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.
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.
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:
You’re ticked at your parents, and you want to run away as a sign of disapproval with the way things are going.
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.
Author’s Note: For these blog posts, I often include a picture to break up the massive walls of text that usually come from my rambling writing style. I search a keyword or phrase on Google Images and try to pick one that fits what I’m trying to write about.
Well, this time, the image gave me something to write about. Love it when that happens.
Aside from being absolutely adorable, this dog gave me an intro.
Isn’t one of the saddest things seeing an animal walking along the side of the highway without an owner, looking lost and all alone? Sometimes my thoughts race to what might have happened to get that dog or cat there. It hurts. Something about our humanity gives us an empathy for animals that could be pets. I wonder how many people have picked up strays and then became their lifelong companions.
Something like 15 years ago, a cat wandered up to our kitchen window and stared at us. I distinctly remember it was a Sunday after church. He was black and gray with some streaks of white in there. He was there again and again. We fed him and he became a part of our family for a long time. He died last year, which was sad for me. Stormy, which is what we called him, was my favorite pet we’ve ever had as a family. He was a lot like me. Chill, reserved, but very loving once he got to know you. There would be times I would go sit outside on our porch and Stormy would wander right up and let me pet him as the moon and stars hung above us.
He was a stray that we took in, one that we loved and fed and cared for until one day he was gone. I was at college when I heard. But until now, I’ve never really thought about how much his story mirrors my own.
I’m so thankful that new mercies rise with the morning sun. I’m so thankful that You’ve never given up on me. Please draw near, You know my heart it tends to stray, it tends to stray.
Christians are children of God. They are loved and cared for by Him, fed by Him, given life by Him, strengthened by Him. But we stray. I can think of many instances in my life when I’ve strayed from God, strayed from His love, strayed from His Word, strayed from speaking with Him, strayed from obedience.
But as The Assemblie’s song “Stray” says, new mercies rise with the morning sun. And as many times as we give up on God, He loves us throughout it.
Mystery of all mysteries, what You’ve done in my heart. Once stained by sin and shame, You’ve restored innocence. Why I have this second chance I will never know, I’ll never know.
Have you ever understood that idea fully? I haven’t either. But I think, honestly, we get to experience it a little bit when we take in a stray animal. We love them and we care for them and we give them everything they need. Sometimes they might be too much for us to handle, and this is where the analogy ends. We might give the animal away or put it down (sad face), but God doesn’t. Ever. (Note: I’m not saying we outlaw putting animals down. Not what this is about.)
How crazy is that to you? Has that ever struck you as incredible? Have you ever been astounded? You can return to God and be loved and cared for just as much as you were when you first came. God doesn’t put us down or give us away. He gives millions of second chances.
I listen to a lot of music, but I’m not about to tell you my music taste is totally refined. You can talk to my brother Addison for that. But in my listening to a lot of different music, I run across some gems every once in a while. Here are five that are going into my ears consistently right now. I’ll post Spotify boxes below the album where applicable. Not all of these are on Spotify.
1. Jess Ray – Jess Ray and the Rag Tag Army – 2010
I was recently introduced to this artist, as in about three days ago recently. I’m hooked. The honest lyricism matched with the sincere reverence and worship of God combined is good enough for me.
“I’m deaf and dumb and blind and lame, with no hope, no way, no chance…Jesus Christ of Nazareth, You’re my only chance!” Ray exclaims in the chorus of “One Name,” one of the better three songs on the album. The second is aptly-titled “Better,” where Ray lists what knowing Christ is better than. It amounts to pretty much everything, which is truth. “Gates” describes the joy of the believer in light of weaknesses – “In my weakness, it’s far more clear. In my failures, it’s far more clear to me just who You to me and what You did to me, to me” – and the longing to see heaven – “And I can’t wait until You walk me through those gates, hallelujah!”
Looking for solid worship with a melodic, indie kick? Check out Jess Ray and the Rag Tag Army.
Not often do we find great love songs that are clean with wonderful lyricism and a refreshing approach to the genre. Ben Rector is that, and with his latest output, The Walking in Between, he captures the topic of romantic love in several different ways that are truly refreshing each time.
The highlight for me right now is the upbeat, driving “When I’m With You,” in which Rector describes how he feels when he is with his special someone – “But when I’m with you, I’m no longer wondering. But when I’m with you, I swear I can breathe. But when I’m with you, I know who I am and who I want to be.” Other highlights include the simple “I Like You” (“There’s no need to complicate, dress it up or overstate it, without too much hesitation, here’s the way I feel, I like you”) and “Forever Like That” (“I wanna love you forever I do, I wanna spend all of my day with you, carry your burden and be the wind at your back, I wanna spend my forever, forever like that”). The iTunes version of the album includes an acoustic version of “Forever Like That.”
He also tackles non-love topics, such as “Making Money” and a plea to God (I’m guessing) on “If You Can Hear Me” (“Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus, telling me I’m not enough. I don’t believe it, no no, but I can feel it. And I need You so, yes, I need You so”).
Like the romantic singer/songwriter-vibe? Check out Ben Rector’s The Walking in Between.
This Christian rapper’s major exposure is little to the common Christian rap fan. Murray appeared on the song “Welcome to H-Town” on Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtape last year. He’s part of the group W.L.A.K. (which includes Alex Faith, Swoope and Christon Gray) on Collision Records. But after this album, it will be hard to ignore him.
The album follows how a man is trapped in his obsession with material possessions, playing with the motif of Egyptian kings and queens who were buried with their gold and wealth in hopes it would come with them to the afterlife. Highlights “Maybe One Day” (featuring Christon Gray) and “Pharaoh” (featuring Tragic Hero) capture the image of a man who is seeking for the material that will satisfy him. On “Pharoah,” Murray exclaims, “Dear Pharoah with a tomb for your gold, food and drink abound, not an inch for your soul. Your death will soon show that you’re not in control.”
My personal favorites are “Fiend” and “Gold Rush.” On the former, the narrator laments how he has become a “fiend,” a danger to those around him because of his desires, while the latter is a track that captures the theme of the whole album, how the possessions just aren’t worth it in the end.
(Also: Christon Gray shows up four times on the album, which instantly makes it better.)
Like rap that approaches a real topic with some nice production and honest, real lyrics? Check out Gold Rush: Maybe One Day.
Some dapper young fellas grace the cover of this Christian rap group’s debut Kings. The album is filled with “bangers,” songs that you can drive to, work out to and jam to. The theology isn’t too deep, but the message is clear.
The standout is “No Sex” (featuring Willie “P. Dub” Moore), in which the guys rap about how sex is best saved for marriage, that that approach is the most God-glorifying. It’s a refreshing look at sex as opposed to most of what we hear these days – “We can hit the mall and go shopping while we in it, and you be looking good, baby girl, I must admit it, but I don’t need no sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, because you’re worth more than that, that, that, that, that. Please don’t get me wrong, ‘lil mama, you so fly! But I listen to my Daddy, and that’s the reason why, that I don’t need to sex…”
Trying to just jam? Check out “Bingo,” “Keys & Yams” and “Winner” (feat. Jordan Armstrong. STC also shouts out to the beauty of doing relationships the God-centered way on “Miss You” (featuring Nina Sims) and “Loyalty.” “War” (featuring Mic Tunez) approaches the battle inherent in biblical warfare.
Like some upbeat Christian rap with a few songs refreshingly approaching romantic relationships? Check out Kings.
I mentioned this guy a couple albums ago as being a supporting actor on Dre Murray’s Gold Rush: Maybe One Day. This is his first output as a solo artist, and it’s tight. The guy can sing and rap and glorify Christ while doing both. I can’t tell you which one I enjoy better. To get a hint of both, listen to this album. This is just about all singing, but it’s beautiful.
The highlights are the worshipful “Reign” and the title track. The former is a soulful track praising the reign of God over the world and over the life of the singer. The latter is an exclamation of how God still works in the life of the believer, “even with evil with” him – “Now I am trying to be the hero, just to find that I’m the criminal. And I’ve discovered through the course of sin that I’m no good alone. Jesus, oh Jesus, my Jesus, that’s why I love You so. Stories I am not inclined to tell, to say the least I laid my bed in hell. But You were there to catch me when I fell, tossed my sins in seas and fared thee well. Surely, goodness and mercy should always follow and never return void.” Gives me chills.
But perhaps the best is “Isle of You.” It’s a piano-driven love ballad Gray wrote about his wife – “Lord knows I deserve nothing, I’ve got everything, yes I do. Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, baby, He knows I’m no good alone. You bring out the best in me, and let me tell ya bout the way you make me feel.” It’s one of those wedding songs.
Like soulful, Gospel-lite Gospel-centered music that will drive you to worship? Check out Even With Evil With Me.
That’s a pretty bold statement for sure. But God has used Trip Lee’s The Good Life to pour truth into my life when I needed it. And I want to share with you each song and the truths found in each of them. Thanks to Rapzilla.com for having a listening session with each on their front page here. Check it out.
NOTE: This is part 1 of the series. There are 15 songs on the album, so there will be three parts of 5 songs each.
1. New Dreams feat. Sho Baraka and JR
“If I find I have a need this world cannot meet, then I know this life is a place my hope should not be. I’ve been chasing those things that are real fake. This is not a real place, this is a dream state. Functional saviors ain’t hip, they’re a real waste.” – Sho Baraka
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Jesus asked his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 16:26. All throughout the Word, the world and its pleasures are spoken against. In 1 John 2:15-16, John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” Sho Baraka’s bit emphasizes that the world cannot fulfill our needs. And any dreams we have on earth that are not glorifying to the Lord are worthless.
“To the Lord, the good life is really dying.” – Sho Baraka
“The good life is the life that’s been laid down.” – Trip Lee
Check out Matthew 16:24-25, where Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” It’s very reminiscent of PRo’s album Dying to Live, and the song “A Life Worth Dying For.” It also reminds me of 1 Peter 5:6-7 — “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the might hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” If we really humble ourselves to God’s power and God’s will, and be patient on His timing, we will see His care for us and His guidance.
TRUTH: Jesus asks us to deny our selfish dreams, anything we personally want for ourselves, and totally submit ourselves to His will for our lives. Only then will we see His will.
“So I was still a drone, nothing but a clone, I only knew the lies cause that’s all that I was shown. But I been remade, my heart is no longer stone. Where my ex-Robots who can sing this song? Now I’ve been remade, I’m no longer hollow. A real man came, changed everything that I know. He gave me truth, that’s a hard pill to swallow. He gave me new commands, and He freed me up to follow.” – Trip Lee
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the beat of this song, but the message is truth. Trip talks about how he used to be a “robot,” sitting under the commands of his flesh and what man is naturally. But once He became a Christian, his life was changed. He saw his heart had once been subject to the ways of the world, but it had been changed to be submissive to the Lord and “freed…up to follow” God’s commands.
It makes me think of Romans 8:2-6 — “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of the sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
TRUTH: Once we have been set free from control of the flesh by Christ’s death on the cross, and the imputation of His righteousness on us cleanses us from sin’s control, we can follow God’s commands. We’ve got a new Master, and we follow Him alone. We want the good life till it’s gone.
3. I’m Good feat. Lecrae
“I know that I’ma suffer, that’ll only make me tougher. Death is just a doorway to take me to my faithful lover. The lover of my soul’s with me, you can shake a brother. But you’ll never knock me down or take me under, bring the thunder. Let the storms come behind us and hurt us. They can’t take our Lord from us, we got us a verdict. Not guilty. He’s with us and He stays present. He never leaves me, He even gives me stage presence.” – Trip Lee
Great video, by the way. This video really puts the entire song into perspective. It really hits hard on persecution.
Ever read 1 Peter? It was written by the disciple Peter to a group of scattered exiles from Rome who were kicked out of the city when the emperor Nero blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. The group was undergoing intense persecution. Peter encourages them with verses like this — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). Despite being under intense persecution, those Christians had a great reward to look forward to. Romans 8:1 says we have no condemnation if we’re in Jesus Christ. Death is gain for the Christian (Philippians 1:21) because we get to see Jesus.
“Partner, you know I’m good to go. Pressure creates diamonds and fire refines the gold. Ain’t nothing on this planet that’s satisfying my soul. I’m living for tomorrow, today is out of control.” – Lecrae
1 Peter 1:6-7, following that awesome bit of verses 3-5, says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” As you see in those verses, we go through trials and tribulations, which may include persecution for our faith, but it’s to make us stronger. And we go through it because nothing on this earth will satisfy us.
TRUTH: We’re good because we have a place in heaven if we trust Christ with our life. No matter what persecution we go through, any earthly thing we lose is worth losing. We know where our eternal resting place is. That’s the good life.
“This is war, like you ain’t seen. This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean.” – Dustin Kensrue.
“Entombed souls everywhere, dead bodies rottin’. Big glocks poppin’, bodies still droppin’. But I ain’t gonna cry though, ’cause death’ll get swallowed. The Father sent His Son, and the troops gonna follow.” – Trip Lee
Life is spiritual warfare. And this song speaks to it. Life (God) and death (Satan) are in a continual battle over the earth and its inhabitants. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Consider Tedashii’s “Make War.” In the beginning, it has a sample of John Piper — “I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their shortcomings, and I see so little war! Murmur, murmur, murmur, why am I this way? MAKE WAR!” Tedashii then goes into a diatribe against Christians who don’t fight their sin.
In this song, I think Trip’s simply saying – there’s spiritual war in the world. Life is fighting against death. But because Christ conquered death, life will win, God will win.
The song samples Dustin Kensrue’s “This is War,” the official music video of which is above.
TRUTH: Check Romans 5:18-21 — “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
5. Fallin feat. J. Paul
“Feeling like throwing in the towel, the guilt is kicking in. Sometimes I climb to heights, but I’m at my lowest sin, cloaked in deception and overdosing on potent sin…now I’m doubled over with my face on my knees, and decide it’s where I want to be. There I go again, I’m fallin.” – Trip Lee
“Face to the pavement, once again faced with the same sin. I don’t think I’mma make it, don’t know how much longer I can take this. So I’m caught up in this sin, I wonder if I’ll see Your face again. Fallin’, fallin’, fallin’, there I go.” – J. Paul
I love this song because it talks about the process Trip goes through once he’s committed a sin. He talks about how sin calls out his name and entices him to join.
I think Romans 7, the entire chapter, is good background Scripture of what Trip’s trying to say here. Paul writes in verses 18-20 — “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
When we reach that stage in our week or our day, it can be very easy to wonder if God really does love us, or if He really will pick us up from the sin we find ourselves in.
“Everytime I fall He go’n pick me up. The Lord is my shepherd, homie, He go’n pick me up. I fell into the trap again, but He go’n pick me up, remind me of His promises, in Him I put my trust.” – Trip Lee
“So I gotta face this, but I know there’s nothing that He can’t fix. Looking to the cross where they placed Him, ’cause I know His grace is amazing. He’s covered all my sin, it’s gone, never to be seen again. So we’re callin’, callin’, callin’, out to you.” – J. Paul
The amazing part of this is that God’s grace is amazing. Romans 7:24-25 — “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Also, Romans 8:38-39 — “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
TRUTH: That’s one of God’s awesome promises, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Despite our sinfulness, if we are God’s children, He will always love us.
Check back soon for Part 2, covering the songs “iLove,” “Know Me,” “One Sixteen feat. Andy Mineo and KB,” “Heart Problem” and “Take Me There feat. Jimmy Needham.”
Christian musician Derek Webb got in a bit of hot water in the Christian music community in 2003 when he released his album She Must and Shall Go Free. The song “Wedding Dress” included the uses of the word “whore” and “bastard” in these contexts:
“I am a whore, I do confess, but I put You on like a wedding dress and I run down the aisle, I run down the aisle.”
“So could You love this bastard child, though I don’t trust You to provide?”
Listen to the song. This version from RELEVANT Magazine’s podcast is my favorite because we can see and hear the raw emotion behind a live version of the song. This recording is on replay on my iTunes and iPod almost every day recently.
“Come and dig me up, reach down to the root. Rip the deadness out and plant something new.” – Ghost Ship
In Malachi, God tears apart His people and their manner of sacrifice. Malachi 1:6-9 says:
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.
This is God speaking. Verse 1 says it’s “the oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” God speaking to the Israelites.
I haven’t done a lot of searching through the Old Testament, but from what I’ve read, there’s a lot of God talking to His chosen people. And a lot of the time He’s kinda angry. From what I’ve read at least.
Here is nothing different. God is talking about how the people are making poor sacrifices, “polluted food upon my altar,” He says. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil. Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” God says.
So the Israelites were giving sacrifices of animals that were not the best. The way the sacrificial system worked in Old Testament times, they were supposed to give the best of what they had. The best. Not the weak of their flock that they were easily able to get rid of, but the best. Because God deserved the best if He was to withhold His wrath from them.
In Numbers 3, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (wonderful names), were going to give a sacrifice to God as priests, Aaron’s line. But verse 4 says, “But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children.” They offered “unauthorized” fire before God and died. The original Hebrew word the ESV translators got “unauthorized” from is “zuwr.” The same word and story is used in Leviticus 10:1,
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.
Which he had not commanded them. The word “zwur” means “to be strange.” To be unordinary. To be odd.
We have a tendency in our Christian life to give our sacrifices to Christ very wimpy. We offer the last of what we have. We give the blind lamb, the limping goat. We read our Bibles late at night when we’re exhausted and spend five minutes. We go to church and do nothing of consequence in Christian fellowship. We pray a few sentences and shut the light off and think of God no more.
1 Peter 2:5 says that we are being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are a holy priesthood. We are supposed to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Spiritual as in relating to the things of the Holy Spirit. Our works for Christ derived from a desire to serve Christ. And they are to be “acceptable to God.”
Are we really giving everything to Christ that we should? Examine the way you spend your time. Are you giving the best time of your day to Christ? Or are you spending it for yourself?
This is something that really convicts me. For the longest time, I would always do my quiet time and prayer time right before I went to bed. That meant that a mere 20 minutes later, I would forget exactly what I read. 40 minutes later, if I was still awake, the reference of the passage I read was gone. Nothing.
Another thing to think about: is our fruit, our fruit of the Spirit, like those sacrifices? Is it the best of what we have that we’re giving to God? Is our love selfish? Is our patience accomplished just so we get what we want? Are we showing joy, but as merely a show?
That’s sin. Not letting Christ pick the best fruit we have to offer is selfishness.
The song “Poison Tree” by Ghost Ship, a former Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll’s church) worship band, has been repeating in my mind the past few days. It tells of a tree:
This tree bears strange fruit/there’s blood on the leaves/it’s dead at the root/The cracked gray branches are decaying within/just like the black poison that hangs from its limbs.
That’s the picture of us as a tree when we sin. We produce fruit, yes. But it’s “strange.” We’re dead at the root.
It’s a heart condition.
I tried to tie good fruit/to a tree that had poison all the way through/it rotted and fell off/it was dead to the core/it even killed the ground/I was worse than before.
We can try to act like we are good people and are following Christ, but if our heart is not following Christ, if we’re not committed to giving our best to Christ, that fruit will fall off so easily and negatively affect the people around us (“It even killed the ground”).
That’s where the happy part of the song comes:
I am alive/I will abide in the life-giving blood of Christ/I’m grafted in/You’ve killed my sin/now I will live/I’ll live in Him.
That’s the picture of us when God roots out the poison in ourselves, the tree. That’s where the line in the beginning of this post comes in. God can rip the deadness out.
It’s about consciously making those spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. It’s about sacrificing the best of what we have for Him.