Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday: Powerful Lyrics - "Belong" By Chris Rice

I want to start posting a bit more consistently, and one way to force myself to do that is to have a theme day.  Today I'm going to post the first (of hopefully many) Friday posts of some of the most powerful lyrics to Christian songs I enjoy.  

Before I do, I have to ask you a question.  Do you actually listen to the words of the songs that you sing?  Whether it is in church, in your car, or wherever you enjoy listening music I challenge you to closely examine the music you listen to.  Try to not just examine the lyrics by themselves, but focus on the theology behind them.  You'll be surprised by how much theologically shallow (an innacurate) much of the Christian music out there has become.

Today's installment is the song "Belong" by Chris Rice.  It's from the album "Smell The Color 9".   I absolutely love this song b/c of the way it forces me to visualize salvation, when I actually see the lyrics typed out it actually is a fantastic poem w/o the music:

"Belong": By Chris Rice

Fading memories ignored
I crawl across the forest floor
Pool reflects an orphan child
Dirty, lost, alone and wild
Fatherless and nameless still
Fallen heart and broken, will
there ever be a place where I belong

I cower ‘neath the monster trees
And try to stand on tired feet
But gravity knocks me to the ground
Where I give up, and tears roll down
I claw the dust and beg the end
Curse the day that I began
to hope there’d be a place where I belong

I hear a sound I recognize
You lift my chin and seek my eyes
Song of love You sing to me
I ache to sing it back to Thee
“Father Love prepares a place
Brother Jesus leads the way
Follow to the place where you belong!”

How did I miss this wondrous song?
The forest sang it all along
“River rinses all your shame
Father offers you His name
Father Love prepares a home
Brother Jesus leads you on
Follow to the place where you belong!”

“Father Love prepares a place
Brother Jesus leads the way
Follow to the place where you belong
Follow to the place where you belong!”

There are many parts of this song that I love, but the one line that gives me chills every time I read or hear it is this:

"I hear a sound I recognize
You lift my chin and seek my eyes"

Can you visualize that?  You are broken, you have realized you have sinned against God, the creator of the universe.  The one who gave your breath, and b/c of your sin you  destined to hell. The first verse sums it up perfectly, you are "Dirty, lost, alone, wild, Fatherless, nameless, broken, and have a fallen heart."  You don't deserve to come before him, to even plead your case.

But then, you hear something.    You recognize the sound, but you don't know why.  And what happens?  Jesus reaches down into the your life and gently lifts your chin up from off the cold ground created by your sin.  Then, he looks for your eyes.  That implies a sincerity and compassion that I can not even comprehend.  You are overcome with the Sin in your life, but the one and only true God still seeks you and lifts you up, despite the wretchness of your current state.

What is his response of this incomprehensible display of love, compassion and salvation? 

"I ache to sing it back to Thee" 

Ache.  Everything in your entire body and soul desires to show Him how grateful you are for the amazing gift He has given to you, and the amazing Grace He has displayed.  If you looked at your life today, would you say you are "Aching" to sing praises and glory back to the Lord?  I think the real question that we as Christians have to ask ourselves is....How can we not?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"You're in my thoughts.." - So?

I was having a conversation at breakfast with friend this AM, we'll call him "Rudy".  Well, "Rudy" and I were talking about a mutual friend who is going through some tough medical struggles now and our waitress overheard us.  She gave us a quick update on his condition and his treatmen schedule and ended the conversation by saying "..Yeah, our thoughts are with him".

That got me to thinking.  Is someone actually supposed to draw comfort or peace from that?  When we were going through our struggles with Super George (his birth, heart defect, & surgery), people would always tell me that their "thoughts" were with us.  I'll tell you what, it didn't make me feel any better at all.  Don't get me wrong, it is a nice feeling to be thought of...but what really made me feel better was knowing people were praying that whatever the outcome that we would praise the Lord and He would be glorified.

Next time you decide to send your thoughts to someone, just send flowers.  They are prettier anyway.

Or, you could always tell them that you are praying that Lord will use the situation for His glory.....but you already are doing that, right?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Men's Retreat: An Amazing Answer To Prayer

Last weekend, I traveled with about a dozen men from my church to Marengo Ohio for the Ohio Church of God Men's Retreat and Ox Roast and I was able to witness one of the most amazing answers to prayer in my life. Let me set the stage a bit:

The original worship leader for the retreat had a death in the family and had to cancel the night before things were set to begin. This led the organizers of the retreat to scramble around to try and find a replacement at the last minute. They were able to find a very talented Christian artist from Indiana who plays with the Gaither's. No that isn't the answer to prayer, well at least not mine.

While leading worship at the Friday night service (and doing a fantastic job) this individual also mixed in a few songs that they had written themselves, one in particular which was about how Jesus called us to be the "salt and light" of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). That by itself wasn't the issue, however it gave me pause when he went on asking us if we ever noticed "that neither salt or light make a sound". His primary point in the song was that as Christians we have to live "right" and let the Lord's light shine through us. Don't get me wrong, he was right we ARE called to do that...but that is a biproduct of salvation...not our primary goal.

While he was singing his song, I just bowed my head in prayer. This is something I often do when I don't agree with the theology of a particul song in worship (even at my own church). Rather than get myself upset and lose focus on the fact that I am there to Worship my Lord, I simply continue to worship through praise and prayer. This time I prayed (hard) that the Lord would find a way to make the message clear this weekend that we are NOT called simply to live a good life, but we are called to seek others and share the Gospel with them.

Enter Joel Penton. Joel is a former Defensive Lineman for the THE Ohio State University. (This made him quite a hit in the middle of Ohio, and everyone was elated to have him be there). Joel delivered a message on Friday night that was powerful entitled "Real Men Love Jesus", but the answer to my prayers came on Saturday.

It turns out that Joel noticed the same thing I did about the artist's "Salt & Light" song on Friday. He struggled quite a bit after hearing that song (and other conversations in fellowship afterwards), and decided to work late into the night and change the message of his Saturday sermon to clear things up. He delivered an amazing message on "How Do We Respond To Jesus' Coming, Dying, Rising? We Must CLEARLY Articulate The Gospel."  The entire message was focussed on how we are all called to share the Gospel clearly, not through our ambiguous actions...but through the Word of God.  

Think about it.  What if you were wathing as a friend of yours was out for a walk one day while listening to their iPod.  Now this friend is so engrossed in their music that they don't realize they are walking right out onto a busy 8 lane freeway, and a tractor trailor is bearing down on them at 65 MPH...and you know they will surely die.  Which of these would you choose?
  1. Just sit back and walk back and forth on the shoulder, hoping that they will see your example and realize that they should stop walking on the highway?
  2. Yell, scream, and run and get their attention doing everything in your power to warn them about what is about to happen?
I bet you would choose #2.  But yet each of us know countless people that are headed to hell b/c of their sin, and we don't do a single thing to warn them. We just sit back and hope that they will notice what we are doing, and come to be saved that way.  We are called to warn them about their certain peril and tell them about the Gospel and what Christ did.  The real display of love, knowing what we know about Jesus and what he has done, is to share the Gospel and persuade them to Repent & Trust in Jesus so they don't end up in hell: 

2 Corinthians 5:11 (New American Standard Bible)

 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.  

Wow, how awesome was that? What an amazing answer to Prayer!  Here is a little bit of Joel's sermon, mixed together with some photos...all put to the special theme song that the worship leader wrote for the Ox Roast:

Thanks Joel for allowing yourself to be a vessel of Truth, all Praise and Glory to the Lord!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Make War!

Things have been crazy the past few months, don't worry I haven't forgotten about this blog.  I've got a bunch of things I'm working on and ideas for posts, but in the mean time I wanted to share this.  It is one of my favorite Sermon Jams put to text on youtube, it is titled "War" and it was made from a message delivered by John Piper.  It's a bit long, but I really recommend you take the time to watch'll rock your world: