Here’s the second installment of the fifty-song challenge. This tune “There Is None Like Our God” has become a personal favorite among the songs I’ve written over the years. Enjoy, and bask in the glory of our God who is indeed King of all kings past and present.
Who holds the earth beneath His feet? / Who wakes the dawn up from the east? / Who walks the floors of oceans deep? / Who calmed the waves and split the sea?
No one can comprehend or take His place / No one that can contend or steal His fame
There Is none like our God, who makes the darkness flee / There is none like our God, who is the King of kings / There is none like our God, who sets the captives free / There is none like our God, none like our God
Who came to earth to set us free? / Who was crucified between two thieves? / Who died to save His enemies? / Who swallowed death and stole the keys?
Who is restoring everything? / Who will return as trumpets ring? / When all creation will proclaim / That Jesus Christ is Lord and King!
Today marks the beginning of my journey toward writing, demoing, and releasing fifty songs in one year. I figure I’m already one-fiftieth of the way there. It’s pretty much downhill from here, right?
Here’s the first one, called “There Is a River” and based off Psalm 46.
Come and remember the works of the Lord / Stand in His presence, speechless and poor / Be still and know that He is God / Be still and know He is our shelter and our guard
There is a river filled with joy / In the city of our Lord / It can’t be shaken or destroyed / And He will reign forevermore
Even if mountains crumbled to dust / Even if oceans swallowed the earth / Be still and know that He is God / Be still and know He is our shelter and our guard
There’s no other hiding place / No other King to end all wars / There’s no shelter like our God / The nations tremble at His voice
Fifty songs in one year. That’s the goal.
Let me explain.
Until recently, my Venn Diagram of “Jesus & Music” never overlapped much. I grew up in a house that didn’t allow any non-Christian music, and in my creative rebellion I swore off “Christian” music forever. I used to be the guy who stood in the back of the church sanctuary with my arms crossed, terrified that someone might see me singing along to the worship music. I played in the worship band growing up, but I rarely sang along. And if I ever saw anyone from outside of church, I wanted to crawl under a rock.
During my high school years I survived on a steady diet of Pop-Tarts, Cherry Coke, and back-issues of Rolling Stone that I borrowed from the library but never took home. I heard The Beatles (“White Album”) for the first time my junior year and freaked. I became an obsessive songwriter. And as my love for well-crafted pop music grew, my appreciation for church music shrank drastically. In my mind the two were mutually exclusive.
But as my love for Jesus grew, a certain restlessness starting brewing. I was discontent to have such a disconnect between my music and my faith. The tension started mounting, but God was kind to me. I began to find Jesus in places where I wasn’t even looking for him. Slowly, God began to reveal something I hadn’t even known myself: I love worshiping God through music.
I used to be notorious for complaining about the music in church. Not that the musicians were ever bad. I’ve always been blessed to be surrounded by good musicians in church. It was always the songs I couldn’t stand. And I had my reasons.
I didn’t like how almost every song sounded like a bad rip-off of a U2 song. I didn’t like how most of them sounded like Disney jams from 1997. I didn’t like the lyrics that sounded like 8th grade poetry. I didn’t like how high the vocals were always mixed. I didn’t like the dramatic key changes and vocal gymnastics that seemed impossible to hang with. I didn’t like that most of the lyrics felt like they were plagiarized from Scripture with no real honesty behind them. I didn’t like how some of the songs seemed to be bad knock-off versions of other bad worship songs. I had all sort of reasons I thought the music in church sucked.
Sometimes when I tell my wife I love her she asks me, “Are you sure?”
This happened recently, and I realized perhaps we were working from different definitions of the word “love.”
In many ways, my wife’s life is a miracle. Her parents struggled to have children for years, and suffered through more miscarriages than anyone should have to endure. Eventually the doctors told them that having children was not in the cards for them. They began fostering children, and finally adopted a baby boy. They’d given up all hope that they would ever have children of their own.
And then a few years later my wife was born. Baby Melissa Anne vanSpronsen, 8 lbs. 3 ounces.
I grew up in a very conservative, “bible-based” church. So naturally, I memorized insane amounts of Bible verses as a kid. Most of them were about the “love” or “salvation” or “grace” of God. To be honest, I had no experience of the love or salvation of God. I was more scared of him than anything. But I learned the verses all the same.
There was this test at the end of the school year with a handwritten and verbal component, testing how well we’d memorized the verses word-for-word. And if you got a good enough grade on the test, you got a free ride scholarship to summer camp.
To my recollection, I passed every year. Free trips to summer camp. I did the book work to appease the powers-that-be, pass the test, and make my parents proud. And in exchange I got to escape with my buddies for a week or two, stay up late playing pranks with shaving cream, and exploding flashlight batteries in a bonfire. Win win.
A guy named Tim Lambesis recently hired a hitman to kill his estranged wife. He paid the man a thousand dollars and promised another $19k once he’d confirmed his wife was dead. He gave the hit man specific times that his children would be alone with him, to be sure they were safe and that he had an alibi. When it turned out that the hitman was actually an undercover detective, Lambesis was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison.
This probably wouldn’t have made national news coverage, except that Lambesis was the lead singer for a popular “Christian” band.
Shortly before his trial, the singer gave an interview and explained how he and his bandmates had become atheists throughout their years of touring. In order to maintain record and concert ticket sales, the band decided to continue marketing themselves as “Christian.” In the interview, he shared openly about his struggle to be honest and the “cowardly” way he handled it. He talked about the Christian music scene and said “9 out of 10 ‘Christian’ bands we toured with weren’t actually Christians.” Lambesis’ cautionary tale reminded us of a gross reality within the Church:
You can totally fake it.
Actually, you can totally fake it and loads of people won’t even know that you’re faking it. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between who you really are and who you pretend to be on Sunday morning. And if Christian rock stars can get away with faking it, couldn’t worship leaders as well?
This week I had the privilege of writing a guest post for Worship Links. It’s something I wrote to lead pastors and preachers about how they’re the “real worship leaders” of our churches. Now, I’m nowhere close to qualified for giving lead pastors or preachers any advice, other than maybe “here’s why you shouldn’t let your youth group kids play with lighters and cologne in the summer camp cabin.” But in my time leading worship, I’ve noticed how influential these pastors are in creating a culture of worship in their church. This post is a “thanks” to them.
Here’s a nibble of the post:
“Once when I was nine or ten years old I spent the summer at my grandma’s house. I’d just bought a sweet new plastic ninja sword, and I was playing by myself in her backyard pretending to be a Power Ranger or a Ninja Turtle or something. I was fighting some imaginary evil ninja bosses, and I was really taking names and feeling good about it.
My karate moves were complete with kicking sound effects and a hearty “hi-YA!” every now and then. I flew through the air taking out sixty-two bad guys with one jump kick. At one point I got swept up in a moment of ninja bliss, and busted a roundhouse that would have made Chuck Norris cry like a baby. But as I spun around, I froze in terror…”
(Melodramatic linkbait cliffhanger!)
…now go read the rest on the excellent Worship Links site!
Last week, I shared a few self-deprecating stories about how I used to hate singing in church. Until about three years ago, I refused to sing on Sunday mornings and had a lot of opinions about how lame worship music was. Then I had an experience that changed the course of my life, as God revealed Himself to me in a way that significantly shifted my opinions about corporate worship.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. I was a guy who hated “worship music” with every fiber of my creative being. Now, three years later, I’m a worship pastor who asks people to sing every Sunday. Why the one-eighty? I was curious to explore the thought further, to see how my beliefs about communal worship have changed over the last few years. I was also really eager to make fun of myself some more and expose a few funny laughable skeletons from the closet of my past.
I thought maybe the best thing to do would be to interview my 25 year-old self.