In the Fall of 2014, I was in the creative mood and knew it was about time to release some new music. Up to that point, I had released two EPs (Over Every Name and The Anthem) along with one single (We Are Yours). All of these were comprised of songs that came out of camps, series, and other gatherings in the church’s youth ministry I was serving at the time – no rhyme or flow to the EPs other than “hey, these work!”. For this new EP, though, I couldn’t shake the idea of telling a story. At this point in my worship leading journey, I had always pursued ways to personally and tangibly grow as a singer, guitar player, writer, and band leader. The new season I was entering into (and am currently in / will strive to remain in) was a season of sharpening my theology and relating that to how I lead people in a service. With that conviction on my heart, I was led to take that approach in writing this new EP and share the Gospel message through a personal lens of one who has received it, in hopes that a believer or non-believer could relate. Here’s the layout of each song and a snapshot into our minds as we wrote…
When I set out on this record, the Holiness of God was an obvious first place to start. Without at least an awareness of a Holy God, we aren’t capable of seeing how jacked up we truly are. A major problem, though, was that the holiness of God is incomprehensible and unexplainable. So, how the heck are we going to tackle this? As David Ashley (www.davidashleyonline.com) and I set out to write on this, I would love to say we knocked it out in one 3 hr writing session. That was not the case. We met up multiple times over the course of six months, wrestling with the holiness of God, reading books and commentary on the word Holy and God’s holiness. As we got further into the process, we decided to take the Isaiah approach in the verses and pose questions that point to a holy and higher being. The choruses are essentially our finite minded definitions of what holy means. And then the bridge is a response as we join the age old chorus of the saints, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty…” It was amazing to personally see how a better understanding of His holiness shaped my thinking in writing each song that followed.
This was such a tough song to write because I had to be most vulnerable about my sin problem. Not many songs out there are just about the depravity of man. The approach Brandon Ingle (lead singer for Behaviors) and I took in writing this song is a darker lens with a hopeful ending. If we’re honest, the biggest battle is the internal war that goes on between what you want and strive for vs. what God is calling us to. We want what we want and we believe it is attainable by our own strength and on our own timing. Over time we realize that we are pursuing something that is weightless… futile, as Solomon would put it… but we still manage to grip even tighter, holding on with everything we are, just because it’s comfortable. It’s all we’ve known. It’s “safe”. It’s when we finally understand that freedom comes from a complete surrender to God that we find a release of that tension. The more we battle, the more we realize He was all we’ve needed all along. So, this song is depicting that internal struggle – beginning w/ a dark realization of my (our) sinful state, but ends with a declaration of hope.
THE CROSS MADE A WAY
With the Holiness of God and the sinful nature of man established, it was time to introduce the solution. There’s no good news without bad news, right? But, when the bad news is brought to light, good news is so much sweeter. This song has one of my favorite first lines in it – “You always had a plan to save…” The idea that God always had a plan to save his children, truly being the sovereign and intentional author of salvation, is mind blowing and overwhelming to me. I was honored to write with quite the wordsmith, David Moffitt, on this one. This song actually took shape fairly quickly. We wanted to establish God’s plan from the beginning, declare the Gospel in the chorus, elaborate on what it means to be saved by the blood of Jesus and sealed by the Spirit, and then respond further in the bridge by declaring Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. I’m super stoked about this song.
MY LIFE IS YOURS
Many surrender songs are super ballad heavy, or in minor keys, or somber. I wanted to be different. At the moment of salvation, I believe we are as broken as we’ve ever been, but also as stoked and bold as we’ve ever been. Do you remember the joy you had in that season? As David Ashley and I got together for this one, we wanted to come from that angle. “Restore unto us the joy of Your salvation over us.” It’s a new day. New mercies. Sufficient grace. Who I was no longer defines me because my life is now His.
NOT MY OWN
I probably had the most fun writing this song in particular. I had always wanted to write with my producers, Jason Cheek and Scott Hundley, but it just seemed like every time we were together, we were recording songs that I had already written. So, we set aside some time, I pulled in my buddy, Rhett Walker, and we set out to write and record a solid demo all in a day. On my way to the studio that morning, I called my Pastor, Erik Reed, for some inspiration. He dove into the idea that we no longer have the right to live for ourselves because we’ve been bought with a price we could have never paid, using verses like 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, and Galations 2:20. As I shared this idea / these scriptures with the guys, Jason, who is probably the brainiest of the four of us, made us aware of C.S. Lewis’ quote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” From there, the song took shape. One line that I came to love is “in all of my uncertainty your glory will be shown”. A lot of times we let our circumstances define us. We either find peace in times of calmness, or we get super stressed in times of chaos. Especially with the year we’ve had as a nation, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the uncertainty that ensues. But, take heart, Jesus overcame the world. He became sin for us and gave us his righteousness. Your circumstances don’t define you. If you are in Christ, he gave you His Spirit to actively intercede on your behalf, working things out for your good and his glory. So it’s truth – in all of our uncertainties, his glory will truly be shown.
JESUS, I COME
Jesus, I Come is really all-encompassing. Michael Spooner and I wrote this song in the later Spring of 2015. As I was looking to wrap up the EP and the whole concept of a personal enlightenment to the Gospel, I kept singing in my head, “For all that you are… for all that you’ve done… Jesus, I come…” So, I sat down with it, scrapped the verses we had previously written, and started to think about the Gospel message as a whole. What did Jesus do? Where was I spiritually, mentally, emotionally before Jesus came into my picture? Why is he worthy of my response to give everything back to Him? The answers of these type questions influenced where the verses landed, so that when the chorus comes one’s heart would be ready to respond with “For all that you are… for all that you’ve done… Jesus, I Come”
Man, I’ve been stretched throughout this process in a way I’ve never been stretched before. I set out on this journey to tell the story for others to see God, our heavenly Father, more clearly, and for people to truly taste and see that the Lord is good and worthy of our praise. I wanted to highlight the power of the Spirit… for some reason, He often gets left out of the equation. Without His help, our awareness of God the Father or the Son would be non existent. The most rewarding thing in this whole journey, though, has been that in my attempts at projecting a clear picture of the Gospel, God has made me more aware of who He is to me. In my view two years ago, this project was for the tens and tens of people who were going to buy this CD… In a lot of ways, though, this project was for me – to grow me as a communicator of the Gospel and an image bearer and worshiper of God. I pray the Lord uses this project for so much more than I can imagine, but if nothing else, I pray the eyes of your heart are opened to His relentless pursuit for your heart, His undeserved sacrifice for your life, and His never-ending love and care for you.