I’ve recorded three studio songs in the last few years and had others recorded and used at Life Church in Bradford, but none of them have adequately scratched the itch that keeps me writing and searching.
Song-writing for me is partly about scratching the itch I have to articulate what’s going on in my heart as I journey along the road towards the fullness of God. The itch isn’t from wanting to craft songs alone but wanting to know Him as He is and to express the peaks and troughs along the way. It’s the itch that will hopefully get more annoying the older I get and the nearer to Him I am.
Occasionally I’ll hear a lyric in a song of worship that will make me wince. Brooke Fraser’s bridge section from Hosanna is a good example of this where she pens,
“Heal my heart and make it clean…break my heart for what breaks Yours”.
We sing, we follow suit, we play…but, really? Break my heart – really? Lord, I want to feel deep heart-break…really?
I winced recently when I heard a lyric clearly from the costly, private world of Matt Crocker and Joel Houston from the Zion track Mercy Mercy – and I wince every time I hear it and wince even more when I have the courage to sing it. (more…)
Etched on the grand arch above where we worship together as a church family here at HTR are the following words from Psalm 96:-
“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”
Since arriving at Holy Trinity two months ago with my beautiful wife, Mairi, we have talked about these words together several times. They seem to watch over the church like an angelic reminder, like a prophetic banner as we sing and pray, a sense of the beauty of the presence of the King just a few feet above our heads, covering all we do in unspeakable grace.
The Presence Project is the brand new worship project from Firebrand Notes that has been conceived and born from a desire to get real, talk about our experience of the Presence of God and consider how we are really seeking Him in the hope of being deeply aware of Him in our lives. He promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him. He loves you insatiably!
I hope you’re inspired and encouraged to seek God in new ways and to know the joy of intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ – you can listen to the full Presence track here
If we stop even for a minute and think about what ruined castles and cathedrals might represent to us today, we could easily come up with an metaphorical message that could be spiritualised to mean something that is gospel-centred and Christ-exalting. For example, castles could be portrayed to represent the distant kingdoms of Earth, the limited strength of mankind and the blunt pinnacles of hierarchical societies. Conversely, cathedrals could be portrayed as prophetic structures; as places of sanctuary amidst persecution and timeless houses of worship.
The post yesterday tried to shine a spot-light on the nature of God as an affectionate Lover of His people and the difference between this reality and the notion that God loves us only because He loves us unconditionally, as though we weren’t lovable to Him. Of course, our standing before Him is both transactional and covenantal (Romans 3: 1-24) but His love is not without emotional affection.
I’ll be working on a new worship project at Peak Studios in Bradford UK next week with some friends and members of my family to produce something special about the Presence of God. Here are two thoughts to steer you towards better creative output.
“If we really believe the gospel we proclaim, we’ll be honest about our own beauty and brokenness, and the beautiful broken One will make Himself known to our neighbours through the chinks in our armour – and in theirs”
In September I wrote about The Furious Longing of God, by Brennan Manning, whose revelation expresses the mind-bending truth that Abba “loves us as we are not as we should be”. The full truth of course is that none of us are as we should be.
“All Is Grace” is a moving autobiographical account of Manning’s life including his deep struggle with alcohol addiction. The account is so transparent that it served to kindle again the fire of grace in my life. Sometimes this fire might simmer down in all of us to something more resembling a glowing ember, and so it needs the stoking of testimony and of revelation.
There are three absolute gems that I’d like to make a note of from the book and then let you hear/see a song I wrote and recorded earlier this year that gives a voice of worship to these glowing, but ignitable, embers of the fire of grace.
Gem One – “God Loves Us As We Are Not As We Should Be”
This inexhaustible phrase is a statement of truth that seeps through the human psyche only by faith. When it does, it begins to permeate all of our living as the reality of His unconditional love becomes our felt experience. I have been the kind of Christian who says that I believe in a love like this but who rarely feels it by personal experience. But this is changing – I am ‘Daddy’s little boy’ – period. Let us be aware of this sounding to us like a wooly emotional crutch for the weak or the ‘needy’. This is the gospel and, I’m convinced, the key to all of our living. As Mike Bickle says, “I am loved by God therefore I am profoundly successful”
Gem Two – “Gulping and Sipping”
In the foreward of the book, Philip Yancey refers to Manning’s ‘gulping of grace’ as his way of life. It caught my attention because all too often I know that my drinking (or receiving) of His grace is much more like a sipping. In Jesus, Abba has made provision for our constant gulping of these waters and we honour Him as we do so in every single minute of every hour of every day. We need to and He is glorified as we do. There is a tendency for all of us to default back to a surveying of our ‘track records’ or ‘current performances’ as the true indicator of our standing with God – there is something very strong within us that wants to be justifiable by ourselves not justified by a Saviour. We must resist this to grow in grace.
Gem Three – “Banana Peels and Fairy Tales”
Right at the end of the book, Manning highlights that this kind of grace will be like a ‘banana peel for the orthodox foot‘ and ‘a fairy tale for the grown up sensibility‘ – in other words, something that makes them fall on their butts or something that they reject as a made-up story. This makes me want to be neither orthodox or grown up! Why? Because I don’t want to waste my life sipping nervously or uncertainly from the infinite grace of Abba by labelling it as ‘cheap’ if I fall. Or wasting my life worrying about my weaknesses and all the while not experiencing the fulness of the Father’s love. It’s not cheap grace, says Manning, it’s free grace! Instead of a person who is gulping from grace being called a ‘cop out’ couldn’t we live increasingly with the understanding that when we do sin we have an Advocate in heaven interceding on our behalf and that, regardless, we have an Abba who loves us furiously? But God does mean that our gulping will result in our healing from sin (1 John 2:1).
“It’s Your Grace”
is a response from my life to the reality of being constantly touched and kept by grace every minute of every hour of every day that I’m alive. I’d like to think that if Brennan was to hear it that he’d worship Jesus along with me. I hope you will too.