or a slight variation is mentioned five times in the text of the letter:

  1. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…” (2:7)
  2. “…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (2:14)
  3. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…” (3:1)
  4. “…I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works…” (3:8)
  5. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (3:14)

Pondering the emphasis on “good works” made me think of my life and the good works that I’m doing. Or am I doing any good works? What does “good works” look like? What’s the basis for my good works?

Sometimes I feel like our “good works” often become our ability to not do bad things. And I don’t think that’s the point of pursuing obedience, of pursuing Christ. Pursuing good works is about intentionally setting our mind to doing good things for other people, to honor God, to serve the world.

And that’s where Ben Rector’s song becomes a good tentpole for our aim. What does love look like?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This kind of attitude is at the base of every good work. Against love, there is no law. Pursuing loving others is the highest of callings, and it’s the calling we have as Christians.

It’s being patient and kind with one another. It’s pushing aside pride and boastfulness. It’s putting others first, rejoicing at what is true, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring. It’s echoing Christ’s love of us towards others.

If we pursue those things, we’ll start to look a little more like love.

The Absolutes of Worship Songs: My Struggle with ‘You Are My Everything’

One worship song I always struggle with is “Revelation Song.” I like the message of the song. It’s God-glorifying. It’s Jesus-praising. My favorite line is this:

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

I love the acknowledgement of Christ as a mystery, something we can’t fully understand, something that means we’ve got to have faith in what we can’t see and what we can really only hope for.

But my anxious, analytical mind always gets stuck on one line: “You are my everything.”

Before we move forward: This is not a criticism of the song. Far be it from me to doubt the writer’s heart. Perhaps God is their everything.

But I’ve had a really hard time with that line. Why? God isn’t my everything.

One of the biggest struggles in dealing with anxiety as a Christian, at least on my end, is the absolute statements in worship songs. Some other examples of what I mean – “Where You go, I’ll go, where You stay, I’ll stay…I will follow you“; “It is well with my soul“; “Only You have all of me.” At base level, all of these are statements of absolutes, where a declaration of statement is made of something that is unequivocally whole and true.

Now, you might be wondering, “Zach, calm the flip down. Aren’t you overanalyzing this?” I just might be. Anxiety disorders often lead you to second-guess everything you say. And as a Christian, we know how our words carry weight. We also don’t want to lie. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). So when words like “You are my everything” are in a worship song, I go through a process of second-guessing before the notes are even played.

Maybe I’m just particularly sinful, the worst on the earth, but I don’t know if there are ever any moments in my life where that is the absolute thought of my heart, when that’s entirely what I believe.

It’s the curse of the perpetually anxious. This constant second-guessing of what I say isn’t limited to worship. It’s a minute-by-minute struggle. The uncertainty of my thoughts, coupled with a desire to tell the truth, particularly when it comes to spiritual things, leads to moments of overwhelming stress in decision-making, guilt for not feeling able to truthfully sing the lyrics, wondering if I’m just overthinking this whole thing, a constant questioning. I can’t emphasize how much this sucks.

Another side note: I don’t want this to be a post where you’re like, “Look at this guy, he thinks he’s so holy for not singing a worship lyric.” I want to sing it! I want it to be true! But when I look at my sinful self, I can’t sing it. I just can’t bring myself to do that. Plus, I’m about as far from obedient as you can get most days.

Again, I don’t want this to be a criticism of the songs or the songwriters or the people who sing them. I can’t sit here and say with absolute confidence that they’re lying when they write/sing that. This is just a day-to-day difficulty of being an anxious Christian.

On the flip side, I’m so thankful that there are some worship artists who do an incredible jobs of writing songs for me. In worship, we don’t want to be second-guessing our thoughts the whole time. We want to be confident, comfortable, assured. So below, I’ve made a playlist: Worship Songs for the Second-Guessers. There’s a Spotify link attached right here. These songs are characterized by three things: praise of Jesus, recognition of weakness and insufficiency on our part and they’re just so stinkin’ awesome.

And, to my knowledge, the only absolutes are absolutes about God, the only one we all can confidently make absolute statements about.

YouTube playlist below:

So if you’re like me, don’t feel bad for not being able to sing the lyrics of worship songs. It’s OK to take a break, to not sing it. Meditate on the grace of God, that He loves you in spite of you not being able to sing that honestly. He doesn’t look at you differently. He doesn’t think less of you. He still loves you and cares for you.

That’s something I can sing about all day long.

Life Songs, Pt. 1: I’m going through a process to stop seeing women as objects

Note from Zach: This is part 1 of a 14-part series in which I explore 14 songs that have meant something to me in my life. The order of these songs is not reflective on anything regarding their impact or depth of meaning, they’re simply done in alphabetical order of the artist.

“There are so many things that I don’t understand
Like why am I so lost if I have a captain?
I’m tossed back and forth by deceitful winds,
And if it all falls, look within.
I’ve been breaking hearts way too long
I did this from the start, now I’m all alone.
So focus on the heart if you want a home
I can’t settle for that cardboard box no more.”

One thing I love about Andy Mineo’s artistry is his transparency, especially in the album Heroes for Sale. He’s willing to talk about things and share personal feelings and concerns. One of the best examples is the song “Shallow” featuring fellow Christian rapper Swoope.

“Shallow” is all about how shallow men can be in their thoughts about women, even Christian guys. It’s something that I admit that I’ve struggled with. In the first verse, Andy talks about a conversation with his mother and he reveals where his heart is:

But let me be blunt, no pothead,
I’m going through a process to stop seeing women as objects
‘Cause the meaning of marriage is not sex.
It’s so much more, this ain’t no beauty contest
When you play that game then somebody’s always got next.
If charm is deceiving and beauty’s vain, then I bet
The standards that we judge most people with are nonsense.
I put too much emphasis on my preferences,
Dang, I’m feeling shallow just addressing this
‘Cause God loves me despite of how much a mess I am
And I’m writing off shawties whose bodies is less impressive like, dang.

When I first heard this, I nodded in agreement. It was my junior year of college and it hit me square in the eyes.

This is a conversation topic that doesn’t come up often generally in Christian circles. But among guys, talking about how a girl looks is common. For Christian guys, at least for me, there’s a conflict. Yes, we admire the beauty of certain girls, especially the ones we’re dating/engaged to/married to. But actually talking about that beauty brings some conflict.

We all have to go through a process to stop seeing women as objects because the meaning of marriage is not sex. And it’s a difficult process because our sinful hearts mix with our appreciation for female beauty. There’s something (the appreciation for beauty) that is in and of itself good and even godly in the proper context. But throw in the sinful nature, and it’s a mess.

That’s why I love this song. Andy talks about his heart and his attitude and I’m right there with him. I face that temptation to only look at a woman’s value based on her appearance. Especially for someone who’s single. And Andy’s willing to talk about it in a song.

That’s why this is one of my Life Songs.

I Am So Incredibly Forgetful Sometimes

Forgive me, forgive me Lord
For living like I’m not Yours

I forget how kind You are
You are light for my foolish heart

I am so forgetful sometimes. In my first couple years of college, I would forget assignments all the time because I had a bad memory and didn’t write them down. Funny, I would remember all sorts of sports knowledge but homework? Pssh.

Things got better when I began regularly keeping note of my assignments on my laptop so I wouldn’t forget. Even now, for work, when I have to go to an event or interview for a video I’m working on, I have to write down the time and location on my desk calendar so I don’t forget.

In general, we are forgetful people, which can be frustrating. How many times have you seen in a movie or TV show something about a husband forgetting an anniversary? It’s common. As human beings with feeble minds, we easily forget things.

I love Tenth Avenue North’s song “Forgive Me” because there’s an acknowledgement of the singer forgetting God’s kindness.

I relate to that song a lot. I feel like I’m often forgetful of God and His goodness and the fact that following Him is what’s best for me. And there’s times I get frustrated by my forgetfulness. I feel guilty, shamed, wondering how in the world I forget God’s goodness to me. I mean, God doesn’t forget me, why must I forget Him?

Unfortunately, as a human, I think I’ll never be free of forgetfulness. Science tells me that I’ll only become more forgetful as I get older. But there’s a Gospel answer to this conundrum in my mind.

Jesus died so that God would never forget me.

Because Jesus died for my sins, God will never say to me, “I never knew you.”

Because Jesus died for my sins, it’s true of me that God “will never leave nor forsake me.”

Because Jesus died for my sins, nothing can get in the way of God’s love for me.

So even though I am forgetful of God and everything He is, He never forgets me.

And that’s so crazy! I forget God’s goodness all the time, yet He loves me. God sees constant reminders of my sinfulness, yet He loves me. It’s so counter-intuitive. But it’s awesome. But that’s the Gospel, counter-intuitive and awesome.

For those who forget, God forgives you. And doesn’t forget you. No matter how often you might forget Him.

Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard

Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid

I’ve got to imagine that Jesus experienced some fear in the garden of Gethsemane. I’ve got to imagine that, along with the sorrow, He experienced fear. But, if I’m going to guess, He knew what He was called to do and loved us enough to go through it. After all, God so loved the world.

The idea of fear being easy and love being hard has been on my mind a lot the last 12-14 hours or so. There’s a Jason Gray song with that title and I feel like it captures the idea very well.

“Fear will leave you hiding in the dark.”

The dictionary definition of fear: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” Fear is easy because it usually doesn’t require a lot of thought. All it takes is simply seeing a situation and rushing to a snap decision to be afraid. That’s easy. We do it all the time. And we hide.

Also, there are a lot of things to fear in this world. We can be afraid of God, others, the world, technology, the government, members of the opposite gender, even ourselves. Potential objects of fear stand around every corner, both in the world and in our hearts. There are times I’m afraid of what I think and the sin I commit.

“Love will bring a light into your heart.”

Love: “An intense feeling of deep affection; a great interest and pleasure in something.” Love is hard because it takes work and concentration and effort. There can sometimes be that intense feeling, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes love must exist in the absence of feeling. And that’s the hardest part.

There are very few things that we can confidently love in this world, very few things we are even encouraged to love. Even “loving” a sports team, something so trivial in the bigger picture, can be incredibly difficult when they can’t score to save a life (I’m looking at you sometimes, Arsenal). It can even be hard to love Jesus, who is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The beautiful thing about fear and love is that we can look at God’s example of those things toward us.

Romans 8 tells us that nothing in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). We can find hope, joy and rest in that outworking of the Gospel. He loves us no matter what kind of mess we are or get ourselves into. Jason Gray again, in the song “Jesus We Are Grateful” – “You are right to judge my sinful heart/but Your glory is Your mercy/for You condescend to make a friend/of an enemy like me.” He does not fear us, but loves us.

And we can learn more about love in 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” For God, love is nature because He is love. He is so dominated by love that fear never enters the equation at all.

And now we get to us. We can only love others when we begin to understand God’s love for us – “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s love for us does two things. First, it makes us equipped to love. He gives us the Holy Spirit out of His love for us. We would be incapable of loving unless God, through the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts to change us. Second, it teaches us what love looks like so we can work it out. God’s love becomes the example for how we should love others. 1 John 4:10 says that love is defined by how God loved us – sending Christ to die for us. So we learn how to love by looking at how God loves us.

Last part. God’s love brings a light to our heart. It kicks out the dark that fear insists on.

God’s love crushes the shame and guilt we carry because of our sin because God’s love put that on Jesus at the cross.

God’s love crushes the fear of the unknown because God’s love says He’ll work all things together for our good.

God’s love crushes the fear of making a mistake because God’s love says that, even if we make a million mistakes, He still loves us.

“So do not be afraid, do not be afraid.”


You Don’t Have to Run Away

Everywhere that you turn
Somehow every face is another bridge that you burn
So you fade, you can’t stay
If you can find another life in another place
And hope the world forgets your name
But I can’t, no I won’t, forget you

I think there’s a bit of fantasy in every kid where they want to run away from home and experience the world. It comes in one of two ways:

  1. You’re ticked at your parents, and you want to run away as a sign of disapproval with the way things are going.
  2. You want to explore the world, and your home life is holding you back from the destiny you were destined for.

I remember one time when I tried to run away. I didn’t even get to the end of the driveway. I was just mad and running out of the house with no shoes on and claiming I was gone was my way to handle the problem that was going on. I think for a long time that was how I dealt with problems: running from them.

There’s a couple songs that I really like that deal with running away. And I think they both teach different things.

Runaway | The Afters | Light Up the Sky | 2010

The song is written from the perspective of a person who gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a friend who wanted to run away from their problems. Lead singer Josh Havens shares the inspiration for the song in a video linked here.

The idea behind the song is that, if you want to run away, remember that God really does love you and cares for you. Even if it seems like the world doesn’t care, God does. The God who is love will catch you when you fall:

You think you lost it all
And there’s nothing left of you
There’s nowhere you can fall
But love will catch you

I’ve been in this place many times. It’s a lonely place to be. You’re trying to find relief from something, and the easiest option seems to be running away from your problems.

The easy lesson here would be “don’t run away.” It’s not always that simple. In situations like that, what is required is someone who will listen, someone who will care, someone who will reflect the love that God has for us. But it does also take some bravery and gumption to be able to share what’s going wrong, what’s on your mind.

It’s not an easy process. And running away is the easiest option. But I’ve found that, when I don’t run away, when I do share, it’s freeing.

Runaway | Alex Faith feat. Andy Mineo | ATLast | 2013

Andy Mineo’s verse in this song is tight. Probably one of my favorites. He raps about having a hard time picking a girl to settle down with, not being able to commit:

I done found myself in the same position
Trying to pick a dame, but I can’t, playing games
Entertain different names, we exchanging digits
Uh, but you know what I’m thinking
I’ve been overthinking this whole commitment thing
Dang I wish I didn’t know the difference
Between a broken heart and one sewn with stitches

This is another way in which I tend to want to run away. I’m afraid to commit to things because I’m afraid it’s the “wrong thing” or I’m making the “wrong decision.” Basically, I’m afraid to take risks. It’s a fear thing. It’s taking chances. And that’s what Andy says in the hook:

You can stay here, runaway
Flee from town, runaway
You can hold on, runaway
Stand your ground, runaway
If you don’t take your chances there’s no way you’ll ever know
If you don’t take your chances there’s no way you’ll ever know

You can either take the risk or you can run away. And Andy’s repeated line at the end of the hook – “If you don’t take your chances, there’s no way you’ll ever know.”

So often I find myself scared to take chances. But if I don’t take that chance, if I don’t step out in faith, if I don’t take that risk, I will never know. That’s why I love Alex’s line in the first verse: “So I’m pushing back and I believe the promise that the Lord always gonna hold me down.”

We can take risks and not have to run away because, if we’re in Christ, God’s got us. Even if we make a mistake, we’re forgiven and loved by the God who created everything. That’s the ultimate mattress factory we can fall into.

You don’t have to run away. I don’t have to run away. Take the leap. Take the jump. God’s got you.

My 30 Favorite Music Albums of All-Time, and One Reason Why You Should Listen to Each of Them

The other day, I did an NCAA Tournament-style bracket to determine my favorite music album of all-time. The seedings were totally objective – there was no science or formula used to pick who went where. For the full bracket (Google Doc), click here.

I then went on to list the top 30 albums in order. Check it out here on the right.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.03.20 PM

I want to share these 30 albums with you because they’re albums that have 1) helped shape me or 2) brought me great enjoyment over my 22-plus years of life. I’m also going to give you one reason why you should listen to each of them all the way through. You can take it or leave it. I will say, you learn a lot about what kind of music you really love when you are forced to pick between two so totally different albums such as Shai Linne’s The Attributes of God and Relient K’s MMHMM: Which would you rather listen to all the way through? Are there any songs on either album you’d rather not hear?

Another thing: I ranked this taking into consideration my whole life, not just how I feel right now. Of the top 5 albums, I found two of them in high school or before and three in college. Of the whole list, 14 were high school or before and are on this list because of that.

My list.

1. Jess Ray & The Rag Tag Army – Jess Ray: You should listen to it because it’s worship at its rawest and realest, something that’s rare these days. Those of you who love Jesus will not regret buying this.

2. Cosmos – The Send: You should listen to it because it’s everything one could love in singer/songwriter-type music that also glorifies God.

3. School of Roses – Christon Gray: You should listen to it because it’s Justin Timberlake meets following Jesus, discussing relationships, romance and real-world issues while trying to stay pure over sick R&B beats.

4. MMHMM – Relient K: You should listen to it because it’s piano pop-punk rock at its finest, a crowning achievement of music.

5. Instruments of Mercy – Beautiful Eulogy: You should listen to it because it’s the gospel in every line, a tour de force of theology applied.

6. Weights & Wings – Matt Wertz: You should listen to it because it’s singer/songwriter with one of the best voices and greatest pens I’ve ever heard.

7. Forget and Not Slow Down – Relient K: You should listen to it because it takes you on an emotional journey through a devastated relationship that you might be able to relate to on some level.

8. Rebel – Lecrae: You should listen to it because you don’t want to waste your life.

9. The Attributes of God – Shai Linne: You should listen to it because you’ll learn the basics of who God is in less than an hour.

10. The Good Life – Trip Lee: You should listen to it because it hits everything a rap album should: production, lyrics, features, topics, everything.

11. 808s & Heartbreak – Kanye West: You should listen to it because it’s an emotional tour de force of AutoTune and honesty you don’t see from guys in Ye’s circle.

12. Business Up Front/Party in the Back – Family Force 5: You should listen to it because you’ll have more fun listening to music than you’ve had in a long time.

13. Five Score and Seven Years Ago – Relient K: You should listen to it because you’ll get to experience a mature kind of pop-punk piano rock that still knows when to loosen up a bit.

14. Bring Your Nothing – Shane & Shane: You should listen to it because it has some great worship tracks, including one of my all-time favorites “Faith to Believe,” and emphasizes the lack we have and the fullness God provides.

15. Critically Ashamed – FM Static: You should listen to it because I had this thing on repeat throughout high school because it was awesome.

16. ATLast – Alex Faith: You should listen to it because it’s a refreshing mix of honesty and unique production of which there’s little parallel in Christian hip-hop.

17. Heroes for Sale – Andy Mineo: You should listen to it because, like ATLast, its honesty drips through every song, and it’s a heckuva lot of fun too.

18. Anomaly – Lecrae: You should listen to it because it’s a mature mix of rap that challenges you and also encourages you to pursue Jesus more.

19. Sound of Melodies – Leeland: You should listen to it because I discovered this around the same time I found Cosmos and it has a similar vibe, but in the worship genre.

20. Rehab – Lecrae: You should listen to it because tracks like “Just Like You” and “Background” cut through the surface and hit reality.

21. The Walking In Between – Ben Rector: You should listen to it because Ben Rector is just so darn good at what he does.

22. The Altar & The Door – Casting Crowns: You should listen to it because Casting Crowns knows how to craft a worship song that’s more than a worship song, it’s a story and a challenge and a worship song all wrapped in one.

23. The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek – Relient K: You should listen to it because it’s Relient K at their goofy best, with hints of a worshipful, serious, Christian heart sprinkled throughout.

24. Love & War & The Sea In Between – Josh Garrels: You should listen to it because you’ll love driving to it in the mountains or at night, and it will bring you calm throughout your day.

25. Mali Is… – Mali Music: You should listen to it because the guy who sings the hook on Lecrae’s “Tell the World” has the best voice for soulful, positive R&B.

26. Weight & Glory – KB: You should listen to it because there aren’t many better debut albums out there when it comes to young Christian hip-hop artists. Only ones I’d say are better are Nos. 16 and 17.

27. Pages – Shane & Shane: You should listen to it because, like entry No. 14 on this list, these guys know how to do worship. Plus, their version of “Before the Throne of God Above” is the best out there.

28. Smile, It’s the End of the World – Hawk Nelson: You should listen to it because the opening track’s guitar licks are sweet and so is the rest of the album.

29. Closer – Shawn McDonald: You should listen to it because it’s a personal reflection on life you’ll love driving to when you need to be a little more sedated.

30. Sinema – Swoope: You should listen to it because it’s a movie on a CD.