Lover – Derek Webb (2003, She Must and Shall Go Free)

click on image to listen to song for free. (it’s #5 on the album)

February is here.  Love is in the air, perhaps.  But today’s love song is old, yet unique…romantic, yet tragic.  It is the age old story of boy meets girl, girl plays hard to get, cheats often, and cruelly disregards the treasure of the boy’s love for her.  Boy dies in order to prove love to girl.  Girl appreciates the gesture, but still wanders into other relationships and lesser pleasures, despite the boy’s epic commitment to her and her alone.  And in the end…the boy sets the girl free.  Free from a life of shame and swine, so that boy and girl can be together forever.

Wait, that doesn’t sound like a normal, healthy love relationship to you either?  Nevertheless, it is a rough summary of God’s relationship with the Church.  God always intended to have a sacred place on Earth that we could come and meet with Him.  He never had to give this kind of access to us, but He graciously offers Himself to us in so many ways.  Unfortunately, we have continually and cyclically complained about, ignored, scorned and desecrated these meeting places.

Derek Webb is a pioneer among Christian artists today.  He continues his involvement in the popular band, Caedmon’s Call.  His work with Noisetrade is also worth mentioning, as it serves as one of the best ways for artists and listeners to connect directly and appropriately.  He has been writing music for a long time, including solo projects for the last decade.  Ten years ago, he took on a project that brought a lot of attention and criticism.  A concept album about the state of the Church in America would definitely be a difficult and highly scrutinized ordeal today.  However, it was a prophetic piece and we are in greater need of its message than even last decade.  “She Must and Shall Go Free” includes a song called, “Lover” which is composed from the perspective of Christ speaking to His bride, the Church.

As you listen to the lyrics, consider how reflecting on Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple in the Gospels compares to how He might speak to us, the Church, today:

Like a man comes to an altar, I came into this town
With the world upon my shoulders
And promises passed down
And I went into the water
My father, he was pleased
I built it and I’ll tear it down so you will be set free

I found thieves and salesmen living in my father’s house
I know how they got in here and I know how to get ‘em out
I’m turning this place over from floor to balcony
And then just like these doves and sheep oh you will be set free

I’ve always been a lover from before I drew a breath
Some things I loved easy and some I’ll loved to death
Because love’s no politician, it listens carefully
So of those who come I can’t lose one, so you will be set free

But go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
I’ll still be your defender and you’ll be my missing son
And I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
‘Cause regardless of your brother’s lies oh you will be set free
I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine
So you bring all your history and I’ll bring the bread and wine
And we’ll have us a party where all drinks are on me
Then as surely as the rising sun oh you will be set free

Ever since the turn of the twenty-first century, America has come down hard on evangelical Christianity.  The younger generations are leaving the church in droves and society isn’t really respecting the Church as a meaningful and positive element of our world.  We only have ourselves to blame for these trends.  We’ve lost our way, once again, and the world is tired of us.

Now, there is no need to push the panic button yet.  There are bright spots here and there and God is certainly active and involved in His bride today.  But, in general, we are failing…we need to return to our First Love and remember the joy of our salvation that still stands strong as the cornerstone of the Church.  We exist to be a lighthouse to a dying world.  Jesus didn’t just die for you and me.  He died and rose again so that we would believe and become His ambassadors.  There is an “us” that we need to submit to and sacrifice for more than we have been willing to embrace as of late.

God knows that we need this reminder often.  Even before He sent His Son, He sent prophets to help us with remembering our place and calling.  One such prophet was Hosea.  Listen: Hosea 2:14-23:

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope…
 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master…’
I will make you my wife forever,
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion.                                                                                               I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord…
I will show love
    to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
    I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

God loves His people!  When we actively look to His love together as one, the world will take notice once again (but, in a good way).  When we let God’s love lead us from the inside out, society will favor us once again.  When we humble ourselves, put the Gospel first in our Churches, the unchurched will want what we have.  Jesus is the greatest lover of all and we are His bride.  May He make us worthy of this title and privilege, so that others can be set free, as well!

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To the Ends of the World – Caleb (2011, To the Ends of the World)

click on image to listen to song for free.

This final post for January reiterates an unintentional strong theme of love…and yet I feel like I’m a month early for some reason.  No matter.  Thinking and singing about the love of God should never get old or wear out.  Today’s song is specifically designed to remind us all that God’s love not only never gets old, it also never tires and never hides.

Caleb is another new(ish) up-and-coming Christian band that we should see rising high throughout this year.  They only have one EP to their name (that I could dig up), but it is an absolute gem.  The real value from this collection of three young artists is their ability to tell a story from real life.

Two of the members of the band are both sons of the famous Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman.  Most of us remember hearing about the tragic incident a few years ago when Steven’s daughter, Maria, was suddenly killed at a young age.  Imagine the horror of losing your sibling while you were all still kids and then just a few short years later being mature enough to express an honest and balanced response that includes elevating God’s love.

That is what this album and particularly this song is all about.  Listen:

You run, you run as far as you can run from love, you run,                                                 you fight, you fight love like a champion fights,                                                                  you run and you fight, to the ends of the world,

I run, I run as fast as I can run to love, I run,                                                                           I fight for you, I fight until I die for you, still you can’t escape My heart,                                cause My heart runs to the ends of the world,

and your heart is broken, you try to run and yet you hardly stand,                                    and your knees are shaking,                                                                                              your stride is breaking like you’re running in the sand,                                                        and your pace is slowing, and your eyes they see no end,                                               when I have you in My arms, and I feel you in My arms,                                                  you’ll know where Love begins, to the ends of the world,

you can’t escape My love,                                                                                                       I’ll fight for you, I’ll fight until I die for you,                                                                              still you can’t escape My heart.

The image that I glean from this powerful tune is the picture of the prodigal son’s father watching for and running to meet his lost heir.  We all need this image burned into our mind’s, especially for those times when we easily forget about these things.  God’s love is theologically super and superior to everything else, and we can go on and on about how immeasurable and awesome it is.  But, sometimes we just need to imagine the look in His eyes as He cherishes us.  The laughter in His voice as He enjoys us.  The smile brimming across His face as He feels intimately drawn towards us.  And those arms…outstretched and aching to be wrapped around you.

For God, love is full and personal and more emotional than we could or would dare to guess.  He is the originator of compassion and the author of affection.  He mastered love within His triune nature before we were ever created or dreamed about, so He obviously knows all about how to love someone.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

And yet, we are caught in this tumultuous life on a broken planet where our nature and our environment constantly distract us from and distorts our ability to see this pure love that God has for us.  We run away from Him…or at least we try.  We get tired of running…but He never does.  He fights so hard (even to death and back!) to have access to us and our hearts so that He can put His love into it and never leave us alone.

Whatever you are grieving…He knows and He cares deeply.  Whatever you are angry about…He understands and He is waiting to offer peace.  Wherever you choose to go…He is waiting there for you to come to Him.  He is even waiting for you with unmatched love…at the ends of the world.

P.S. Here is a far better review of Caleb and their EP from Andrew Peterson, who will be touring together this spring, I believe.

You – Future of Forestry (2012, Young Man Follow)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

I suppose its high time for a love song to appear on this blog.  One of the coolest things about music is its uncanny ability to express both sorrow and love.  When a song captures the latter, it is obviously called a love song; and today’s selection is a beautiful love song from God to you.

Future of Forestry is the cryptic, but very Christian songwriting efforts of Eric Owyoung.  Lyrically, FOF doesn’t spell out their beliefs and doctrine like many hymns do; but their ministry is well known – having planted a church in San Diego.  Additionally, the name of the band comes a famed poem penned by C. S. Lewis.

“You” isn’t going to be a song that educates you with intelligent thoughts or sharpen you with a convicting message.  What I hope it does do is simply remind you in an intimate, swooning way that God’s love for you is the greatest part of your existence.  Here is a snapshot:

You are a promise, you are a song…                                                            I want you to know you’re the first thought,                                                   I want you to know the grace you’re made of,                                               I want you to feel that you’re my dear…                                                    Deep as a valley, sweet as a stream,                                                    Dark as a storm cloud, and bright as a dream…                                          I want you to know… 

One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament comes from the obscure minor prophet, Zephaniah:

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”    – Zephaniah 3:17

And how about this picture from Isaiah:

“…and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”     – Isaiah 62:5

It is good to meditate on the real and emotional feelings of love that God has for His children.  This is what was intended for us to think upon when Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son and the image of the father running to meet his wayward boy.  God’s love is not like a divine, formless space that just accepts us out of pity.  No, His love is like a perfect father who loves us with a warm embrace of strong, but gentle arms; a smile from his brilliant, gleeful face; honest, deep eyes that see you for all that you are and still wants more; and a true voice that trembles because of His overwhelming affection for you and laughs with pure joy when you come running to Him again!

God’s love is like this because we were made in His image.  Everything we experience in this human life is patterned after His character and being.  The examples of love we enjoy in this life from each other pales in comparison to what God feels for us!  We miss out on the magnitude of this reality because of sin and because of the limitations of this earthly life.  But these limitations will not always be.  Listen to this astonishing revelation from J. I. Packer’s Knowing God:

We have…made the point that God’s end in all things is His own glory – that He should be manifested, known, admired, adored.  This statement is true, but it is incomplete.  It needs to be balanced by a recognition that through setting His love on [people], God has voluntarily bound up His own final happiness with theirs.  It is not for nothing that the Bible habitually speaks of God as the loving Father and Husband of His people.  It follows from the very nature of these relationships that God’s happiness will not be complete till all His beloved ones are finally out of trouble…God was happy without [people] before [we] were made; He would have continued happy had He simply destroyed [us] after man sinned; but as it is He has set His love upon particular sinners, and this means that, by His own free voluntary choice, He will not know perfect and unmixed happiness again till He has brought every one of them to Heaven. He has in effect resolved that henceforth for all eternity His happiness shall be conditional upon ours.

Deep thoughts.  Deep Love.  And, if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, then all of these truths are related to you.  You.  He wants you to “know the grace that you’re made of.”  He wants you to know that you are loved!  Period.